William C. Banks Speaks to the Media About FISA Declassification

Trump: Declassified Russia probe papers expose ‘bad things’

(Associated Press | Sept. 18, 2019) President Donald Trump is flexing his executive power to declassify secret documents in the Russia investigation, an extraordinary move he says will ensure that “really bad things” at the FBI are exposed. But the decision, made against the backdrop of Trump’s spiraling outrage at the special counsel’s Russia investigation, may expose sensitive sources and methods and brush up against privacy law protections, experts say.

“The Privacy Act is a big hurdle here unless Congress takes control of the materials and tries to release them themselves.”

The order is likely to further divide the president from the intelligence agencies he oversees and raises new concerns that Trump is disclosing government secrets for his own political gain. Critics of the move say the president has a clear conflict by trying to discredit an investigation in which he himself is a subject …

… William Banks, a Syracuse University national security expert, said that by making the information public, Trump is essentially overruling the decisions of career officials intent on keeping it from foreign intelligence services, terrorist groups and other adversaries.

He said while there’s nothing to prevent Trump from releasing the bulk of the information identified by the White House, he may face some problems releasing the Russia-related text messages because of the federal Privacy Act, which governs the type of personal information the government can make public.

“The Privacy Act is a big hurdle here unless Congress takes control of the materials and tries to release them themselves,” Banks said.

The FBI earlier released in heavily redacted format 412 pages of surveillance applications and court orders related to Page. Monday’s declassification order covers 21 pages of a 101-page June 2017 application to renew the warrant — the last of four filed by the Justice Department. His communications were monitored for nearly a year starting in October 2016 …

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Trump says declassifying Russia docs is about ‘total transparency,’ but some disagree

(WJLA ABC 7 | Sept. 18, 2019) President Donald Trump said Tuesday he wants “total transparency” in the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, calling some of the details revealed so far “a disgrace to our nation,” but critics say his latest effort to shine light on the probe is a self-serving attempt to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller.

“If you want a more complete understanding of what went on here, you wouldn’t declassify two pages here or four pages there. You’d declassify all of it, and that’s not what they did.”

“This is a witch hunt,” Trump told reporters before a meeting with President Andrzej Duda of Poland. “Republicans are seeing it. The Democrats know it’s a witch hunt, too, but they don’t want to admit it because that’s not good politics for them. But it’s a terrible witch hunt, and it’s hurt our country.”

In a statement issued Monday night, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders announced the president is ordering the declassification of selected documents related to the FBI’s applications to a Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act court to conduct surveillance of Carter Page, a former adviser to Trump’s campaign, and text messages sent by several officials involved in the investigation. Sanders said Trump was acting “at the request of a number of committees of Congress, and for reasons of transparency” …

… “What’s being released here has been reviewed by officials in the executive branch already and they decided the documents should not be declassified,” said William Banks, former director of the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism at Syracuse University.

National security law experts say there is no precedent for a commander in chief selectively declassifying materials from an investigation of his own conduct, but they agree it is within Trump’s authority to do so …

… According to Banks, FISA proceedings are secretive for good reason, and pulling back the curtain could demoralize intelligence and law enforcement officers.

“Anytime the FISA materials see the light of day, our adversaries can learn more about the processes we use to keep tabs on them,” he said …

… Experts and former DOJ officials have warned of the risk to intelligence-gathering methods in this investigation and others if the sources identified in the documents are exposed

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., dismissed these concerns, telling Fox News host Laura Ingraham Monday night it is “laughable” to claim this declassification endangers national security.

“This is really full transparency for the American people,” Nunes said.

Banks rejected the notion that declassifying 21 hand-picked pages of the FISA applications is about “full transparency.”

“If you want a more complete understanding of what went on here, you wouldn’t declassify two pages here or four pages there. You’d declassify all of it, and that’s not what they did,” he said …

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