House Strikes Deal On Surveillance Bill, Addressing Some Problems From Carter Page FISA Report
Chuck Ross on March 11, 2020
Lawmakers in the House reached an agreement Tuesday to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, with some proposed reforms aimed at addressing some problems the Justice Department’s inspector general found with the FBI’s surveillance of Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
The proposed bill comes just days before the surveillance law, known as FISA, is set to expire. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is scheduling a vote on the measure later Wednesday. The bill would then go the the Senate, before hitting President Donald Trump’s desk.
Trump has been critical of FISA amid revelations about how the FBI surveilled his campaign, so his signature of the bill is not guaranteed.
The proposed bill enhances penalties and punishments for any government officials who intentionally submit false information to the FISA Court. The proposal also explicitly criminalizes leaking of FISA-related documents, which are classified.
Both proposals address problems that arose while the government was surveilling Page, who served as a volunteer foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign.
The wiretaps against Page were first revealed through a leak to The Washington Post on April 10, 2017. Unidentified sources told the newspaper that the FBI had obtained at least one warrant to conduct surveillance on Page.
The leaker of the classified information has not been publicly identified.
The new bill would increase the maximum prison sentence from five years to eight years for making intentionally false statements to the FISA Court.
The Justice Department’s inspector general found 17 “significant” errors and omissions in the FBI’s applications for FISA warrants on Page. The FISA Court, citing the IG report, accused the FBI of providing misleading information in order to surveil Page, a former Naval officer who volunteered for the Trump team.
The report said that FBI investigators withheld exculpatory information related to Page and derogatory information related to Christopher Steele, the former British spy whose dossier the FBI used in its FISA applications.
One FBI attorney is accused in the IG report of altering an email about Page’s relationship with the CIA in June 2017. The IG reportedly referred the former lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, to the Justice Department for possible prosecution.
Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the leading Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said during a Rules Committee meeting on Tuesday that the proposed bill “is a good start,” but does not go “far enough.”
“If we would just go with a clean reauthorization, that would be so dangerous to the country. That is why you have to have some reform,” he said.
Jordan also said that U.S. Attorney John Durham, who is investigating the origins of the Trump-Russia probe, is expected to complete his probe in the months before the 2020 presidential election.
“His investigation is due to completed some time this summer.”
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