If the Carter Page FISA Affidavits Were False Was the FBI Guilty of Perjury

I keep circling back to this one subject because, to me, it is really one of the two most important, systemic issues in our government that were revealed by the Mueller report. One issue, which obviously was used and is given a bum’s rush in the report is unmasking of communications by US persons. In particular, we learn that Mike Flynn was under surveillance before he ever made the phone call to the Russian ambassador that led to him first being declared clear by the FBI and then, rather inexplicably, Mueller indicting Flynn based on no new evidence. (The implication here is pretty clear, every phone call he had with Donald Trump was also made available to the Obama administration and the asswipes who had a cow when President Trump talked about being “tapped” owe the rest of us ritual seppuku.) The report doesn’t say when the surveillance took place, but there is zero doubt that the Obama administration decided to sic the FBI on the national security adviser designate of the president-elect. As there is no hint of FISA being used in Flynn’s case, nor any record of standard wiretaps, one has to assume that surveillance was conducted by the NSA and Flynn was unmasked.

The second part of the equation in the obvious and grotesque abuse of the FISA process. Since this episode began it has become blindingly obvious that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court pays just about as much attention to the evidence presented to it as does the average grand juror. Over its history, the FISC approves 99.97% of all warrant applications, this means you actually have a better chance of a grand jury returning “no bill” than not being put under surveillance if you piss of the wrong people. (Apparently under Trump, the rejection rate of FISA warrant applications has skyrocketed from 0.03% to 0.11%.) This is not because of the hardhitting research done by the intrepid FBI agents, it is because there is zero transparency or functional oversight of the process and no judge is going to want to be the guy who refused a FISA warrant on the next 9/11 terrorist.

While it is easier to excuse the judges, who have to assume the FBI agents appearing before them are acting in good faith, the Carter page episode has showed us that this assumption is wildly misplaced.

In Mueller’s report, this is what he had to say about Carter Page:

This is an exoneration. And yet, let’s look at the malarkey the FBI spread about him in the FISA applications:

Not a single one of these bald assertions are true. There is little doubt they were known to be untrue at the time. So why was Page put under surveillance? The answer is easy, even though he was off the Trump campaign he was still in contact with people on the campaign and FISA allows surveillance at “two hops.” Anyone Page talked to could be put under surveillance and anyone those people talked to could be put under surveillance.

What this means in practice is that, under a single warrant, anyone Page had a text or phone call with in the Trump campaign during the brief months of his association with it in 2016, was fair game, as a direct connection, all the way through the end of the last warrant-extension period on Page in October 2017. The second-hop connections of those initial contacts—meaning everyone that those people had contact with—are also fair game. In other words, it’s likely that almost everyone on the Trump campaign staff was included in the universe of first- and second-order contacts of Carter Page. The entirety of their correspondence is therefore also covered by the initial warrant, regardless of whether or not they ever met or corresponded with Carter Page, or whether that correspondence referred to him in any way, directly or indirectly.

We got a glimpse of that reality from the recent report that Carter Page was in contact with Trump adviser Steve Bannon in January 2017, which could have allowed the FBI to look further into Bannon’s communications through October 2017. But it also allowed a probe of Bannon’s communications going back years before January 2017—as well as a probe of anyone Bannon was in contact with throughout that same period.

Think that over for a moment, and you can see why the Carter Page warrant is important. The possible abuse of that warrant for partisan political purposes would likely be a violation not just of Page’s rights, but of the rights of thousands of other Americans—and by extension, of the right of all Americans to be free from warrantless surveillance.

The real question now is, so what? What happens to the FBI agents who filed the fraudulent affidavit? What happens to their supervisor? How about the federal judge who blithely signed off on this bullsh** not even bothering to ask a question about it? It isn’t enough to say “my bad” and move on. There need to be heads on pikes over this because if there isn’t, no real lessons will have been learned and nothing is going to change.

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