"Cherrypicking": William C. Banks Weighs in on the Nunes Memo in WIRED

Posted on Sunday 2/4/2018

READING BETWEEN THE LINES OF THE DEVIN NUNES MEMO

(WIRED | Feb. 2, 2018) AFTER WEEKS OF Twitter users demanding Congress #ReleaseTheMemo, the House Intelligence Committee—chaired by Republican Devin Nunes— disclosed the contentious four-page report to the public Friday, after President Donald Trump signed off on its release. And while, as expected, the document alleges that federal law enforcement officials abused their surveillance powers in investigating the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, national security experts see something very different. In fact, they see almost nothing at all—or at least not enough to make any definitive judgement calls.

As had been rumored, the memo details supposedly improper actions by law enforcement officials in seeking a warrant to wiretap Carter Page, one of Trump's campaign advisors. But understanding what the memo says—and, critically, doesn't say—requires familiarity with the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which governs requests made under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, better known as FISA. Those who know the law best say the memo is largely bunk ...

... "The dossier and Steele and all that—it’s cherrypicking a piece of what was probably a 50, or 60, or 100 page application,” says William C. Banks, founder of the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism at Syracuse University College of Law

FISA applications also have to go through an in-depth protocol known as the "Woods Procedure," during which the intelligence community needs to verify every single fact. For example, if the application says a person was on a specific train at a specific time, the agent would need to show Department of Justice lawyers how they found out that information. There are other oversight mechanisms as well. For example, applications need to be first certified by the Director or Deputy Director of the FBI, as well as the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General, or Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division. In other words, FISA warrants are reviewed at the highest levels, which is part of the reason Nunes' allegations are so explosive—they implicate multiple parties at the very top of the US intelligence apparatus ...

... "I can't recall any instance in 40 years when there's been a partisan leaning of a FISA court judge when their opinions have been released," says Banks ...

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