It appears that former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page was not the only individual on the business end of a faulty FISA warrant. Earlier this year, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found a number of errors on the part of the FBI when it applied for surveillance warrants. On March 31, the OIG released a report showing even more problems in the application of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
Inspector General Finds Flaws With FISA Applications
In order to legally spy on an American citizen, the FBI must apply to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Courts (FISC), and this process has a set of rules, called the Woods Procedures, that the Bureau is required to follow.
According to the new OIG report, there were errors in all 29 of the FISA warrant applications that the office reviewed. This audit was a follow-up to an investigation into the FBI’s conduct when it pursued the warrant to spy on Page.
The OIG assessed that the Bureau made dozens of errors and omissions in four applications submitted to the court, which prompted the Department of Justice (DOJ) to retract two of the warrants that were granted on flawed information. The OIG slammed the FBI for these oversights, indicating that the misconduct was more widespread.
In a memo to FBI Director Christopher Wray, the OIG wrote, “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.”
The OIG stated that its “lack of confidence” is based on a variety of factors. For starters, the report indicates that the office “could not review original Woods Files for 4 of the 29 selected FISA applications because the FBI has not been able to locate them.” It further states that, in three of these cases, the Bureau didn’t even know if they “ever existed.”
The report also points out that the OIG’s assessment of the FISA applications “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.”
Finally, the OIG asserts that “the FBI and NSD [DOJ National Security Division] 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.”
The Woods Procedures
The Woods Procedures require FBI agents to provide proof for every factual statement they make in FISA applications to show that the information is “scrupulously accurate.” The inspector general’s investigation into the FISA application that enabled surveillance of Page found many errors in the Woods Files that were used to justify obtaining the warrant. The FBI apparently relied on the unsubstantiated Steele dossier to bolster its case for spying on Page.
If the FISA problem is as widespread as the OIG intimates, how probable is it that the FBI has violated the rights of many more individuals by using the same faulty means to obtain surveillance warrants? Even more frightening, how often has this procedure been deliberately abused?
And the most critical question: What is going to be done now?
Read more from Jeff Charles.
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