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Federal surveillance judge orders FBI to answer for ‘misleading’ courts & omitting key evidence in effort to spy on Trump campaign

Federal surveillance judge orders FBI to answer for ‘misleading’ courts & omitting key evidence in effort to spy on Trump campaign
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has issued a rare and scathing rebuke to the FBI, accusing the bureau of manipulating the court with lies and omissions in its quest to surveil a member of the 2016 Trump campaign.

The searing four-page order, authored by presiding FISA Judge Rosemary Collyer and released on Tuesday, castigates the FBI for providing “false information” – also known as ‘lying’ – to the Department of Justice’s National Security Division (NSD) and withholding important evidence in requesting surveillance authorities over Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

When FBI personnel mislead NSD in the ways described above, they equally mislead the [court].

Citing a long-awaited inspector general report released last week – which uncovered a series of “errors,” misstatements and inaccuracies in the FBI’s FISA applications for Page – Collyer said the findings cast doubt on the bureau’s credibility, and whether it also lied in previous FISA applications.

The frequency with which representations made by FBI personnel turned out to be unsupported or contradicted by information in their possession, and with which they withheld information detrimental to their case, calls into question whether information contained in other FBI applications is reliable.

Though the letter does not outline any specific recommendations, Collyer ordered the bureau to provide a written accounting “of what it has done, and plans to do” to ensure all FISA applications are truthful in the future, and to explain why any FBI application filed in the meantime should be “regarded as reliable.”

The bureau was given a deadline of January 10, 2020 to do so.

The FBI weighed in with a response later on Tuesday, acknowledging the “unacceptable” conduct of “certain FBI employees” outlined by Collyer and adding that Director Christopher Wray had ordered “more than 40 corrective steps” to address the judge’s concerns.

President Donald Trump ran a victory lap soon after the release, calling the letter “long and tough” and declaring that it “means my case was a SCAM!”

While such open criticism of a federal agency is uncommon for the secretive FISA court, some observers were skeptical that procedural tweaks would generate sincere reform, given that FBI agents are already required to swear under threat of perjury that every application is truthful and accurate.

The court itself, meanwhile, seldom turns down an FBI request, with a minuscule 0.03 percent rejection rate over its 30-plus years in operation. There is little reason to expect that to change after January 10.

The efforts to spy on Page and run roughshod over the surveillance court stem from the FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation, the initial probe which eventually sparked Robert Mueller’s special counsel inquiry into whether President Trump or any members of his team “colluded” with Moscow to throw the 2016 election.

While no such plot was ever revealed, the “Russiagate” scandal produced countless sensational news reports playing up the conspiracy theory, as well as defending the FBI’s handling of the early stages of the investigation.

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