An investigation into 29 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrant applications found to be riddled with mistakes by a Justice Department watchdog concluded that the errors did not influence how the court ruled, the Justice Department and FBI said.
In a filing with the FISA court unsealed Monday, the Justice Department and FBI admitted to minor errors in the applications to spy on U.S. citizens and foreign agents suspected of wrongdoing.
They say the mistakes did not affect the court’s decisions on whether to approve surveilling the targets of the applications.
“The government believes the errors identified in this docket were not capable of influencing the court’s probable cause determination and therefore did not render invalid, in whole or in part, electronic surveillance and physical search authorized by the court,” they said.
The FBI said in one application, the agent wrote down the wrong date, made six factual assertions that deviated from the underlying documentation and misidentified sources twice. Despite the mistakes, the FBI said all of the errors were “non-material,” meaning it would not influence the court’s decision-making.
Overall, the FBI uncovered two mistakes it deemed as “material,” but said they were typographical errors that did not affect whether the court had approved surveillance. It did not identify the errors.
Other errors of potential concern highlighted in a report earlier this year by the Justice Department inspector general were not blunders and supported by additional material, according to the filing.
In one application, 17 instances of potential concern highlighted by the inspector general were not errors because the language accurately described the supporting document, the filing said.
All told, there were 201 non-material errors across the 29 applications, the FBI said.
The court filing was a response to reviews by Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz, who found numerous errors in applications to monitor Carter Page, a former Trump campaign aide.
To determine whether the flaws in the Page warrant application were systematic or an aberration, Mr. Horowitz audited 29 applications to surveil U.S. citizens or green-card holders over a five-year period.
The assessment was another embarrassment for the FBI as Mr. Horowitz uncovered an average of 20 errors in each application.
But the FBI pushed back in a filing in early June after it reviewed 14 of the 29 applications and, again, Monday, after it completed the probe.
“In a joint filing by the FBI and DOJ, the Office of Intelligence at DOJ informed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that, in its judgment, none of the errors that had been identified by DOJ-OIG undermined or otherwise impacted the validity of the FISC’s orders,” the FBI said in a statement.
The FBI also noted that the applications were submitted before FBI Director Christopher A. Wray implemented more than 40 corrective actions to improve accuracy in FISA court submissions.
• Jeff Mordock can be reached at email@example.com.
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