WASHINGTON — The New York Times is asking the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to unseal secret documents related to the wiretapping of Carter Page, the onetime Trump campaign adviser at the center of a disputed memo written by Republican staffers on the House Intelligence Committee.
The motion is unusual. No such wiretapping application materials apparently have become public since Congress first enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1978. That law regulates electronic spying on domestic soil — the interception of phone calls and emails — undertaken in the name of monitoring suspected spies and terrorists, as opposed to wiretapping for investigating ordinary criminal suspects.
Normally, even the existence of such material is a closely guarded secret. While applications for criminal wiretaps often eventually become public, the government has refused to disclose the contents of applications for intelligence wiretaps — even to defendants who are later prosecuted on the basis of information derived from them.
But President Trump lowered the shield of secrecy surrounding such materials on Friday by declassifying the Republican memo about Mr. Page, after finding that the public interest in disclosing its contents outweighed any need to protect the information. Because Mr. Trump did so, The Times argues, there is no longer a justification “for the Page warrant orders and application materials to be withheld in their entirety,” and “disclosure would serve the public interest.”
The Republican memo acknowledged that the intelligence court had approved surveillance targeting Mr. Page in October 2016 and later approved three applications for 90-day extensions, meaning he was observed for at least a year under the warrant. The memo named the officials who signed off on the applications and described purported claims and purported omissions in those materials. Read more…