Inspector General Report Vindicates Republican Concerns About FISA Abuse

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 18: Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz (L) and Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill June 18, 2018 in Washington, DC. According to a report by Horowitz, former FBI Director …
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The Justice Department Inspector General report released Monday vindicated long-held Republican concerns over Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) abuse when it came to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s surveillance of a member of the Trump campaign.

House Intelligence Committee Republicans released their findings of potential abuses in a February 2018 report that found a “troubling breakdown of legal processes established to protect the American people from abuses related to the FISA process.”

Democrats on the committee at the time insisted there was no abuse. In a response to the GOP memo, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff wrote:

Our extensive review of the initial FISA application and three subsequent renewals failed to uncover any evidence of illegal, unethical, or unprofessional behavior by law enforcement and instead revealed that both the FBI and DOJ made extensive showings to justify all four requests.

However, the DOJ IG’s report released Monday listed a number of concerns with how the FBI obtained and renewed FISA warrants on Trump campaign members.

The report said the FBI “fell far short” in making sure the FISA application to surveil former Trump campaign member Carter Page was “scrupulously accurate” and failed to inform the Justice Department decision makers of all relevant information in order to support the application:

Our review found that FBI personnel fell far short of the requirement in FBI policy that they ensure that all factual statements in a FISA application are ‘scrupulously accurate.’ We identified multiple instances in which factual assertions relied upon in the first FISA application were inaccurate, incomplete, or unsupported by appropriate documentation, based upon information the FBI had in its possession at the time the application was filed. We found that the problems we identified were primarily caused by the Crossfire Hurricane team failing to share all relevant information with [Office of Intelligence] and, consequently, the information was not considered by the Department decision makers who ultimately decided to support the applications.

Furthermore, the report found “serious performance failures” by FBI agents with responsibility for FISA applications:

We concluded that the failures described above and in this report represent serious performance failures by the supervisory and non-supervisory agents with responsibility over the FISA applications. These failures prevented OI from fully performing its
gatekeeper function and deprived the decision makers the opportunity to make fully informed decisions. Although some of the factual misstatements and omissions we found in t his review were arguably more significant than others, we believe that all of them
taken together resulted in FISA applications that made it appear that the information supporting probable cause was stronger than was actually the case.

The report made clear that the failures included everyone in the chain of command related to FISA applications:

That so many basic and fundamental errors were made by three separate, hand-picked teams on one of the most sensitive FBI investigations that was briefed to the highest levels within the FBI, and that FBI officials expected would eventually be subjected to close scrutiny, raised significant questions regarding the FBI chain of command’s management and supervision of the FISA process. FBI Headquarters established a chain of command for Crossfire Hurricane that included close supervision by senior CD managers, who then briefed FBI leadership throughout the investigation.

Although we do not expect managers and supervisors to know every fact about an investigation, or senior officials to know all the details of cases about which they are briefed, in a sensitive, high-priority matter like this one, it is reasonable to expect that they will take the necessary steps to ensure that they are sufficiently familiar with the facts and circumstances supporting and potentially undermining a FISA application in order to provide effective oversight, consistent with their level of supervisory responsibility.

We concluded that the information that was known to the managers, supervisors, and senior officials should have resulted in questions being raised regarding the reliability of the Steele reporting and the probable cause supporting the FISA applications, but did not. In our view, this was a failure of not only the operational team, but also of the managers and supervisors, including senior officials, in the chain of command.

Among his recommendations, the DOJ IG recommended that the FBI review the performance of employees who had the responsibility for preparation, review for accuracy, and approval of the FISA application and its renewals, including managers and supervisors of the Page investigation, and take “any action deemed appropriate.”

The report also recommended additional IG oversight on the FBI’s compliance with FISA policies that “seek to protect the civil liberties of U.S. persons.”

The report announced that an IG audit would further the FBI’s compliance with the Woods Procedures in FISA applications. The Woods Procedures are meant to ensure the accuracy of informationin the FISA applications.

House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-CA), who wrote the Republican memo, said in a tweet Monday that it was time for the FISA court to take action:

Looks like DOJ IG Report is clear that Republican FISA abuse memo from February 2018 was accurate and actually understated the FISA abuse the dirty cops engaged in. Time for FISA court to take action!

 

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