IG Horowitz: ‘We do not have confidence that the FBI has executed its Woods Procedures’

DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz testifies before the Senate November, 2018. He spoke about how the FBI handled investigations ahead of the 2016 elections. He will release his new report on the FBI’s FISA application and its handling of its investigation into Trump on Dec. 9. He will testify again on Dec. 11.

Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz released scathing findings Tuesday on his agency’s review of numerous FBI applications for warrants in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court saying ‘we do not have confidence that the FBI has executed its Woods Procedures.’

The months long review was initiated last year after it was discovered that the bureau agents involved in the now debunked investigation into President Donald Trump’s campaign and whether it colluded with Russia, had altered documentation and withheld vital information from the court on then campaign advisor Carter Page. The warrant obtained by the FBI was used to spy on Page’s communications and was renewed three times from the time it was obtained in the Fall of 2016.

Horowitz noted in the March, 2020 report that his agents reviewed the FBI applications, “and met with available case agents or supervisors who were responsible for them, to assess whether the FBI complied with its Woods Procedures for FISA applications submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).” The Woods Procedures were put into effect by the FBI in April, 2001. They were meant to ensure that all the information presented to the FISA Court when applying for a warrant to spy on a United States citizen was fully vetted and verified by the Bureau.

Further, Horowitz stated in the report that his investigator “obtained and reviewed information from the FBI and the Department of Justice’s (Department or DOJ) National Security Division (NSD) about their FISA application oversight mechanisms. Specifically, in addition to interviewing FBI and NSD officials, we reviewed 34 FBI and NSD accuracy review reports covering the period from October 2014 to September 2019—which originated from the 8 field offices we have visited to date and addressed a total of 42 U.S. Person FISA applications, only one of which was also included among the 29 FISA applications that we reviewed.”

“As a result of our audit work to date and as described below, we do not have confidence that the FBI has executed its Woods Procedures in compliance with FBI policy,” the report stated.

He noted that the “Woods Procedures mandate compiling supporting documentation for each fact in the FISA application. 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.’”

Moreover the report states: 

“for all 25 FISA applications with Woods Files that we have reviewed to date, we identified facts stated in the FISA application that were: (a) not supported by any documentation in the Woods File, (b) not clearly corroborated by the supporting documentation in the Woods File, or (c) inconsistent with the supporting documentation in the Woods File. While our review of these issues and follow-up with case agents is still ongoing—and we have not made materiality judgments for these or other errors or concerns we identified—at this time we have identified an average of about 20 issues per application reviewed, with a high of approximately 65 issues in one application and less than 5 issues in another application.

Here’s What Horowitz Report Found

Our lack of confidence that the Woods Procedures are working as intended stems primarily from the fact that:

(1) we could not review original Woods Files for 4 of the 29 selected FISA applications because the FBI has not been able to locate them and, in 3 of these instances, did not know if they ever existed;

(2) our testing of FISA applications to the associated Woods Files identified apparent errors or inadequately supported facts in all of the 25 applications we reviewed, and interviews to date with available agents or supervisors in field offices generally have confirmed the issues we identified;

(3) existing FBI and NSD oversight mechanisms have also identified deficiencies in documentary support and application accuracy that are similar to those that we have observed to date; and

(4) FBI and NSD officials we interviewed indicated to us that there were no efforts by the FBI to use existing FBI and NSD oversight mechanisms to perform comprehensive, strategic assessments of the efficacy of the Woods Procedures or FISA accuracy, to include identifying the need for enhancements to training and improvements in the process, or increased accountability measures.