DOJ IG Report: “We do not have confidence that the FBI” acted “in compliance with FBI policy” on FISA applications
“a deficiency in the FBI’s efforts to support the factual statements in FISA applications”
Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowowitz released a report today on FBI practices in making Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) applications to the FISA court. If the entire country were not focused (understandably) on the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, this would dominating the news.
As background, IG Horowitz found pervasive problems with the FISA applications regarding Carter Page, leading to an FBI apology, FBI Apologizes for Deceiving FISA Court in Order to Surveil Carter Page.
The current Report (pdf.), in the form of a Management Advisory, is a follow up focused more broadly on FBI practices, and concludes that the problems went far beyond the Carter Page applications. Here is an excerpt from the introduction to the Report:
As a result of our audit work to date and as described below, we do not have confidence that the FBI has executed its Woods Procedures in compliance with FBI policy. Specifically, the Woods Procedures mandate compiling supporting documentation for each fact in the FISA application. Adherence to the Woods Procedures should result in such documentation as a means toward achievement of the FBI’s policy that FISA applications be “scrupulously accurate.” Our lack of confidence that the Woods Procedures are working as intended stems primarily from the fact that: (1) we could not review original Woods Files for 4 of the 29 selected FISA applications because the FBI has not been able to locate them and, in 3 of these instances, did not know if they ever existed; (2) our testing of FISA applications to the associated Woods Files identified apparent errors or inadequately supported facts in all of the 25 applications we reviewed, and interviews to date with available agents or supervisors in field offices generally have confirmed the issues we identified; (3) existing FBI and NSD oversight mechanisms have also identified deficiencies in documentary support and application accuracy that are similar to those that we have observed to date; and (4) FBI and NSD officials we interviewed indicated to us that there were no efforts by the FBI to use existing FBI and NSD oversight mechanisms to perform comprehensive, strategic assessments of the efficacy of the Woods Procedures or FISA accuracy, to include identifying the need for enhancements to training and improvements in the process, or increased accountability measures.
… we believe that a deficiency in the FBI’s efforts to support the factual statements in FISA applications through its Woods Procedures undermines the FBI’s ability to achieve its “scrupulously accurate” standard for FISA applications.
This may sound like a lot of technicalities and dense. But Tobia Hoonhout explains the importance at National Review, IG Horowitz Found ‘Apparent Errors or Inadequately Supported Facts’ in Every Single FBI FISA Application He Reviewed:
The Woods Procedure dictates that the Justice Department verify the accuracy and provide evidentiary support for all facts stated in its FISA application. The FBI is required to share with the FISA Court all relevant information compiled in the Woods File when applying for a surveillance warrant.
“FBI and NSD officials we interviewed indicated to us that there were no efforts by the FBI to use existing FBI and NSD oversight mechanisms to perform comprehensive, strategic assessments of the efficacy of the Woods Procedures or FISA accuracy, to include identifying the need for enhancements to training and improvements in the process, or increased accountability measures,” the report states.
The OIG concludes by recommending that the FBI “systematically and regularly examine the results of past and future accuracy reviews to identify patterns or trends in identified errors” relating to the Woods Procedure, as well as double-checking “that Woods Files exist for every FISA application submitted to the FISC in all pending investigations.”
What will happen to the FBI officials involved in these failures to follow FBI policy?
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