The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court slammed the FBI after the Justice Department inspector general this week released new findings that the FBI repeatedly violated surveillance rules.
The court’s presiding judge ordered the FBI to turn over the names of the 29 cases for which the inspector general found had found no documentation to support accusations lodged in the surveillance warrant applications.
An internal audit by Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz concluded the FBI could not even locate supporting documentation, known as the Woods File, in four of the 29 cases. In three of those cases, Mr. Horowitz said, the FBI did not know if the files ever existed.
Judge James E. Boasberg, the court’s president, said the report gives the court less confidence in the FBI’s competence, which was already on shaky ground following missteps uncovered in the bureau’s bid to wiretap Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
“The OIG Memorandum provides further reason for systemic concern,” Judge Boasberg wrote. “It thereby reinforces the need for the court to monitor the ongoing efforts of the FBI and DOJ to ensure that, going forward, FBI applications present accurate and complete facts.”
The judge also ordered the FBI to assess whether the applications’ omissions rendered the warrant invalid, giving the bureau a June 15 deadline to complete the review.
The FBI will now be required to provide the court with regular reports on its progress to account for the accuracy of its warrant applications under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.
The reports must be submitted every two months.
An FBI spokesperson acknowledged receipt of Judge Boasberg’s order, adding that reforms implemented by bureau Director Christopher A. Wray last year will ensure the accuracy of FISA applications going forward.
“Maintaining the trust and confidence of the court is paramount to the FBI and we are continuing to implement the 40-plus corrective actions ordered by Director Wray in December 2019,” the FBI said in a statement.
“Although the applications reviewed by the IG in this audit predate the announcement of these corrective actions, the FBI understands the court’s desire to obtain information related to the applications,” the statement said. “In line with our duty of candor to the court and our responsibilities to the American people, we will continue to work closely with the [court] and the Department of Justice to ensure that our FISA authorities are exercised responsibly.”
The order is the second time the normally tight-lipped court has ripped the FBI for failing to follow proper procedures when applying for a warrant to surveil U.S. citizens under FISA.
After Mr. Horowitz released his report on the Page surveillance warrants, the court ordered the FBI to explain how it will improve its warrant applications. At the time, Judge Rosemary Collyer said the bureau’s behavior calls into question “whether information contained in other FBI applications is reliable.”
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