Barr announces new FISA restrictions
Attorney General William Barr issued two memos on Tuesday that would impose new restrictions on how his department would conduct surveillance on a candidate for a federal office and their staff members.
The new restrictions come after President Trump has repeatedly criticized the process in which the FBI obtained a warrant from court created by the the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), as it investigated Russia’s interference in the last presidential election.
The Justice Department inspector general has also issued a report criticizing how the department applied for a warrant to surveil former Trump campaign staffer Carter Page. The report concluded that information that should have been a part of the application was not included.
“Today, the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation press forward with Foreign Intelligence Surveillance reforms,” Barr said in a statement.
One change would require the FBI to consider briefing a candidate or campaign staffer that they are at risk of being compromised by a foreign power prior to applying for a FISA warrant for that person.
Another would strengthen oversight of the use of FISA for surveillance of candidates or elected officials to ensure they are justified and nonpartisan. The reforms would also increase auditing of the procedures, including regular audits of FBI use of National Security Letters.
“In consultation with FBI Director [Christopher] Wray, I issued two memoranda — one that authorizes the establishment of an FBI Office of Internal Auditing and directs the FBI to undertake aggressive compliance measures, and the other that establishes protocols to ensure the accuracy of FISA applications and the effective oversight of any surveillance applications targeting elected officials and political campaigns,” the attorney general said in a Tuesday statement.
Barr said the move was made to ensure the American people can maintain confidence in the U.S. government exercises surveillance authorities in a “manner that protects the civil liberties of Americans.”
“What happened to the Trump presidential campaign and his subsequent Administration after the President was duly elected by the American people must never happen again,” he said.
“The additional reforms announced today, which we worked on closely with the Attorney General’s office, will build on the FBI’s efforts to bolster its compliance program,” Wray said in the statement. “FISA is an indispensable tool that the FBI uses to protect our country from national security threats, and Americans can rest assured that the FBI remains dedicated to continuously strengthening our FISA compliance efforts and ensuring that our FISA authorities are exercised in a responsible manner.”
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) lauded the updated security measures to the FISA program on Twitter, saying the reforms would prevent future abuses of the act that was signed in 1978.
AG Barr continues to make necessary reforms to the @TheJusticeDept FISA procedures. An @FBI Office of Internal Auditing and new directives guarding against FISA abuses—common under Dir. Comey and the Obama administration—will improve accountability. MORE: https://t.co/gxlnpD0Vtm
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) September 1, 2020
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