When I served as attorney general of Iowa, I was humbled by the daily realization that my team and I were the last line of defense in protecting the innocent. This realization requires a continuous balance between the urgent need to stop bad actors from harming people, while adhering to constitutional safeguards that protect us all.
I am most proud of having written anti-stalking legislation that became a blueprint for such laws across the nation. This blueprint spread because it balanced the need to counter personal threats to women’s safety with the constitutional rights of suspects. When President Bill Clinton selected me to be the first head of the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women, I met many in both parties who deeply respected this need to protect the innocent within constitutional restraints.
Observing the current landscape in Washington, it seems some in federal law enforcement seem to have forgotten that the law is ultimately designed to protect innocent Americans, not target them. This is most obvious in the realm of electronic surveillance conducted under the authorities of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the Patriot Act, written in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The poster child for FISA abuse emerged late last year when DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz detailed 17 errors in the FISA warrants of Carter Page, associated with the Trump presidential campaign. One such error included the deliberate alteration of a fact submitted to the FISA court in sworn testimony. The ACLU reacted with an impassioned letter to Sens. Lindsay Graham and Dianne Feinstein, who head the Senate Judiciary Committee.