NEWS & ANALYSIS

House Republicans Demand Answers from FBI on ‘Widespread’ FISA Violations


Republican Reps. Jim Jordan and Andy Biggs are requesting answers from FBI Director Christopher Wray after a newly declassified opinion from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court revealed “widespread” FISA violations. 

While the development may be, the core of this story isn’t new. Throughout Trump’s entire presidency, republicans exposed abuses of FISA after the FBI obtained a warrant against former Trump campaign aide Carter Page. 

Wray called the actions to obtain that FISA warrant “unacceptable” and told Congress it “cannot be repeated.” 

Last week, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declassified an opinion from the court with oversight of the FISA system, which Jordan and Biggs said revealed abuses of “warrantless electronic surveillance authority”

“We write to request information about the FBI’s illegal spying activities,” Jordan and  Biggs wrote to Wray Tuesday. 

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act authorizes the attorney general and the director of National Intelligence to authorize warrantless surveillance of non-U.S. persons believed to be located outside of the United States, Fox News reports. 

The section requires the use of “targeting procedures” to ensure that obtained information is limited to non-U.S. persons to prevent the “intentional acquisition” of domestic communications. It also requires the use of minimization and querying procedures, specifically requiring that the government obtain a FISC order for any review of Section 702 query results. 

The opinion revealed that the FBI “violated querying standards” and that “the government has reported numerous incidents regarding searches of section 702 FISA information without first obtaining court permission.” 

Jordan and Biggs called the concerns “particularly disturbing in light of prior FBI misconduct” detailed by the Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz in his 2019 report. 

The report revealed that the FBI had abused the FISA process to illegally spy on Carter Page.

“Similarly in March 2020, the OIG warned you of extensive noncompliance with Woods Procedures, which act as a safeguard and are designed to minimize factual inaccuracies in FISA applications by maintaining supporting documentation for each factual assertion in the application,” they added. 

“The OIG alerted you to unsupported, uncorroborated, or inconsistent information in the Woods Files of all 25 surveillance applications on U.S. Persons that the OIG examined,” they continued. 

“Given the source of this matter for civil liberties, please provide the following information immediately,” they wrote, requesting an explanation as to why the FBI was “still abusing” FISA; a detailed accounting of every instance since December 2019 when the FBI has “queried, accessed” information pursuant to FISA for purposes unrelated to national security; and an explanation on what specific actions Wray has taken to address the concerns in the November 2020 opinion to “prevent the FBI from using its section 702 authorities to surveil, investigate or otherwise examine U.S. citizens.”