The FBI obtained a secret court order last summer to monitor the communications of an adviser to presidential candidate Donald Trump, part of an investigation into possible links between Russia and the campaign, law enforcement and other U.S. officials said.
The FBI and the Justice Department obtained the warrant targeting Carter Page’s communications after convincing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge that there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia, according to the officials.
This is the clearest evidence so far that the FBI had reason to believe during the 2016 presidential campaign that a Trump campaign adviser was in touch with Russian agents. Such contacts are now at the center of an investigation into whether the campaign coordinated with the Russian government to swing the election in Trump’s favor. Of course Page calls it "unjustified, politically motivated government surveillance."
But let's take a look at the FISA Court anyway, shall we? What does it take to get a FISA Court to OK some surveillance?
The FISA Court's larger mission is to decide whether to grant certain types of government requests-- wiretapping, data analysis, and other monitoring for "foreign intelligence purposes" of suspected terrorists and spies operating in the United States.
The once-secret approval of collecting bits and pieces of information from electronic communications -- called metadata -- comes quarterly from judges at the court. To collect the information, the government has to demonstrate to a judge that it is "relevant" to an international terrorism investigation. And who's on this court? Again, CNN:
The court is made up of 11 judges who sit for seven-year terms. All are federal district judges who agree to take on the additional duties on a rotating basis. They are appointed by Chief Justice John Roberts, without any supplemental confirmation from the other two branches of government. Roberts has named every member of the current court, as well as a separate three-judge panel to hear appeals known as the Court of Review. So ALL the judges are Roberts approved.
Back to the Washington Post:
The judges who rule on Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests oversee the nation’s most sensitive national security cases, and their warrants are some of the most closely guarded secrets in the world of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence gathering. Any FISA application has to be approved at the highest levels of the Justice Department and the FBI.
Applications for FISA warrants, [FBI Director James] Comey said, are often thicker than his wrists, and that thickness represents all the work Justice Department attorneys and FBI agents have to do to convince a judge that such surveillance is appropriate in an investigation. I hardly think a "politically motivated" and "unjustified" FISA warrant application from the Obama DOJ is going to make it past all those levels of guv'ment bureaucracy - especially not all those FISA judges appointed by the conservative Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Roberts.
And now onto that thought experiment: Imagine if she won the electoral college and someone (anyone) attached to the Clinton campaign was under similar surveillance. Imagine the calls for impeachment that would have inevitably risen up out of the otherwise freedom loving conservatives on the right side of our nation's political discourse. Where there's silence from the right now, there would have been riots and burning effigies.
Forget the damned emails, this is treason!
But that's a different timeline, a different reality. And in this reality, different rules obviously apply.