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What is a FISA warrant?

Published: Thursday, February 01, 2018 @ 10:24 AM
Updated: Thursday, February 01, 2018 @ 10:24 AM

Trump Accuses Obama Of Wiretapping His Phones

Here’s a look at the FISA Court and FISA warrants.

What is the FISA Court?

A warrant to wiretap someone suspected of spying with or for a foreign government is issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court -- or FISA Court. The court is actually a tribunal whose actions are carried out in secret. The tribunal has the authority to grant warrants for electronic surveillance. The court has 11 members, all federal judges. The judges serve seven-year terms. The chief justice of the U.S. Supreme court selects the judges.

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When was this court established?

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 created the court and set up the rules for wiretapping of suspected spies.  

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What is its mission?

The court was set up to either approve or deny warrants requested by the United States government for surveillance of foreign spies inside of the United States. That warrant requests and the intelligence gathering is generally done by federal law enforcement agencies or U.S. intelligence agencies. The authorization allows for wiretapping a "foreign power or an agent of a foreign power" (which could include American citizens) suspected to be engaged in espionage or terrorism. Methods used in an investigation include electronic surveillance, physical searches and other actions. Generally, the attorney general signs the warrant requests.

How does it work?

When an agency requests a warrant from the FISA Court, the request falls to one of the 11 judges who sit on the court. It is up to that judge to either deny or approve the request for a surveillance warrant. If the request is denied, there is an avenue for appeal of the ruling, but that has happened only a handful of times in the history of the court.

Is there any other way to get surveillance warrant?

An alternate way a warrant for surveillance can be obtained is if the U.S. attorney general declares an emergency and authorizes the employment of the surveillance. The attorney general must notify a judge on the FISA Court, and must, within seven days, apply for a warrant for the action.

What rules must they follow?

While the proceedings are secret, there are rules that have to be followed. The statute that created FISA Courts bars targeted electronic surveillance in the United States unless there is evidence that a foreign power or agent of a foreign power is involved. Also, there has to be evidence that the facility -- an email address or phone number, for instance -- is being used by the foreign power or agent. In addition, the government must show that the information to be collected is "relevant" to any investigation of foreign espionage or terrorism.

The warrants are generally issued for up to 12 months, and they authorize the government to collect “bulk information.” That means that while Americans on U.S. soil who are not agents of a foreign government are not targeted, information collected could include communication between U.S. citizens.

Can public see these warrants, they can see others?

The court’s dealings are secret, the hearings closed to the public. Records are made and kept, but those records are generally not made available to the public.

How many have been turned down?

As of 2013, the FISA court has denied only 12 warrants since its inception. It has granted more than 34,000 requests since its inception.

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Brother says nothing to forgive after man crashes into restaurant killing 2

Published: Monday, May 21, 2018 @ 6:04 PM

Man Accused of Intentionally Driving Through Restaurant, Killing 2

The brother of a man accused of driving his car into a North Carolina restaurant and killing two family members Sunday said there is nothing to forgive.

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"I didn't need to forgive him. I never was angry at him, and I know what he did wasn't him," Monty Self said.

Police have charged Roger Self with first-degree murder after they say he intentionally drove his Jeep into the Surf and Turf Lodge in Bessemer City just after noon, killing two family members.

But Monty Self said the brother he loves didn't commit that deadly act. He said Roger Self is mentally ill, and the demons deep inside got the best of him and brought out the worst.

At a news conference Monday, the Self family's pastor also blamed the incident on severe mental illness. Austin Rammell, pastor at Venture Church, said "there is no way the man I've known for 16 years could do this."

Roger Self’s daughter, 26-year-old Katelyn Self, a Gaston County sheriff’s deputy, was killed when the Jeep crashed through the wall of the restaurant.

The other victim was identified as Amanda Self, Roger Self's daughter-in-law, who worked as an emergency room nurse at CaroMont Regional Medical Center.

Roger Self, in a mug shot, was booked into the Gaston County Jail after allegedly running his family down inside a restaurant in Bessemer City Sunday. Two family members were killed. His family is blaming mental illness.(Gaston County Sheriff's Office)

Other family members were also injured. Roger Self's wife Diane was badly hurt and is in critical condition. His son Josh Self - a Gaston County police officer - was also injured, along with Amanda Self’s 13-year-old daughter.

They are expected to recover.

>> Related: Man intentionally drove through restaurant, killed 2, including deputy daughter

Wait staff told WSOC-TV’s partners at the Gaston Gazette that Self took his family into the restaurant and had them seated. He then excused himself, went out to his vehicle and drove it at a high rate of speed into the area where they were sitting.

"It was like a battle zone in a movie," Monty Self said.

Self said during a jail visit he told his brother what happened.

"He was numb. He was numb. He kept saying this was crazy," Self said in describing his conversation with his brother.

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He became concerned about the health of the people who survived the crash that he caused.

"He was distraught," Self said.

"Tragic, tragic loss of life,” Gaston County Sheriff Alan Cloninger said. “I'm asking people just to keep the family in your prayers, and the sheriff's office, because we're suffering right now."

Rammell said he saw the entire family in church Sunday morning, just a couple of hours before the horrific attack.

“I'm just trying to encourage them,” Rammell said. “This was not a conscious act by their father and they know that.”

Rammell said Roger Self has been dealing with mental illness, including anxiety, depression, and mental breakdowns, in recent months and has sought medical help.

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“Family has been loving him through this,” Rammell said. “He's been taking precautions. He had all the guns removed from his house, so he was taking steps that were rational steps,” the family’s pastor said.

Rammell said he was set to officiate at Katelyn Self’s wedding to her fiance, Alex, in September.

"There's nobody in the world Roger loved more than those people and they know that,” Rammell said. “Even in the most chaotic, senseless, moment like this, they at least cling to the confidence that they know where Kate and Amanda are."

Rammell said that within hours of the tragedy, church members gathered at Venture Church for a vigil for the family.

Caleb Martin, a 14-year-old who buses tables at the restaurant, witnessed the car crash through the building.

"I walked over to my station and I heard a loud boom,” he said. “It went straight through. There's a doorway. There is a wall and he drove in another room."

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Caleb was dazed by the carnage he saw. He said that, for a moment, he didn't know what to do but then he sprang into action.

"The one guy I could help in back, he was pretty hurt,” Martin said, “I helped paramedics move tables off this dude and I moved debris out of the way so they could get to him."

Officials said Roger Self is a private investigator who worked for the Gastonia Police Department years ago.

“He was a regular and we haven't seen him in a while, so when he came back, it was kind of sad,” Martin said.

Area law enforcement agencies offer condolences

Law enforcement agencies from across the area expressed their condolences on social media.

Katelyn Self was a corporal at the Gaston County Sheriff’s Department. "Thoughts and prayers for the Gaston County Sheriff's Office and Deputy Self's family and friends."

The Huntersville Police Department posted on Twitter, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Gaston County Sheriff's Office and the family and friends of Corporal Katelyn Self. Corporal Self was senselessly killed today while off duty."

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Air pollution during pregnancy tied to high blood pressure in kids, study suggests

Published: Monday, May 21, 2018 @ 5:10 PM

A new study finds babies exposed to air pollution in the womb have a higher risk for high blood pressure as children.
Pixabay
A new study finds babies exposed to air pollution in the womb have a higher risk for high blood pressure as children.(Pixabay)

Exposure to air pollution in the womb can lead to higher blood pressured in children, a new study suggests.

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“What we found was that air pollution exposure during the third trimester in particular was associated with higher blood pressure in children," study author Dr. Noel Mueller, from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told CBS News.

The research by Mueller and his team, which was published last week in the journal Hypertension, studied 1,239 mothers and their children aged three to nine in the Boston area. When the children were sorted into three categories (from highest to lowest exposure to pollution in the womb), the results showed that those in the highest exposure group were 61 percent more likely to have higher blood pressure than those in the lowest exposure group.

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To gauge the levels of pollution in the areas where the women lived during their third trimester, the researchers looked at readings from nearby Environmental Protection Agency monitors. The children in the "high-risk" category were exposed to levels at least twice as high as the "acceptable" amount set by the EPA.

Mueller said exposure to pollution "causes an inflammatory response that alters genetic expression and fetal growth and development, on the pathway to high blood pressure in childhood," The Independent reported. “We know that blood pressure tracks through life. Children who have elevated blood pressure in childhood have a higher probability of having hypertension later in life and cardiovascular diseases.”

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While the study only demonstrates a correlation between pollution and higher blood pressure and does not confirm causation, pregnant woman should be aware, researchers said.

Dr. Melissa Smarr, an assistant professor at the Department of Environmental Health in the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, said there are steps pregnant women can take to avoid air pollution.

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"Spending a limited amount of time near major roadways or heavily trafficked areas is one way to lessen air pollution exposure," she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Mueller also suggested pregnant women can avoid exercising outdoors in areas with bad air pollution.

Local and national governments should also work towards improving air quality, Mueller added. He explained that regulations are necessary "not only for the health of our planet but also for the health of our children."

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"The conceptualization and implementation of strategic initiatives to minimize air pollution can be furthered through continued partnerships between research institutions and local, state, and national government," Smarr said.

An increased risk of high blood pressure isn't something to be taken lightly, she warned.

“High blood pressure that goes untreated in childhood may increase the risk of developing high blood pressure and/or cardiovascular disease as an adult," she said. "Left untreated, high blood can adversely affect various organs in the body, ultimately reducing the overall quality of life."

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According to Smarr, the research is an important contribution to the understanding of children’s environmental health “as it highlights the significance of exposure to air pollution during pregnancy as it pertains to offspring health during early childhood, which has potential implications for adult health.”

"I am hopeful that these findings will encourage the design of larger future studies that are able to estimate personal maternal exposure to air pollution in the context of children's blood pressure measured multiple times throughout childhood,” she said.

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White House agrees to review of DOJ actions in 2016 campaign

Published: Monday, May 21, 2018 @ 4:59 PM

A day after President Donald Trump demanded an investigation into how the FBI dealt with investigations during the 2016 campaign, the White House accepted a plan from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to expand an ongoing review of the probe into Russian interference in the elections, and how it touched on the Trump Campaign.

“Based on the meeting with the President, the Department of Justice has asked the Inspector General to expand its current investigation to include any irregularities with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s or the Department of Justice’s tactics concerning the Trump Campaign,” read a statement issued by the White House.

“It was also agreed that White House Chief of Staff Kelly will immediately set up a meeting with the FBI, DOJ, and DNI together with Congressional Leaders to review highly classified and other information they have requested,” the statement added, referring to an ongoing battle between Republicans in Congress and the feds for documents about the Russia probe.

The outcome of the meeting between Mr. Trump, the Deputy Attorney General, the FBI Director, and the Director of National Intelligence – which was not listed on the President’s public schedule – was less explosive than what President Trump had seemingly threatened on Sunday, when he said he would demand a full investigation into whether the feds had “infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes.”

Mr. Trump and Congressional Republicans have been playing up the issue in recent days, arguing that initial FBI efforts to find out what Russia was doing with relation to the Trump Campaign, was actually an effort to undermine Mr. Trump’s bid for the White House.

But Democrats say what’s going on now is an effort by Mr. Trump and his allies in the Congress to undermine the current investigation, by allowing the President’s lawyers to see what evidence the Special Counsel’s office – and maybe U.S. Intelligence – had been able to gather during the 2016 campaign.

The Monday meeting at the White House came as Republicans stepped up demands for documents about the investigation, as Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), asked the Justice Department for information on contacts between officials and former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, who put together a controversial ‘dossier’ on the President, funded by Democratic sources.

In a letter to Rosenstein, Grassley zeroed in Monday on Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, and his contacts with Steele.

“Accordingly, please provide all records related to Mr. Ohr’s communications about these matters, including: (1) emails from Mr. Ohr’s personal and work accounts, (2) phone logs, (3) handwritten notes, and (4) text messages from personal and work accounts,” Grassley wrote in a letter.

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Maryland police officer shot, killed in line of duty investigating ‘suspicious activity’

Published: Monday, May 21, 2018 @ 4:03 PM
Updated: Monday, May 21, 2018 @ 4:03 PM



Larry W. Smith/Getty Images
(Larry W. Smith/Getty Images)

A police officer was shot and killed Monday while investigating a report of suspicious activity in Baltimore County, Maryland, according to Gov. Larry Hogan.

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“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of a Baltimore County police officer after she was shot in the the line of duty,” Hogan said on Twitter.

“Our prayers got out to this brave officer’s family, Baltimore County police and fire and the Baltimore County community,” he said. 

Hogan said the suspect is still on the loose as a manhunt continues.

The officer has not yet been publicly identified.

She died after she was shot in the head while investigating a report of “suspicious activity,” according to WBAL-TV.

Baltimore County Councilman David Marks wrote in a Twitter post that the officer was shot in Perry Hall, near Belair and Lausmier roads.

Police warned residents to shelter in place as they continued to investigate Monday's shooting. 

Check back for updates to this developing story.

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