Public release of FISA applications submitted by the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) seeking warrants from the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to surveil Carter Page “is not going to happen,” Ron Hosko, former assistant director of the Criminal Investigative Division at FBI Headquarters, said during an interview Friday on Sirius XM’s Breitbart News Tonight with Senior Editor-at-Large Rebecca Mansour.
Americans should not expect to see FISA applications submitted before the FISC by federal officials seeking warrants for surveillance operations, said Hosko.
“FISA collection, FISA investigate activity is a secret process,” said Hosko. “We’re talking about a secret information, so any of this that touches secret is secret and becomes secret. It’s not going to get released for the public to examine. It’s just not going to happen that way. It’s not going to happen that way on this case. We’re not going to open up all the FBI secret investigations for public examinations to see if they’re done the right thing.”
Hosko repeated his prediction that FISA applications submitted by the FBI and DOJ in pursuit of surveillance warrants for Carter Page will never see public release.
“What went before the FISA judge?” asked Hosko. “I think we’re going to hear, perhaps, characterizations of it. But we’re never going to get to that core information because this is a secret process with secret information in it.”
Determining the propriety of conduct within the FBI and broader DOJ should be delegated to internal investigations conducted by the DOJ’s inspector general, advised Hosko.
“[Inspector General of the Department of Justice Michael Horowitz] is totally at arm’s length from the FBI, and I think he will be unsparing in his criticism if it’s appropriate,” said Hosko, reiterating an expression of faith he made last week toward the effectiveness of internal FBI processes of institutional self-correction.
Congress must also play a role in repairing any possible impropriety at the FBI while preserving necessary secrecy at the bureau, said Hosko.
“So here we are dependent on Congress to hopefully tell us what’s what, particularly the House Oversight Committee, the House Intelligence Select Committee, and we have zero consensus on that committee as to what’s true, what’s up, what’s down, what’s left, and what’s right. It’s very troubling.”
Hosko critiqued the GOP’s decision to release a memo alleging abuse by senior FBI and DOJ officials, advising Republicans to go through internal DOJ mechanisms to address allegations of political corruption.
“What legitimizes [Congress’s oversight authority on the DOJ and FBI]?” asked Hosko. “Truth does. Accuracy does. … To me, the proper course of action is not to throw out three pages and let the public guess what is true. It is to take this belief by the House Republicans over to the Department of Justice inspector general and say, ‘You guys have security clearances. Figure this out, and report back to us within 30 or 60 days.'”
Mansour argued for more public transparency while expressing skepticism of the DOJ’s ability to investigate itself for impropriety.
“We’re supposed to trust that the organization that did this is going to investigate itself?” asked Mansour. “The inspector general there is going to be on the up and up? We don’t actually get to hire the FBI officials, but we do get to hire our elected officials. We get to vote for them. Congressmen Nunes and the others on that committee, those are the people that answer directly to us because we elected them, and we have to trust their judgment. This [memo] looks very careful. I want to see the Democrat memo, too. Release that, too. Let’s hear all the facts on this. Let’s hear the testimony because I think the American people have a right to know about this. I think most people don’t realize that our government has this authority – that there is such a thing as a FISA court. I bet you a lot of the public has no idea and this is the first time they’re really understanding this.”
“Why can’t we see the FISA application?” asked Mansour. “The only way we’re going to know is if we see the FISA application, or at least see the testimony. Can we not even see the testimony that Andy McCabe gave?”
“Perhaps Congress can work through declassifying his testimony,” replied Hosko, cautioning against premature judgments of the propriety of the FBI’s conduct in surveilling then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s political associates.
“We don’t know the range of subjects that he testified on, and so it could be multiple subjects, and maybe they can release a piece of it. Maybe they can redact everything and tell us what he testified on this subject so we can see, perhaps, what is actually true. But the troubling part is there’s no consensus here, at all, so it’s a struggle. I’m not at the point where I’m ready to conclude the FBI did wrong or that the FBI and DOJ did exactly what they should do under the circumstances, and I encourage you not to reach that conclusion, either, because I submit we’re seeing a very small fraction of the FBI’s work, of what led up to this, how much was Fusion dossier information corrupted with bias.”
Friday’s released memo from the House Intelligence Committee likely omitted full context of information submitted to the FISC in pursuit of a surveillance warrant, said Hosko. FISA applications, he added, are typically dozens of pages in length.
“The challenge is understanding what is true under these circumstances and accepting one piece of it as true,” said Hosko. “This is three pages. I guarantee you, a typical FISA is going to be dozens of pages. They’re going to lay out the parts of Carter Page’s life as best they know it over multiple pages. Attorneys both in the FBI and DOJ are going to look for substance. When you make a substantial allegation in a FISA application, they’re looking for where that’s backed by fact in the investigative file. If I say Ron Hosko is 22 years old, where is the birth certificate or driver’s license or something else that validates that statement?”
Hosko speculated that Friday’s released memo revealed only a narrow portion – “a tiny little slice” – of the FBI’s rationale for surveilling Carter Page.
“It’s important for your listeners to know that a FISA is very seldom the start of a process,” said Hosko. “There is typically lots of investigation using far less intrusive techniques. I’m going to look at your phone records. I’m going to find some transactional records, banking records, travel records, maybe talk to some associates if I can do that discreetly, try to understand what you do and how you might be co-opted by a foreign adversary to spy on us.”
Hosko broadly defended the FISA process, describing it as a “bottom-up process” and “not a top-down [process].” He further described the FISA process as essentially beyond the direction and control of the president: “This is not a process that is directed by Barack Obama or someone in the White House.” He also rejected characterizations of the FISC as a “rubber stamp” for authorization of surveillance operations.
Breitbart News Tonight airs Monday through Friday on SiriusXM’s Patriot channel 125 from 9:00 p.m. to midnight Eastern (6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Pacific).
Follow Robert Kraychik on Twitter @rkraychik.