DOJ Watchdog Finds FBI Still Fails to Follow FISA Warrant Rules, Even After Russia Hoax Disaster

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  • 03/02/2023

According to the Justice Department’s internal watchdog, the FBI under Director Chris Wray continues to fail to follow its own rules for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants - even after the failures during the Trump Russia hoax. 

Inspector General Michael Horowitz found more than 200 FISA warrant applications with missing information or documentation that violated the bureau’s Woods Procedures between 2015 and 2019, demonstrating that the reforms Wray put into place have not solved problems that surfaced during the 2016 election 

“The FBI’s Woods Procedures are designed to ensure FISA applications are ‘scrupulously accurate’ and require agents to document support for all factual assertions contained in them,” Horowitz reported. “However, our audit found numerous instances where this did not occur.” 

As reported by Just the News, Horowitz first flagged 29 applications in March 2020 that had problems including 209 errors. He said Thursday the review found an additional 200 examples of problems in those 29 applications, and also found 183 additional FISA warrant applications that failed to have proper documentation. 

“The FBI and DOJ are implementing important reforms as a result of our prior FISA reports,” he wrote. “However, we believe additional action is necessary to ensure rigorous supervisory review and to further strengthen Woods Procedures oversight to reduce the risk of erroneous information being included in FISA applications, which can lead to faulty probable cause determinations and infringement of U.S. persons’ civil liberties.” 

The investigation found that the FBI’s procedures are designed to find problems including “human error” and “confirmation bias” but only work if agency supervisors provided vigorous oversight, which was not occuring. 

“We observed that the Woods Files generally did not contain evidence of the thoroughness or completeness of this supervisory review,” he wrote. “The widespread Woods Procedures non-compliance that we identified in this audit raises serious questions about the adequacy and execution of the SSA review process in place at the time of the applications we reviewed. We also have concerns with the FBI’s and NSD’s oversight efforts - specifically the need to be strategic, accountable and timely.”

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