the Inkblot

Politicians use America’s surveillance agencies to spy on opponents, Trump is among the victims

Former President George W. Bush shakes hands with Senator Jay Rockefeller after signing the FISA on July 10, 2008.
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Creative Commons Photo Courtesy of Chris Greenberg

Former President George W. Bush shakes hands with Senator Jay Rockefeller after signing the FISA on July 10, 2008. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

William Dean

There used to be a bipartisan consensus that the weaponization of America’s surveillance agencies to target political opponents was wrong. This is no longer the case. During the 2016 election season, Donald Trump and his campaign were among the first victims of this new government process.

In 2016, the FBI began monitoring Trump’s presidential campaign advisers, Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, under the permission of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The FISA allows the U.S. government to collect intelligence from foreign powers or their agents attempting to violate U.S. laws. Surveillance requires an application that is verified by the Department of Justice and approved by a FISA judge prior to the collection of any intelligence, according to Axios.

In 2018, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released a memo detailing the investigation into abuses of the FISA process by the FBI.

The memo stated that “the ‘dossier’ compiled by Christopher Steele (Steele dossier) on behalf of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Hillary Clinton campaign formed an essential part of the Carter Page FISA application.” Some may recall the Steele dossier for its claim that President Trump hired Russian prostitutes to urinate on a bed where the Obamas had slept.

Declassified FBI documents state that Steele was not to work with or for the FBI in any capacity. Despite this, multiple FISA renewals used the Steele dossier to rationalize a need to spy on Trump campaign officials.

A key assertion from the dossier is that Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, met with Russian officials in Prague. There, they allegedly discussed how Cohen would pay Russian officials for inside information on the Hillary Clinton campaign.

There is just one problem: Cohen’s passport shows that he has never been to Prague. Even BuzzFeed News, publisher of the Steele Dossier, verified this and said that there was “no evidence” of the claim.

FBI agents went into court and swore that the information in the FISA application was true. But the information did not go through mandatory verification channels and there was no mention of the fact that political opponents paid for it, according to former FBI director James Comey.

To make matters worse, senior FBI officials also said that the FISA Court Judge would not have approved the application without the dossier. Furthermore, ABC News reported that the Steele dossier was commissioned and paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Allowing politicians to use America’s surveillance agencies to spy on political opponents is a dangerous precedent to set. If it is not rebuked by people of all political bends, then the question of America becoming a third world “democracy” is not one of if, but when.

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Politicians use America’s surveillance agencies to spy on opponents, Trump is among the victims