The process is flawed, but it's probably the best one we could use, given the nature of the issue at hand.
*shrug* Secret courts making secret decisions about super duper secret things are not being honest? Color me aghast with shock and disbelief at the audacity of the spook society to only let dirty civilian judges see only what they think they need to know.
The alternative which existed prior to the creation of this "secret court", was to just trust the intelligence agencies to only spy on people for legitimate national security reasons. Again, it's not perfect, but it's far far better than what we had before. And given the fact that this involves decisions about surveillance which is, by its nature, secret, means that you can't exactly have open public discussion.
There has to be some kind of balance between the need for secrecy and the need to ensure that our national security apparatus is not used in abusive ways. The basic concept of the FISA court is not bad. And in this case, as I said in my previous post, the failing was not with the court itself, but with what appears to be deliberately misleading if not just outright incorrect information fed to it. Presenting information obtained from the Steele dossier, without mentioning that it was generated via opposition research by the Clinton Campaign and the DNC would be bad enough. Providing a News source (yahoo news) as corroborating evidence to that contained within the Steele dossier, without mentioning that the Yahoo News story was, in fact, the result of portions of the same dossier provided to them by Steele himself, just doubles down on the problem.
Had the FBI done just a bit of digging, they would have discovered this and discounted Steele as a legitimate source. In fact, they did finally do this, but only after yet another media outlet (Mother Jones) wrote an article including data they got from Steele on the same subject (spreading the same information to multiple media outlets does not make them each count as different sources btw, and is precisely why the FBI disallows sources who shop their information to media outlets). This clearly invalidated the original source and the secondary source (since they were really the same single source). Um... But despite this, the FBI continued to rubber stamp renewals of the same FISA warrant surveillance for another year.
It's hard to read about this stuff and not come to the conclusion that there were some folks in the FBI who had clearly "picked sides". The contrast between the lackluster pursuit of information in the Clinton investigation and the nearly rabid pursuit of anything and everything anywhere near the orbit of Trump is just hard to ignore. At the end of the day, if you have an organization like the FBI engaged in this sort of partisan operation, you're going to have problems. I'm not sure what other safeguards we could have had in place to prevent this. Normally, you'd expect someone at the agency would have blown the whistle, but given that it's beginning to look like the top level of the DoJ was on board with all of this as well, it may very well have been that people just kept their heads down because they didn't want to get "in trouble". Given that the broad assumption was that Clinton would win the election, this is not really that surprising. Who do you blow the whistle to? When the party in charge is the same as the party behind the folks doing all of this, and is likely to be the party in power in 6 months or so when the media winds die down and it comes to review time? No one. You pretend you don't see anything and keep your head down. Sad, but true. Edited, Mar 1st 2018 7:43pm by gbaji