Panetta on memo: ‘FISA judges are no pushovers’

Panetta on memo: ‘FISA judges are no pushovers’
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Former CIA Director Leon Panetta on Sunday defended the judges of a clandestine surveillance court after a newly released GOP memo from the House Intelligence Committee detailed allegations of Justice Department authorities abusing a U.S. surveillance program during the 2016 campaign.

"The [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] FISA judges are no pushovers. They are responsible individuals in my experience who carefully review all the evidence that is presented to them," Panetta said on "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace." 

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The controversial document, drafted by staff for Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), lays out a series of allegations that it says "raise concerns" about the Justice Department and FBI's dealings with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court when seeking a warrant to surveil Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

“The committee has discovered serious violations of the public trust, and the American people have a right to know when officials in crucial institutions are abusing their authority for political purposes," Nunes said in a statement. 

The memo claims then-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeTop House Dem claims Judiciary chairman's DOJ, FBI subpoena is invalid Hillicon Valley: New FTC chief eyes shake up of tech regulation | Lawmakers target Google, Huawei partnership | Microsoft employees voice anger over ICE contract Senate Intel requests more testimony from Comey, McCabe MORE told the committee in a December testimony that had it not been for the "Steele dossier," opposition research funded in part by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign, the warrant on Page would not have been granted.

Democrats, however, contest whether McCabe made such remarks.

Panetta pointed out that such warrants rarely hinge on one piece of evidence.  

"And it isn't just a little bit of evidence, these applications to FISA are sometimes 50 or 60 pages long, highly classified information and a great deal of support investigation in order to justify those warrants," Panetta continued. 

The Obama-era official also blasted Nunes for failing to gather all the necessary information before alleging that officials abused FISA in order to damage President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP lawmakers preparing to vote on bill allowing migrant children to be detained longer than 20 days: report Wasserman Schultz: Infants separated from their parents are in Florida immigrant shelters Ex-White House ethics chief: Sarah Sanders tweet violates ethics laws MORE's campaign.

"The Nunes charges against FISAs, particularly without looking at the entire application, without talking to the judges who actually make the decisions, I think that is irresponsible," he said.

He said the House Intelligence Committee memo is "undermining trust in the FISA process," which he said is a key program for the intelligence community to monitor possible bad actors who want to cause harm to the U.S.