INSCT Director William C. Banks has long studied the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the FISA Court (or FISC), which was established under FISA in 1978. The FISA Court oversees requests, often by the FBI, for warrants to surveil foreign intelligence agents and, occasionally, US persons suspected of working with foreign agents.

One such US person is former advisor to President Donald Trump, Carter Page, who is alleged to have long worked with Russia intelligence operatives and may have been under FISA warrant surveillance as early as 2014. The FISA warrants against Page, and the intelligence used to apply for those warrants, are in the national spotlight thanks to a memo largely written by Devin Nunes, Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, alleging that the FBI misled the FISA Court as to the partisan political nature of some of that intelligence.

Media outlets, including The New York Times and WIRED, reached out to Banks to gauge his opinion on the Nunes allegations, to explain how the FISA process works, and to understand what this controversy means for the Trump presidency and the US intelligence community.

House intelligence committee votes to release Democrats’ intel memo (CNY Central | Feb. 5, 2018)

The fact that any of the information about the FISA order against Carter Page came out to begin with is “extraordinary,” said William Banks, director of the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism at Syracuse University.

“It’s unfortunate that anything came out. It damaged the intelligence community and the Department of Justice and the FBI,” he said. But he still supports the release of the Democratic memo in order to “balance the record.”

Banks continued, “I think the intelligence community is completely aghast and abhors what’s going on here, whether it’s coming from the Democrats or the Republicans.”

Devin Nunes Promises ‘Phase Two’ of Investigation (Bloomberg Radio | Feb. 5, 2018) 

William Banks, a professor at Syracuse University Law School, discusses the so-called Nunes memo, which president Trump said over the weekend “totally” vindicated him of any collusion with Russia or obstruction of justice in special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation.

Reading Between the Lines of the Devin Nunes Memo (WIRED | Feb. 2, 2018)

… “The dossier and Steele and all that—it’s cherrypicking a piece of what was probably a 50, or 60, or 100 page application,” says William C. Banks, founder of the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism at Syracuse University College of Law …

How to Get a Wiretap to Spy on Americans, and Why That Matters Now (The New York Times | Jan. 30, 2018)

William C. Banks, a Syracuse University law professor who has studied the FISA Court, said that without reviewing all the documents involved in the surveillance request, it was impossible to judge the importance of how Mr. Steele was described. But he emphasized that the government had broad leeway in seeking FISA warrants.

“Carter Page was doing business in Russia, talking to Russian diplomats who may have been involved in intelligence activities directed at the United States,” Mr. Banks said. “Game over. The standards are incredibly open-ended” …


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