The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has triggered a wave of condemnations over the selection of David Kris, to oversee reforms of the FBI FISA process. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) presiding Judge James Boasberg, left, appointed Kris, a lawyer that the Washington Post describes as “highly controversial.
Critics have objected that Kris writes for Lawfare, a legal site widely criticized by conservative lawyers for its left-oriented, anti-Trump positions, as well as shows like Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. That objection strikes me as attenuated and unfair. The more serious allegations however is that Kris was one of the most public advocates for rejecting allegations of FBI abuse. In a city where you can throw a stick and hit ten lawyers, FISC went to someone who insisted that allegations of abuse were nonsense and should be rejected. If the court was seeking to assure the public, it has added a new controversy for those who see a “deep state” response to reforms.
Kris served under the Obama Administration and was assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s National Security Division. He served as an associate deputy attorney general under George W. Bush from 2000 to 2003.
Kris was one of the loudest critics of the Nunes memo which mirrored some of the findings of the Inspector General’s report: “The Nunes memo was dishonest. And if it is allowed to stand, we risk significant collateral damage to essential elements of our democracy.” He specifically denied the claim that the FBI misled the court about Christopher Steele – a claim that has now been proven to be true.
Kris also maintained that “These applications already substantially undermine the president’s narrative and that of his proxies, and it seems to me very likely that if we get below the tip of the iceberg and into the submerged parts and more is revealed, it’s going to get worse, not better. And it would potentially be dangerous to disclose additional information because some of this relates to ongoing investigations.”
He has also been a prominent critic of President Trump, claiming on Twitter that the “walls” were “closing in” on the President.
Amid the Trump-Russia investigation, Kris had written that Republicans had “falsely accused” the FBI of misleading the FISC in its wiretap applications to spy on the Trump campaign. He stated that “an allegation that was all but debunked by the special counsel’s report and the inspector general’s report,” the Daily Caller noted.
Brookings Institution, which supports LawFare, has been font for experts declaring proven crimes and impeachable acts by Trump. I have often disagreed with the analysis offered by Brookings experts in these controversies. Yet, while I strongly disagree with a great deal of Kris’ analysis, much of that analysis is substantive and interesting. However, there are also these troubling and sweeping statements on the very merits of the dispute over FISA. I was particularly concerned with a March 1, 2018 essay for Lawfare, where Kris dismisses questions raised over the handling of the Carter Page investigation. I have written about the problems in that investigation, including a recent column where I called for an apology for Page over his abuse in the FISA system. Kris was one of those assuring the public that Page was clearly a legitimate target: “It’s disturbing that Page met that legal standard and that there was probable cause to conclude he was a Russian agent.” Those abuses (long denied by Kris) are at the heart of the reforms.
Given those positions, it is curious that Judge James Boasberg thought that he was the best lawyer to assure the public that reforms would be faithfully and thoroughly carried out.