Lawmakers are expressing alarm over the release Tuesday of Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report, which found egregious failures in a random sample acquired by his investigators to oversee suspected FBI’s abuse in obtaining warrants with the secret court to spy on Americans.
In Horowitz’s interim report, investigators revealed that they could not review the bureau’s original Woods Files for four of the 29 selected FISA applications. Why? Because the bureau could not locate them and, in 3 of these instances, did not know if they ever existed. In the audit report sent to FBI Director Christopher Wray, Horowitz said “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.”
Yesterday’s report demonstrates unequivocally that there has been a major systemic failure at the FBI, David Schoen, Civil Rights Attorney
The report, which was initiated as part of the IG’s ongoing investigation into the FBI’s now debunked probe into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia, also revealed that there were apparent errors or ‘inadequately supported facts in all of the 25 applications that the investigators reviewed.” Moreover, Horowitz’s team also interviewed FBI officials who indicated that there were no efforts by the bureau to use existing FBI and National Security Division oversight mechanisms to perform comprehensive, strategic assessments of the efficacy of the Woods Procedures or FISA accuracy.
Ranking Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes, told SaraACarter.com Tuesday that “regardless of whatever ‘reforms’ FBI leaders voluntarily adopt, it’s clear their operations require close oversight by congressional leaders who actually care about Americans’ civil liberties and will not approve of improper spying when it’s aimed at their political opponents.”
When Nunes was Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee his team of investigators were the first to reveal the litany of abuses that occurred at the FBI. In fact, those abuses were first reported by Nunes then in his committee’s Russia report released in April, 2018.
David Schoen, a civil rights and criminal defense attorney, told this reporter that the “IG’s March 30, 2020 report of his preliminary findings concerning FISA applications during a five-year period from 2014 to 2019 is nothing less than shocking.”
“He has found a startling number of instances in which there was no supporting documentation for facts alleged in one after another FISA application during the period reviewed,” said Schoen. Schoen noted that the FBI implemented its “Woods Procedures” in 2001 because of the vast number of errors found in their FISA applications in counter-terrorism investigations.
In fact, he said, the Woods Procedures require that each fact in every FISA application must be supported by documentation compiled by the FBI and that the applications must be “scrupulously accurate” consistent with the intrusive nature of the surveillance being sought.
“Yesterday’s report demonstrates unequivocally that there has been a major systemic failure at the FBI,” added Schoen. “The sheer number of Woods Procedures violations found by the IG in its review is beyond what anyone could have imagined or should have considered possible. The findings reflect a complete breakdown of the integrity of the process with very serious consequences that should alarm every American.”
Georgia Republican Rep. Doug Collins, who is now running for Senate, told this news site that it’s “absolutely outrageous – but sadly, unsurprising – that the audit of the FBI’s use of FISA warrants found an average of 20 errors in applications for surveillance of U.S. citizens over the span of five years.”
“Even more disturbing, support for 4 of the 29 selected FISA applications were missing, and in 3 instances, it’s possible they never existed in the first place,” he said.
Collins noted that “the results of this audit underscore the urgent need to reform our FISA system. What happened to Carter Page, then-candidate Trump, and the Trump Campaign in 2016 was wrong, and it is incumbent on us to ensure this never happens to another U.S. citizen again.” Page was a central figure in the FBI’s probe and Horowitz, along with numerous congressional investigations revealed that the FBI had failed to provide accurate information to the secret court and omitted critical information that Page was an asset of the CIA and had assisted the U.S. on numerous occasions. Page
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, a senior member of the Judiciary Committee and longtime critic of the FBI’s surveillance application of former Trump Campaign aide Carter Page, said in a statement that he was alarmed over the interim watchdog report.
“If the FBI is going to seek secret authority to infringe the civil liberties of an American citizen, they at least need to show their work,” said Grassley. “FBI rules demand FISA applications be ‘scrupulously accurate’ and backed up by supporting documents to prove their accuracy. But we know that wasn’t the case when the FBI sought and received the authority to spy on Carter Page. Based on the inspector general’s audit, the flawed Page case appears to be the tip of the iceberg. Not a single application from the past five years reviewed by the inspector general was up to snuff.”
Grassley said it was “alarming and unacceptable.”
“The inspector general’s decision to bring these failures to the director’s attention before its audit is even completed underscores the seriousness of these findings,” stated Grassley. “The FBI has an important job to protect our national security, but it does not have carte blanche to routinely erode the liberties of Americans without proper justification. Oversight mechanisms like the Woods Procedures exist for a reason, and if the FBI wants to restore its reputation among the American people, it had better start taking them seriously.”