Saturday, 4 April 2020

Surveillance Court Judge Orders FBI To Review Botched FISA Warrants After Horowitz Memo

The presiding judge for the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has ordered the FBI to review a batch of FISA applications after Inspector General Michael Horowitz conducted an internal audit and determined that 29 out of 29 applications contained errors, mistakes, or otherwise other problems with substantiation. 
Judge James Boasberg has requested the move in order to determine whether the mistakes and errors found by Horowitz “undermined the legal basis for placing those targets under surveillance,” reports The New York Times
“It would be an understatement to note that such lack of confidence appears well founded,” wrote Judge Boasberg. “None of the 29 cases reviewed had a Woods file that did what it is supposed to do: Support each fact proffered to the court.”
As part of what the news agency describes as a “rare public order,” the FBI must also provide the surveillance court with the names of the individuals who were placed under investigation as a result of the reportedly inaccurate, or potentially legally dubious, FISA applications. The FBI has until June 15 to provide the new information to the court. 
The FBI maintains that they’re committed to keeping the trust of the court, saying in a statement to the Times that “we will continue to work closely with the FISC and the Department of Justice to ensure that our FISA authorities are exercised responsibly.” The intelligence agency also said that the applications preceded the Horowitz report last year — which helped prompt the internal review to begin with.  
Judge Boasberg’s order has become the next step in the investigation of FISA abuse at the nation’s chief domestic intelligence agency, and follows the inspector general’s December 2019 report, which determined that the FBI’s surveillance applications to spy on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page contained 17 inaccuracies or omissions. 
As The Washington Post notes, the Horowitz report stopped short of determining whether the mistakes in the FISA application “would have influenced the government’s decision to apply to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for permission to secretly wiretap a suspect.” 
As The Daily Wire reported earlier this week, Horowitz revealed in a memo Monday that the FBI seems to have routinely violated “The Woods Procedure,” a policy enacted in 2001 to “minimize factual inaccuracies in FISA applications and to ensure that statements contained in applications are ‘scrupulously accurate,’” according to the inspector general. 
The memo, the results of an internal review following the Horowitz report, looked at 29 FISA applications and found problems with each one, leading the inspector general to write that the deficiencies undermine “the FBI’s ability to achieve its ‘scrupulously accurate’ standard for FISA applications.” 
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 3 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 [National Security Division] 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.

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