Politically funded opposition research must be prohibited, Turner says

The federal government must never allow politically funded opposition research to be used by federal agencies to obtain permission to surveil or search U.S. citizens, said U.S. Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), a senior member of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee.

Opposition research, which is the practice of collecting information on a political opponent or other adversary that can be used to discredit them, specifically should not be used in an application to the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) seeking approval to search or watch Americans, wrote Rep. Turner in a Dec. 18 letter sent to Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray and FISC Presiding Judge Rosemary Collyer.

“The facts and circumstances provided to the FISC in an application to surveil or search an American citizen should never be solely produced by or collected using funds of a political organization for the purpose of gaining an advantage against or otherwise conducting research on an opposing political opponent,” according to Rep. Turner’s letter.

The congressman also wrote that he intends to reintroduce a bill that would ensure that politically derived information is not used in an application to the FISC. He sent a draft of the bill along with his letter.

“My bill, initially introduced in March 2018 and which I am re-introducing this week, would amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to ensure that raw political opposition research is not used in an application to the FISC,” Rep. Turner wrote. “I strongly urge you to adopt the concepts in this legislation as a rule before the court.”

The congressman’s letter follows a recent report from Inspector General Michael Horowitz of the U.S. Department of Justice that found “it was clear that raw political opposition research was utilized by the FBI as proof of facts alleged in their FISA application.”

“This should never happen again,” wrote Rep. Turner. “Understandably, if the FBI should become aware of criminal activity as a result of politically motivated opposition research, this rule would require that the FBI independently verify its allegations prior to transmitting them to the FISC.”

Rep. Turner acknowledged that the federal government is entrusted with “incredibly powerful and often times extremely necessary tools of surveillance to keep our country safe.”

“However, with such power requires significant oversight,” he wrote.