American Oversight and Dominique Bravo went to court today to compel the Department of Justice (DOJ) to release the secret warrant applications that they filed to conduct surveillance of former Trump campaign staffer Carter Page. The warrant applications established probable cause that an individual associated with the Trump campaign was engaged in a crime or was a foreign agent.
Normally, even the existence of applications for warrants issued under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) would be classified – but the Trump administration took the unusual step of declassifying them as part of the Nunes Memo in order to further its case against the Mueller investigation.
Trump’s goal may have been to selectively release only information that buttressed his campaign against the FBI and Mueller, but the law doesn’t work that way. Once things are declassified, they’re declassified. So right after the Nunes Memo was released, American Oversight and Dominique Bravo filed two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with DOJ’s National Security Division and the FBI: one seeking the FISA applications themselves, and one seeking the identities of the DOJ attorneys who submitted them and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) judges who approved them.
The FISA warrant applications matter because they will allow all of us in the general public to see for ourselves the legitimacy of the criminal investigation into Carter Page—and, potentially, the Trump campaign.
The White House and its allies in the media and Congress have been working overtime to discredit the Mueller investigation, the FBI, the FISA courts, and any suggestion that there was anything worth investigating about the Trump campaign. They have alleged a conspiracy that some mysterious “deep state” must have been behind the surveillance of Page. Just yesterday, two prominent Republican chairmen in Congress called for a second special counsel to investigate the FISA system.
The public needs to know the truth, and thanks to the Nunes Memo and the declassification of the FISA applications, we also have a clear right to obtain those documents under FOIA.
Although there are other FOIA requests about the wiretapping, our requests were written specifically in light of what was declassified in the Nunes memo, and were designed to hold the government to task for the implications of that official acknowledgement.
DOJ failed to respond to the FOIA requests as required by law, so today we filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, asking a judge to order the government to release the warrant applications and the other records we requested.
Case law makes clear that when the government officially acknowledges conduct that would otherwise be classified, that acknowledgement has consequences for what they are required to disclose under FOIA. In this case, the government made a decision to declassify the existence of the FISA applications relating to Carter Page, and at least some of the contents of those applications, making it untenable for the government to pretend that they still have a basis for withholding this information from the public.
American Oversight and Dominique Bravo’s lawsuit against DOJ is below:
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