FISA Court picks Obama-era lawyer to oversee FBI’s surveillance reform

FISA Court picks Obama-era lawyer to oversee FBI’s surveillance reform

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The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has assigned David Kris, a former DOJ official under the Obama administration, to assist in a review of reforms to the FBI's surveillance procedures.

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How we got here: The reforms follow the release of Inspector General Michael Horowitz's report into the beginnings of the FBI's investigation into Russian interference. He found “significant inaccuracies and omissions” in the first application sent to the FISA court about the monitoring of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, which were repeated in subsequent renewals, along with additional errors.

The story: FISC presiding Judge James E. Boasberg in an order Friday announced David Kris will "serve as amicus curiae ... to assist the Court in assessing the government's response" to demands about changes at the FBI. Kris is "to submit written views regarding the government's submission by January 31, 2020."

Read the order here.

Who is David Kris? Kris is a former assistant attorney general for national security who worked for the Department of Justice from 2009 to 2011. From 2000 to 2003, he served as an associate deputy attorney general  during the George W. Bush administration. In 2005, he criticized Bush's rationale for approving an NSA wiretapping program that circumvented the FISA court.

Kris, Page, and Nunes: Despite his position on the matter then, Kris vehemently defended the monitoring of Page. He sided with the FBI's FISA practices during his appearance on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show" in 2018 and in articles published on the left-wing blog Lawfare, whose editor-in-chief is Benjamin Wittes, reportedly a friend of former FBI chief James Comey.

Kris also slammed Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) for a memo that raised questions about the motive and methods the agency used to obtain a FISA warrant to monitor Page as part of the Russia probe.

Nunes' memo "tried to deceive the American people in precisely the same way that it falsely accused the FBI of deceiving the FISA Court ... had the FBI done in its FISA applications what Nunes did in his memo, heads would have rolled on Pennsylvania Avenue," Kris argued. "It’s disturbing that Page met that legal standard and that there was probable cause to conclude he was a Russian agent."

"The Nunes memo was dishonest. And if it is allowed to stand, we risk significant collateral damage to essential elements of our democracy."

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Republicans upset over FISA Court's choice: “It’s hard to imagine a worse person the FISC could have chosen outside Comey, McCabe, or Schiff. The choice is shocking and inexplicable.” Nunes told the Daily Caller.

“If there were any hope for the system fixing this FISA mess, it extinguished with David Kris’ appointment. Nobody trying to fix the rampant abuse and coverup plaguing the entire FISA process would have picked Kris. Instead, you appoint Kris for only one reason: you don’t want the system fixed. You just want it to look like you do," Page said, calling Kris a "FISA apologist."

Worth noting: Former FISC presiding Judge Rosemary Collyer, who resigned in December due to health issues, ordered the FBI to look at all warrant applications involving the FBI attorney who falsified evidence against Page, but did not instruct the agency to review warrants that included other officials who made errors, Fox News reported last month.

The FBI, last Friday, said the agency will take some steps in the future to ensure that "FISC was “apprised of all information in the FBI’s holdings at the time of an application that would be relevant to a determination of probable cause.”

“The FBI has the utmost respect for this court, and deeply regrets the errors and omissions identified by the [Justice Department inspector general]. FISA is an indispensable tool in national security investigations, and in recognition of our duty of candor to the court and our responsibilities to the American people, the FBI is committed to working with the court and DOJ to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the FISA process," FBI Director Christopher Wray wrote.

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