We need a new Church Committee on FBI and DOJ surveillance

OCRegister 5 months ago

Congress, not a team of prosecutors, dug out the truth — U.S. government surveillance programs were used to secretly, and probably illegally, wiretap, bug and harass U.S. citizens.

Two congressional committees documented the surveillance abuses by the NSA and FBI. The committees were chaired by Sen. Frank Church, D-Idaho, and Rep. Otis Pike, D-New York. One wiretap target was Martin Luther King, Jr. J. Edgar Hoover thought King colluded with Communists.

It was 1975 when the investigation that came to be known as the Church Committee hearings began. Lawmakers eventually issued 14 reports exposing, among other things, troubling surveillance of American citizens, including spying on reporters, government officials, even Supreme Court justices. The probe into the intelligence operations of the CIA, NSA and FBI uncovered monitoring of political activity by U.S. citizens as well as attempts to assassinate foreign leaders.

A major reform that resulted from the Church Committee hearings was the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978, which set up strict procedures to prevent the abuse of government spycraft.

So it’s more than a little bit ironic that FISA is now part of a story about the arguably illegal surveillance of the Trump campaign by the Obama administration, facilitated by suspiciously political “intelligence” reports that relied on unverified material derived from opposition research paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign.

A group of GOP congressmen led by New York Rep. Lee Zeldin  just released a 12-page House resolution laying out the case for the appointment of a second special counsel, this time to investigate how the Department of Justice and FBI conducted and concluded the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, and how and why the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign began.

Zeldin said the resolution was prompted by new information. “In just the past few days we learned that the DOJ, FBI or both appeared to have planted at least one person into Donald Trump’s presidential campaign to infiltrate and surveil the campaign,” he told reporters.

The House resolution reads like a program for Game Seven in the National Political Scandals League. Nearly every paragraph summarizes an outrageous abuse of law enforcement power that could have kept the Church Committee occupied for weeks. One example: “An investigation conducted by the Office of the DOJ Inspector General noted that a multi-State investigation into the questionable dealings of the Clinton Foundation with corrupt donors was shut down in August 2016, when pressure was asserted on the FBI by senior officials within the Obama Justice Department.”

Another: “In October 2016, the FBI and DOJ used politically biased, unverified sources to obtain warrants issued by the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review (FISA Court) that aided in the surveillance of U.S. citizens, including Carter Page.”

But a second special counsel would mean another drawn-out and secret investigation. The country has waited long enough for the truth about the criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation, long enough for the truth about the counter-intelligence investigation that was launched against individuals in the Trump campaign. What’s needed is a new Church Committee to look into how the FBI and DOJ conducted these two high-profile investigations, and whether one was an effort to bury evidence of wrongdoing, while the other was an attempt to fabricate it.

Susan Shelley is a columnist and editorial writer for the Southern California News Group. Susan@SusanShelley.com. Twitter: @Susan_Shelley

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