Wed. Jun 23rd, 2021

FISA warrant process: Justice Department watchdog finds widespread problems

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Washington (CNN)A new report from the Justice Department inspector general found widespread problems in the way the FBI accounted for evidence used to back up allegations in the court applications for foreign intelligence surveillance warrants.

The findings dig further into failures within the FBI in its approach to foreign surveillance of US citizens. So far, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz have slammed the bureau for its approach to the warrant application process and its missteps in 2016 and 2017.The IG went to FBI field offices around the country to look at a sample of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants and found widespread problems in the way the FBI accounted for evidence used to back up allegations in the court applications for surveillance.

    These are the so-called Woods files that the FBI compiles to make sure foreign intelligence court applications are accurate. For instance, the inspector couldn’t see original Woods files for four of 29 FISA applications, the memo reported, “because the FBI has not been able to locate them and, in 3 of these instances, did not know if they ever existed.”Read More”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 IG memo says.”Specifically, 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.'”The inspector general wrote that his office has a “lack of confidence” that the approach the FBI use with Woods files is working.The memo is part of an ongoing audit after the independent watchdog found serious issues in the FBI’s handling of the surveillance of ex-Trump 2016 campaign adviser Carter Page in a December report. In December, Horowitz found inaccuracies and omissions in FISA applications to surveil Page, who was not charged with any crime. Following that report, the ultra-secret court comprised of federal judges and based in Washington announced sweeping attempts to reassess FBI applications it receives for wiretaps and requested details about the process the FBI uses and how it plans to fix the problems.

      The FBI has pledged to correct the issues with its foreign intelligence investigations, including how it maintains the Woods Procedures forms that back up warrant applications.A spokesman for the Justice Department’s national security division said on Tuesday the Department is “committed” to incorporating the IG’s recommendations and “to implementing reforms that will ensure that all FISA applications are complete and accurate.”


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