“Health of Democracy at Stake""
The president and the general counsel of PPSA late last night asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to reverse a lower court ruling that prohibited Carter Page from suing eight federal officers who played a direct role in his illegal surveillance during the now-infamous “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation.
The appeal filed by Erik Jaffe and Gene Schaerr of the Schaerr-Jaffe law firm seeks a private right of action against former FBI Director James Comey, former deputy director Andrew McCabe, and former FBI agent Peter Strzok, former FBI lawyers Lisa Page and Kevin Clinesmith, as well as three others in the FBI and Department of Justice.
As described by the Justice Department’s Inspector General’s investigation into the Crossfire Hurricane case, these officials relied on the false Steele report, concocted by an opposition researcher with ties to the political party opposing Trump, in order to portray Page as a Russian agent. The defendants hid from the court the FBI’s internal misgivings about the Steele report, and CIA warnings about its reliability. These untruths were used to support four separate surveillance requests, deceiving the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. Clinesmith later pled guilty to a felony false statement charge for doctoring a document from the CIA attesting that Carter Page was an operational contact and asset of the agency to state that Page was “not a source.”
The appeal on behalf of Page asks the court to consider errors in the lower district court’s ruling, which dismissed Page’s claims without any discovery. The appeal notes that the plain language of FISA allows an aggrieved person to sue if that victim has suffered from the unlawful abuse of that authority. FISA makes it illegal to use or disclose information obtained by such illicit surveillance. The appeal also rests on the PATRIOT Act, which makes it unlawful for federal officers or employees to use or disclose such information except for lawful purposes.
The appeal reads:
“This case is about holding government actors accountable for their plainly illegal conduct of using fraud and deceit to obtain secret search warrants against an innocent citizen. Worse still, such tactics were used against an innocent foreign policy advisor to a disliked presidential campaign in a transparently political effort to derail that campaign.”
As a result of official leaks, Carter Page for months was derided in the mass media as a “traitor.” And that, according to attorney Gene Schaerr, was a grave injustice perpetrated by senior FBI officials:
“You don’t have to be a fan of Donald Trump to understand that an FBI that uses concocted criminal accusations to try to skew a presidential election is a menace to democracy. Reversal of the lower court’s decision is necessary to restore accountability for the kinds of unlawful surveillance and explicit election interference engaged in by the FBI officials here. These powers should never be used against any candidate – whether establishment or populist, left or right.
“Reversal of the lower court is also necessary to restore the nation’s trust in intelligence gathering. It is astounding that the same intelligence community that tells Congress to reauthorize FISA’s Section 702 without reforms also waves away the Carter Page scandal, telling us, ‘nothing to see here, folks.’ If Congress reauthorizes Section 702, it should also reform that surveillance program as well as those that were abused to harm Dr. Page. The health of our democracy is at stake.”