Some questions about that IG report blasting the FBI for FISA abuses

By now, you've heard the report from the Department of Justice's inspector general, Horowitz, about what's painted as a widespread culture of corruption at the FBI regarding its FISA warrants to spy on American citizens.

There were 93% and 100% fail rates.  Americans were illegally spied on all over, so the narrative goes.  The FBI can't be trusted.  Time to get rid of FISA altogether.

According to Eli Lake at Bloomberg:

On Tuesday, the Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz issued a new report that found systematic errors of fact in the FBI's applications for warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The memo does not speak to the materiality or significance of those errors — but they are startling nonetheless.

Out of 42 applications, the report says, 39 included major defects. All told, the inspector general uncovered 390 deficiencies, including "unverified, inaccurate, or inadequately supported facts, as well as typographical errors."

It's a tough situation, because we know that the FBI leadership illegally spied on Donald Trump's campaign adviser Carter Page, apparently out of political motives conjunctive with the mass unmaskings of U.S. citizens seen elsewhere in the Obama administration.

But is every last FBI agent out there in the field offices hopelessly crooked?  Is every last G-man we look at on TV now to be viewed with suspicions of dishonesty?  Are we supposed to now think they all went from being straight arrows in the Marine Corps and the police agencies they were recruited from and collectively went to the dark side?

I have my doubts — it takes a lot to create a culture of mass criminality, and typically, we'd be seeing more than just FISA abuse if that's what has been going on.  Think thievery, corruption, torture, thuggery, nepotism, corruption, blatant rule-breaking, all over, as you might with a mafia.  So far, we don't see that. 

There might be a couple of problems, then, with this mass miscreances cited.  It seems fair to ask.

First, note that the Horowitz update (link here) is done by professional prosecutors, people under pressure to indict a ham sandwich.  There may be some overkill going on based on their professional inclinations in their quest to reach that 100% mark.  One thing that's cheering the lefties, according to Lake, is this:

In the twisted politics of the Trump Era, some of bureau's defenders might actually view this report as good news: It shows that the investigation of the Trump campaign was not necessarily politically motivated. The bureau made the same kinds of mistakes with suspects who were not connected to the Trump campaign. 

It might be that the Horowitz team is trying to make its coming indictments look as apolitical as possible.

Second, note that the Horowitz update lumps in real crimes with piddly stuff like typographical errors, something that's probably real enough when the people writing these things are ex-cops and people from action-men professions such as military service.  Some (but not all, of course) are brickheads, not the brightest bulbs in the academic box, because they are good at other things, like hunting down terrorists.  Yes, there's spellcheck — and yes, there might just be misspellings put there precisely to evade keyword searches — but with a list this comprehensive, we need to know how much of this is trivial and frankly non-material stuff and how much of this is true criminality.  And the context, too.

That's just a yellow light on the Horowitz side of things.  There are also the other problems cited, which might just be related to the kind of job the FBI has fighting terrorism itself and the clunkiness of its tools.  Investigations are hard, and they're harder still when they are bureaucratized into perfect checkboxes.  It's possible that some cases — and these are terrorism and spy cases — don't fit well into the requirements.  We all know that the FBI has done some pretty impressive work ratting out terrorists from ISIS and al-Qaeda and foreign spies from hellholes like Cuba, Iran, and China in recent years.

Start with the "U.S. citizen" designation, which is what the FISA warrant is all about.

An FBI agent runs into a nest of terrorists looking to plot an attack in the U.S.  Four of them hold foreign citizenship, one is an illegal, one is an anchor baby, one was born of a U.S. parent and raised in some hellhole adopting its values, and one is a citizen of convenience precisely to ramp up the legal protections to enable the doing of what terrorists do.  Most of them could be surveilled with no problem, but are all of the people with the designation of U.S. citizen truly worth the protections that Carter Page deserved?  Technically, yes, but that points to a problem of how U.S. citizenship has been blurred and cheapened.  An anchor baby raised in some hellhole with no U.S. values has precisely the same rights and protections as you and me, including FISA protections. If he comes here to plot terrorism or spy on the Americans on behalf of his motherland (and there are a lot of questions about the birth tourism coming in from China) should he really be treated like an American? That's not the only blurring of traditionally meant citizenship, when there's a Democratic president, people who hate America are positively welcomed as citizens, too. There are also lazy bureaucrats who wave the bad guys through, and other cheapenings of the value of U.S. citizenship. Illegals, according to the courts de facto have the same rights as the rest of us and absolutely none of its obligations. A message goes out to the world that U.S. citizenship is chiefly a protective mechanism, a welfare spout, a means of getting political power (see: Rep. Ilhan Omar) not a loyalty to a country higher than one's own anymore. And don't think the world's bad actors don't know it -- they most certainly do, which is why they use the mechanism of U.S. citizenship to aid their nefarious aims.

Something like that would significantly complicate the FBI's job, for sure. It might be a case for legislation - anyone who's a U.S. citizen, acting in concert with four or more (pick a number) bad actors from abroad, maybe ought to lose FISA protections, too, same as your average ISIS lowlife from Kazakhstan or Syria does, or your Chinese, North Korean or Iranian spy does. Or maybe attaining U.S. citizenship ought to require more than a quicky statement of loyalty on a Quran and include some real evidence of loyalty. Maybe it ought to be harder to claim one intends to be a loyal U.S. citizen with a history of communist, Islamist, or anti-American Internet postings. Maybe citizenship applicants should have to prove loyalty in some concrete way. And maybe the anchor baby incentive needs to be shut down.

The fluid, cheapened nature of U.S. citizenhip does seem to be conducive to FBI corner-cutting.

That's just one area where there might be more to the story than is being laid out now as exclusively FBI malfeasance. I only note this because there are bad guys out there, and the U.S. investigative and intelligence agencies, very expensive groups, have been hamstrung by loud leftist overzealousness on surveillance - think of the far-leftists who collaborated with North Vietnam in the 1960s, who raised the flag of civil liberties to shield their disloyal keisters and ended up getting what they really wanted by hamstringing those agencies, via the Church commission. It took Ronald Reagan and Bill Casey to bring those agencies back to life after these leftists, yelling about 'civil liberties,' and citing all manner of technicalities as hanging offenses, got done with them.

This is not to say there weren't real abuses. The FBI partisan bid to Get Trump was an unprecedented breaking of what had been unofficial rules. Every last cop in America knows not to arrest or ticket politicians except on true corruption matters, and only if that person has lost power. The recent case of former Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, caught naked in his hotel room with two male escorts, one who was OD'd, alongside two baggies of meth in what cops suspected was an orgy, is a perfect example of that - the cops backed away from charging him. We also see that same police reluctance in the strange immunity of Rep. Ilhan Omar, who not only married her brother, she engaged in corruption. This isn't a value statement it's just what goes on. Good or bad the purpose of that is to try to stay out of politics. The FBI denizens engaged in trying to topple Trump broke that rule bigtime. 

Now there's a bid to indict every FBI report in America, something that is sure to lead to some overturned verdicts of obvious miscreants, based on faulty FBI investigative methods. That could be trouble. And demanding absolute perfection down to typos from the FBI  is not a good solution, given how hard investigations are and how deserving some people are of surveillance.

I'm not about to say the Horowitz update is flawed (it's possible it isn't) but it's important to not jump to conclusions and go all Church commission as a result, something that only benefits the anti-American left. If there are problems, and very innocent people were spied on, these need to be corrected, if necessary, with prosecutions of overzealous FBI agents and FISA judges. But a solution needs to be worked out carefully, addressing the issues of cheapened citizenship and other things that may be incentivizing lawmen to cut corners. "Materiality and significance" as cited in the update, is important. The Horowitz update is a warning, but not an absolute call to action without further examination. 

Image credit: Pixabay public domain.

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