Sen. Lindsey Graham, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he had “serious concerns” about the secretive surveillance court that approved politically sensitive wiretaps in 2016.
He added that he’s not sure the court should continue to exist “unless there is fundamental reform.”
“I'm a pretty hawkish guy, but if the court doesn't take corrective action and do something about being manipulated and lied to, you will lose my support,” Graham said.
What you need to know about the court: The special court operates in secret and approves wiretaps under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — or FISA — a law that is typically used to target foreign spies and terrorists. The court was created by Congress in in 1978 and is comprised of 11 federal trial-level judges chosen by the Chief Justice.
In 2016, the FBI sought and received approval from the court to surveil Carter Page for nearly a year, starting shortly after he left the Trump campaign in the fall of 2016.
What the report says about FISA: The inspector general's report found that significant errors and problems with how the FBI prepared the applications to the court, including the critical finding that exculpatory evidence about Page was omitted. Trump and Graham said these findings prove that the FISA process was abused, for political purposes, though the DOJ IG said there was no bias in the decision to seek FISA surveillance of Page, and these procedural failures were generally mistakes and sloppiness, not intentional manipulation.
“I would hate to lose the ability of the FISA court to operate at a time probably when we need it the most,” Graham said today.
He continued: “But after your report, I have serious concerns about whether the FISA court can continue unless there is fundamental reform. After your report, I think we need to rewrite the rules of how you start a counter-intelligence investigation and the checks and balances that we need.”
A spokesperson for the court declined to comment this week after the publication of the report.