When a big, black SUV would pull up to my house at about 2 a.m., I knew it would be awhile before I’d be getting back to sleep. As the CIA’s deputy director, and later acting director, in the early 2000s, I was frequently awakened via secure communications at home. But when a car showed up, it meant that something needed my official signature — usually a warrant request under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. The FBI would be asking me to sign off because the request contained foreign intelligence material, often relating to a terrorism suspect.
These things typically ran 40 to 60 pages. They would contain reporting from human sources (foreign agents), technical intelligence such as intercepted communications, and open-source material. These were woven together into a request aimed at showing “probable cause” to investigate further by carrying out some kind of search.
This is the kind of document President Trump is now proposing to make public. He has directed declassification of the FBI’s FISA request for further investigation of Trump associate Carter Page, among other documents. He and his Republican allies have long maintained that this October 2016 warrant was constructed unfairly with the intention of deceiving the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judges into granting the request inappropriately.