The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released a memo detailing potential FISA court abuse by high-ranking members of both the DOJ and the FBI. The accusations entail nefarious characters acting with political interests and hijacking the FISA process to ensure that the courts continued the approval for investigation. The memo in its entirety can be found here, and individuals who are quickly jumping to conclusions should follow Reagan’s lead and “Trust, but verify”. This memo will likely be juxtaposed following other releases, including but not limited to the Schiff memo, a potential Senate Judiciary memo, and maybe even the entire FISA application itself.
What Is FISA?
While the political junkies on twitter and social media throw jabs at the implications of the memo, what Americans should truly be concerned with is the existence of FISA courts in the first place. The term “FISA” is an acronym for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which became law in 1978. The contentious legislation gave unprecedented power to confidential tribunals, which was later expanded in a 2008 amendment. The powers of these tribunals include the ability to wiretap foreign spies within the United States in the interest of National Security.
“As of 2013, the FISA court has denied only 12 warrants since its inception. It has granted more than 34,000 requests since its inception.”
-Debbie Lord (AJC)
The Constitutional Crisis
Amazingly, the American Civil Liberties Union spoke out about the 2008 expansion of FISA in a report accusing the legislation of violating the fourth amendment. The individuals right to privacy is one which held major significance to our nations founders for a reason. When government ventures outside its rightful functions to serve the people, it degrades the moral integrity of itself. Constitutionally, the fact that a FISA court was investigating a U.S. citizen should be shocking itself, and even more so that this person may have been the sitting President of The United States.
“No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth!”
-President Ronald Reagan
America’s Responsibility Going Forward
It’s easy for pundits to dismiss the FISA constitutional crisis for the sake of security. FISA and many other aspects of federal government overreach came into shape following the Patriot Act, which occurred out of a national reaction rather than constitutionalism. Americans should draw their own conclusions about what the memos mean, but national surveillance and invasion of privacy should be on everyone’s personal radar. Reagan and conservatives sought to limit the institutions which could easily be used by nefarious government actors. We should heed his warnings even more so in these politically divided times.