Justice Department IG Says Errors “Undermined” FBI Applications for Secret Warrants
Article from For Liberty by Norm Leahy.
The Justice Department’s inspector general released a preliminary audit Tuesday of FBI applications for national security surveillance warrants from the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) which revealed that almost 30 FBI applications were either error-filled or lacked critical supporting documents.
In his memo to FBI Director Christopher Wray, DOJ IG Michael Horowitz says the sample of applications reviewed in the investigation “undermined” the FBI’s “ability to achieve its ‘scrupulously accurate’ standard for FISA applications.”
The inspector general’s office reviewed how the FBI filed applications for warrants using a so-called “Woods Procedures,” a process developed in 2001 in response to earlier FBI missteps in applying for secret warrants.
According to Horowitz’s investigation, the problems persist despite the long-standing safeguards for accuracy and documentation:
We identified facts stated in the FISA application that were: (a) not supported by any documentation in the Woods File, (b) not clearly corroborated by the supporting documentation in the Woods File, or (c) inconsistent with the supporting documentation in the Woods File.
Horowitz added the FBI’s “repeated weaknesses” in verifying the information in the surveillance applications “raise significant questions” about the FBI’s ability to follow its own procedures.
The inspector general’s office will continue to audit the FBI’s FISA applications, but in the meantime recommended the Bureau improve training to avoid errors and perform “a physical inventory to ensure that Woods Files exist for every FISA application submitted to the FISC in all pending investigations.”
In December, an IG investigation into the FISA application the FBI made to surveil former Trump campaign operative Carter Page uncovered a number of “basic and fundamental errors” that “raised significant questions” about the FBI’s management of the entire FISA process.