FISA stands for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. That’s a law which allows electronic surveillance and other intelligence collections of information and communications “between foreign powers” and “agents of foreign powers” involving espionage or terrorism. The CIA is not allowed to conduct spying information inside the U.S., so that responsibility falls to the FBI.
The definition of “agents of foreign powers” includes U.S. citizens working with foreign powers. In order to get a warrant to spy on a U.S. person, the FBI must go to a special FISA court.
The proceeding is held in complete secrecy. It’s what lawyers call an “ex parte” proceeding, which means the target of the surveillance has no knowledge of the proceeding and no ability to object or defend himself. This was the process that was abused in 2016–2017 when the FBI used fake evidence to get a secret warrant to spy on the Trump campaign on the pretense that they were working with Russians (they weren’t).
Now we learn that the potential abuse was even worse than we knew. As this article shows, the Obama administration in 2012 authorized the FBI not only to spy on U.S. citizens, but to share that information with foreign intelligence services.
The foreign countries that received the information could then take action against U.S. citizens abroad who would be denied the rights given under the U.S. Constitution. This includes the right to counsel, right to due process and the right to remain silent.
No one objects to chasing down real terrorists. But when the surveillance targets are political opponents selected for political reasons using fake evidence, the FBI has run amok and the law is badly in need of reform. Just hope you’re not the next surveillance target who gets picked based on your political views.
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