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Errors, Unsubstantiated Facts Mar FBI FISA Applications Viewed by IG

‘We do not have confidence that the FBI has executed its Woods Procedures in compliance with FBI policy… that FISA applications be “scrupulously accurate”…’

NeverTrump Sen. Sasse 'Embarrassed' by Report of FBI's FISA Abuses
Michael Horowitz / IMAGE: CBS News via Youtube

(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) The Justice Department’s inspector general on Tuesday sent a memo to FBI Director Christopher Wray saying that a review of multiple FISA-authorized surveillance applications showed widespread, systemic failures in following agency directives.

Among the requirements needed for submitting the applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the FBI’s Woods Procedures outline several different types of supporting documentation required in order to justify the request.

But the audit showed the agency—whether due to ineptitude or deliberate cover-up—was unable to furnish the needed documents in four of the 29 randomly sampled cases. In three instances, or more than 10 percent, the FBI denied knowing if the documents existed.

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“As a result of our audit work to date … we do not have confidence that the FBI has executed its Woods Procedures in compliance with FBI policy,” wrote Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

“Specifically, the Woods Procedures mandate compiling supporting documentation for each fact in the FISA application,” he said. “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.'”

Horowitz’s December report examining the procedural failures in the FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation into alleged Russian collusion with the Trump campaign found 17 critical instances of mishandling. That included the active efforts of partisan anti-Trump operatives to alter documents in order to justify surveillance.

The FISA court, which authorized the initial application and three renewals to spy on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, also was criticized for lack of oversight after reports that the secretive tribunal rubber-stamped eavesdropping approval in 99.7 percent of all cases.

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Related to his earlier FISA investigation Horowitz audited a sampling of warrant applications from a range of other FBI field offices, selecting eight offices to review from a data set of around 700 completed surveillance operations.

Of the 25 applications in the initial sample of 29 that were able to furnish the requested documents, the IG’s office found “apparent errors or inadequately supported facts” in every case.

It also found that the oversight process had broken down in its failure to prevent the flawed applications from moving forward, and said those interviewed during the audit acknowledged making no efforts to comply with the procedural mandates.

Horowitz noted that the audit, like his earlier investigation of the FISA process, was narrowly limited in its scope. The IG’s office made no determinations as to the underlying merits of the FISA requests, examining only their compliance—or lack thereof—with the Woods Procedures.

“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” self-imposed standards for accuracy, he wrote.

In early March, Congress approved a temporary re-authorization of the FISA courts’ domestic-surveillance authority under the USA Freedom Act, but both the courts and the FBI are expected to be working toward a drastic overhaul of the warrant process pursuant to Horowitz’s earlier recommendations.

Horowitz concluded by recommending further that the FBI not only implement additional requirements for reviewing the accuracy of the FISA applications, and that it also perform a “physical inventory” of all pending applications to ensure that the documents were properly vetted.

After CBS Correspondent Catherine Herridge tweeted out the recent memo, several Twitter users expressed cynicism that the FBI agents responsible would face any genuine accountability for the FISA abuses, which may have allowed U.S. citizens, including President Donald Trump, to be spied on in secret without adequate justification.

It is expected that any prosecutions—if they were to come—would stem from an ongoing criminal investigation being led by special prosecutor John Durham.

However, several recent probes, including IG investigations of top Obama-era FBI officials James Comey and Andrew McCabe, have concluded by declining to prosecute, despite evidence of unethical—and potentially criminal—misconduct.

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