The FBI Director appeared to confirm the existence of FISA warrants as part of its Russia investigation.
FBI Director Christopher Wray did all but confirm that the FBI has applied for FISA warrants as part of its investigation into Russian election interference and questions regarding whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian efforts while testifying before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
Citing the security classification of such information, Director Wray did not directly answer questions regarding the existence those secret warrants. However, as NBC News reported:
Wray told lawmakers that he could not provide the information, but that the FBI “has been having extensive interaction with the Congressional intelligence committees on our interaction” with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Wray’s statement appears to be the first on-the-record confirmation that the FBI has applied for FISA warrants in its investigation into Russian election interference and the question of whether the Trump campaign colluded with that effort.
Noting that “the warrants are classified, so government officials usually cannot discuss them in public,” NBC News added that: Wray told House Judiciary Committee members “I do not believe that I can legally and appropriately share a FISA court submission to this committee.”
Wray went on to explain to House Judiciary Committee members that the House and Senate Intelligence Committees were the “appropriate settings” for the FBI to disclose such sensitive information.
NBC News went on to report that “Bob Goodlatte, the Virginia Republican who chairs the Judiciary Committee, disagreed, and said his committee had jurisdiction over FISA.”
For those unfamiliar with the term FISA, CNN offered the following overview of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, otherwise known as the FISA court or FISC:
The FISA court is a tribunal established in 1978 that decides whether to approve wiretaps, data collection and government requests to monitor suspected terrorists and spies.
Eleven federal district judges serve on a rotating basis, usually for one week at a time. All judges have a maximum term of seven years with the FISA court.
And only one person has the power to appoint the judges: Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts.
Regarding the secrecy of the court, CNN reported that:
It’s just blocks away from the White House and Capitol, inside a secure area of the US District Court on Constitution Avenue. But it’s completely out of the public eye.
Officials won’t say exactly where the FISA courtroom is located inside the bunker-like complex. It’s so secretive, the room is tightly sealed to prevent eavesdropping.