The Inspector General of the Justice Department has gone on record saying that the impropriety of the FBI regarding of FISA warrants, extend well beyond the abuse and mistakes made by the bureau during the Mueller Russia Probe.
IG Michael Horowitz has determined that that such missteps have undermined the bureau’s ability to achieve a “scrupulously accurate” standard for all Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) applications.
In a memo released earlier this week, which he sent to FBI Director Christopher Wray, Horowitz revealed that his team had been conducting a review of the bureau’s practices related to so-called “Woods Procedures.” Those rules require agents — seeking authorization to surveil an individual — to independently verify facts presented by a third party before including them in a FISA application before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
“We do not have confidence that the FBI has executed its Woods Procedures in compliance with FBI policy, or that the process is working as it was intended to help achieve the ‘scrupulously accurate’ standard for FISA applications,” Horowitz wrote in the report.
Horowitz said the Woods Procedures are intended “to minimize factual inaccuracies in FISA applications and to ensure that statements contained in applications are ‘scrupulously accurate.’”
In the memo, Horowitz said the FBI’s failure to follow the procedure in the Russia investigation — related to the FISA warrant and subsequent renewals for former Trump campaign aide Carter Page — sparked his team’s latest review.
In their review, Horowitz said they identified facts stated in 29 FISA applications that were “not supported by any documentation in the Woods File … not clearly corroborated by the supporting documentation in the Woods File, or inconsistent with the supporting documentation in the Woods File.”
“We believe that the repeated weaknesses in the FBI’s execution of the Woods Procedures one each of the 29 FISA applications we revised to date….raise significant questions about the extent to which the FBI is complying with its own requirement that FISA applications be supported by documentation in the Woods File as part of its efforts to ensure that applications are ‘scrupulously accurate,’” Horowitz wrote.
The FBI, in response to the watchdog’s memo said that Horowitz’s “findings underscore the importance of the more than 40 corrective actions that Director Wray ordered late last year.”
Meanwhile, the Justice Department, in a response to Horowitz’s findings that were included in the report, defended the FBI under Wray, saying that the bureau has “already undertaken many changes to improve FISA application processing,” and added that FBI general counsel has “directed every relevant division to account for and ensure the proper maintenance” of FISA sub-files.
Horowitz made it a point to say that, “we have not made judgments about whether the errors or concerns we identified were material,” and that they “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.”
But his memo concluded, “Nevertheless, 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 [future] FISA applications.”