The systemic errors in the FBI’s FISA process will surely revive President Donald Trump’s allies, who claimed that the surveillance tool was armed against the President’s campaign in 2016. However, the results also support the arguments of critics of this claim, who suggested these errors. The side use was more systemic sloppiness than sinister intentions.
For each of the 29 applications, the Horowitz team checked that the “Woods procedures” to justify an application were properly followed.
“We are not confident that the FBI has conducted its Woods process in accordance with the FBI guidelines or that the process works as it is supposed to help achieve the” most accurate “standard for FISA applications,” wrote Horowitz a “management advisory” addressed to FBI director Chris Wray.
A worrying finding in the ongoing Horowitz examination: the files that support four of the 29 examined applications in detail were missing.
“We were unable to review the original Woods files for 4 of the 29 selected FISA applications because the FBI could not find them and in 3 of these cases did not know if they ever existed,” he wrote.
With regard to the request for side surveillance, a major mistake the Inspector General had made when renewing the request was that the court was not informed of evidence of problems with information from a key source.
The new Horowitz report signaled problems in keeping records related to such sources.
“Although there are special requirements regarding FISA applications that are used [confidential human source] When reporting, we found that these requirements are not consistently met, “wrote Horowitz.
The new evidence of shortcomings in FBI surveillance practices is also likely to impact an ongoing conflict between the House of Representatives and the Senate about re-approving unrelated FISA regulations that expired earlier this month.
Legislators left the city before resolving disagreements that, in view of the tensions in both chambers, had proven almost insoluble. Progressives, wary of the FBI’s great surveillance powers, found unlikely partners among Trump allies who were looking for sharp restrictions on FISA surveillance in response to Trump’s allegations of an FBI conspiracy against him.
The house finally passed a non-partisan law that provided some reforms to the FISA law, but which stalled in the Senate, which passed a short-term re-authorization of the provisions without reforms.
A response from the FBI to a draft of the new report states that the reforms already initiated by Wray should address many of the shortcomings identified in the IG audit.
“We believe that the process errors identified in the OIG preliminary results will be corrected by the corrective actions previously ordered by Director Wray,” wrote Deputy Director Paul Abbate.
Abbate also said that the FBI has been evaluating its “accuracy sub-files” for all FISA applications since 2015 and taking “remedial action” if necessary.
The FBI’s response identified some limitations to the IG’s previous review. For example, the auditors did not search the entire investigation file for each surveillance request, but only looked for the separate files that the office should keep to prove the accuracy of what they entered.
Horowitz also offered some important reservations about his work. He said he had not yet reached a conclusion about the “materiality” of the errors in the applications that his office had examined. Nor has he attempted to assess whether the total amount of evidence in each application complies with the legal standard for issuing a surveillance order.
Horowitz also noted that his review has recently been expanded to include how DOJ National Security Department officials have made their own efforts to ensure the FBI’s input is correct.