Watchdog finds new problems with Federal Bureau of Investigation wiretap applications

Michael Horowitz

The watchdog office found an average of about 20 issues per application it reviewed. And for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and NSD to "systematically and regularly examine the results of past and future accuracy reviews to identify patterns or trends in identified errors so that the Federal Bureau of Investigation can enhance training to improve agents' performance in completing the Woods Procedures, or improve policies to help ensure the accuracy of FISA applications".

Barr was referring to Federal Bureau of Investigation failure to follow Woods procedures in the four FISA warrants used to spy on the campaign of President Donald Trump - via adviser Carter Page - during and after the 2016 USA presidential election. Of the 42 applications reviewed, 39 had a "total of about 390 issues, including unverified, inaccurate, or inadequately supported facts, as well as typographical errors". The Woods Procedures were created in 2001 with the stated objective "to minimize factual inaccuracies in FISA applications and to ensure that statements contained in applications are "scrupulously accurate.'" The Woods Procedure is not law, but it is the FBI's policy that all applications "create and maintain an accuracy sub-file (known as a "Woods File')".

Horowitz said in a letter to FBI Director Chris Wray that in four of the 29 FISA applications his office selected for review, the FBI could not produce any supporting documents or records.

The OIG's survey of the 34 accuracy review reports conducted by the FBI Chief Division Counsel (FBI CDC) and the NSD Office of Intelligence (NSD OI) found that "oversight mechanisms routinely identified deficiencies in documentation supporting FISA applications".

"We do not have confidence that the FBI has executed its Woods Procedures in compliance with FBI policy", Horowitz wrote in a "Management Advisory Memorandum" to FBI Director Christopher Wray on Monday based on the new findings.

In response to the audit, the Justice Department said in its own letter to Horowitz that it is committed "to taking whatever steps are necessary to ensure the integrity of the FISA process, including strengthening existing policies, procedures and training to facilitate accuracy in FISA applications".

In a statement on Tuesday, Graham said that he intends to ask Horowitz to appear before the senate committee to explain his findings on the problems identified in the inspector general's audit.

The Justice Department inspector general revealed Tuesday that he found errors in every FBI application to a secret surveillance court his office examined as part of an ongoing review - suggesting the problems exposed in the bureau's probe of President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign extend far beyond that case alone. The motives behind those errors remain a hotly contested issue even after the inspector general's review didn't find any evidence that the missteps stemmed from political bias. "There are systemic problems with our foreign intelligence surveillance laws and courts". This initial evaluation focused exclusively on the Woods files in these cases and made no determination as to the materiality of errors or the presence of factual support in other forums.

"The Committee must not allow the FBI's extraordinary power to electronically surveil Americans to be so haphazardly rubber-stamped with incorrect, unsubstantiated, or erroneous supporting information", Jordan said. In fact, those abuses were first reported by Nunes then in his committee's Russian Federation report released in April, 2018.

Civil liberties advocates and some lawmakers have pushed for reforms to FISA in legislation to renew a set of surveillance provisions. Horowitz expressly stated, more than once, that the IG's office did not make any "materiality judgements" and did not "confirm FISA application accuracy or identify any relevant omissions". "Also, we do not speculate as to whether the potential errors would have influenced the decision to file the application or the FISC's decision to approve the FISA application".



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