Harvard University law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz, one of President Donald Trump’s impeachment defense attorneys, said a “reshuffle” of the FISA court is necessary to prevent FBI officials with a “grudge” from abusing the system in the future.
In an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity on Friday, Dershowitz that anyone, including either of them or their families, could be subject to abusive surveillance if a low-ranking FBI official has a “grudge” and a role in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court application process.
“This could happen to you or me or anybody. Today, the way the FISA court operates, some low-ranking FBI agent with a grudge against somebody could walk in and say, ‘Dershowitz, Hannity were talking to the Russians, let’s intrude on his privacy, his wife’s privacy, his children’s privacy,'” the law school professor said after making note of that Attorney General William Barr’s memo to the FBI ordering the agency to make sure to run any investigations into 2020 candidates through him
But Dershowitz worried that order may not go far enough.
In particular, the law professor brought up a familiar complaint about the FISA court — that it conducts its work in secret and via ex parte, with only one side allowed to present evidence, the government.
The court was created as part of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and its role is to hear evidence and decide whether to grant various government agencies secret surveillance warrants to spy on American citizens. The court almost always grants those warrants.
“We need to reshuffle the entire FISA court,” Dershowitz said. “We need to have a defense attorney in there with security clearance who plays the devil’s advocate, like when the Catholic Church gives somebody sainthood, you need to have somebody arguing the other side.
“Here, you have to have somebody who has security clearance saying no, no, no. Hold up. This is not verified. This is not good,” he added.
Last year, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a scathing report on alleged FISA abuses during the “Spygate” investigation of President Trump’s 2016 campaign, and that has led to some reforms being considered.
Dershowitz said he’s been arguing for FISA reforms since the law was written and the court was created. Now, he said, he thinks reforms are very likely.
“Finally, I think we have the joint, hopefully, bipartisan support for changing FISA to protect all American citizens, not just politicians,” he said.