FBI

The FBI Wants To Treat Carter Page Warrant Mistakes Like Training Problems. A Court Adviser Says That's Not Enough.

After seriously messing up its warrant applications with the FISA Court, can the FBI be trusted?

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The FBI's newly released plans to avoid mistakes when seeking permission to wiretap and surveil American citizens is insufficient, according to an expert brought in to advise the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).

In December, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Justice released a report showing significant problems with the warrants that the FBI submitted to FISC in order to secretly wiretap Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. While the OIG's report concluded that the agency was justified in investigating whether Page was unduly influenced by his connections with the Russian government, it also determined that the FBI withheld important details from the FISC that might have influenced its decision to grant these warrants. These omissions were not in Page's favor, and ultimately the OIG found 17 different errors or omissions in the warrant requests, some of which were not corrected in subsequent applications.

The FISC's judges were extremely unhappy to discover information had been withheld from them, and then-presiding Judge Rosemary M. Collyer (who has since retired) ordered FBI Director Christopher Wray to send a plan to the court by January 10 explaining how the FBI would avoid making similar mistakes in the future.

Wray submitted his plan last week. It's a dense and technical response that is mostly inscrutable to anybody who does not have a history of involvement with the court's surveillance processes. Wray provides a list of 12 actions the FBI has taken or will take to make sure future applications for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants include all the information judges should've had when the FBI sought permission to surveil Page. Wray's plans revolve primarily around adding most steps to verify and re-verify information contained in the warrant requests to make sure that FBI agents and supervisors are not omitting information that might undermine or compromise their case for a surveillance warrant. Wray also says the agency will improve training by creating a case study program to teach FBI agents about historical precedents (I'm guessing the Page warrants will play a starring role).

While the FBI was hammering out this plan, the FISC appointed David Kris, a former Justice Department attorney during President Barack Obama's administration, to advise the court. His appointment caused some partisan-tinged outrage. Kris had previously defended the FBI's surveillance of Page and had been critical of claims by Rep. Devin Nunes (R–Calif.) that the warrants against Page had problems. Trump even attacked Kris in a tweet.

But Kris has also been skeptical of how the federal government uses surveillance against American citizens and has criticized the National Security Agency's position that laws passed to fight the war on terror and to investigate Al Qaeda permitted the agency to secretly snoop on American citizens. And he voiced these criticisms while working on national security issues at the Justice Department under President George W. Bush.

It appears that version of Kris analyzed the FBI's plans. On Wednesday, he responded that Wray's proposals were ultimately insufficient. Part of the larger problem, which Wray has acknowledged, is that it's hard to check the accuracy of information that's not included or deliberately omitted. In the Page case, much of the erroneous intel that might have dissuaded the judges from granting a warrant was not included in the warrant application, and therefore its accuracy was not assessed.

Kris does not defend the FBI's actions surveilling Page in his response, saying bluntly that nobody is disputing that "basic, fundamental, and serious errors" were found in the Page warrant requests. Kris worries that Wray's plan doesn't really account for what procedures will be used with surveillance requests that intersect with political campaigns. And while Kris does support the improvements that Wray has listed, he says the FBI needs to go further. He is calling for better communication between the FBI and Justice Department attorneys, which in this case partly contributed to the information gaps in the warrant applications. Kris also suggests the possibility of having field agents, not just agents working at FBI headquarters, signing onto warrant applications or at least requiring them to attest to the court to the facts that are in the warrant application. Field agents might be more likely to notice an important omission.

Kris also says the court should require that the FBI regularly submit reports on training participation rates and test scores. The court could, in turn, prohibit FBI agents who haven't successfully completed FISA warrant from signing on as declarants; at the very least, the court would know to bring an extra level of skepticism.

After providing a number of similar suggestions, Kris concludes: "The FBI must restore—and the Court should insist it restore—a strong organizational culture of accuracy and completeness." Students of FBI history, meanwhile, can debate whether "accuracy and completeness" have ever been part of its organizational culture.

We still don't know whether the omissions in the Page warrant were an anomaly or something that happens regularly with FISA warrants, partly because the American public has never been this privy to the process. The Justice Department OIG is launching a new audit to investigate whether the errors with the Page warrant were unique. If so, that would suggest that the FBI did indeed play fast and loose with the rules when investigating the Trump campaign, perhaps because of a bias against him.

If it turns out that what happened to Page was not unique, it would mean that the FBI has been withholding information in order to engage in an undetermined amount of secret surveillance of American citizens—which would also be bad.

Either way, there's likely more bad news to come.

This post has been updated to correct Nunes' party affiliation.

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86 responses to “The FBI Wants To Treat Carter Page Warrant Mistakes Like Training Problems. A Court Adviser Says That's Not Enough.

  1. “Look, FBI, you’ll take your stern finger-wagging and you’ll *like* it!”

    1. I won’t ‘like it’ until I see some ex-FBI employees doing a perp walk. 🙂

      1. Wray is a disgrace. We desperately need an FBI Director like Joe DiGenova who wouldn’t hesitate to call out & prosecute the scum bags who’ve invested the agency.

        1. Why did Trump choose someone like Wray who clearly is a swamp rat out to protect the swamp?

          1. I believe Wray and Barr were chosen by McConnell. Definitely Barr. McConnell told the President this is your guy and he will get confirmed, pick anyone else and they will not clear the Senate. McConnell not only has a lot of “Republican” swamp rats to protect but he has his own China corruption via his in-laws to protect.

  2. No one told us we aren’t supposed to lie on warrant applications.

    1. Was that wrong? Should I not have done that? I tell you, I gotta plead ignorance on this thing, because if anyone had said anything to me at all when I first started here that that sort of thing is frowned upon… you know, cause I’ve worked in a lot of offices, and I tell you, people do that all the time.

      1. I’m imagining you saying this in Jason Alexander’s voice.

    2. Exactly. Kris IS defending the FBI, with the only defense available now that the abuses can’t be denied any longer: Pretending deliberate abuses were just “mistakes”.

      They weren’t mistakes, they knew what they were doing was wrong and did it deliberately. EVERY “mistake” worked in the FBI’s favor. That’s not characteristic of mistakes or accidents. That’s deliberate abuse.

    3. Did they lie? I don’t see that accusation. If they lied they would be subject to prosecution.

      1. Yes, by omission. They knew of relevant information that they excluded from the application.

  3. Unless they are treated like us lowly peasants are for lying to judges, no amount of training will fix this.

  4. “Students of FBI history, meanwhile, can debate whether “accuracy and completeness” have ever been part of its organizational culture.”

    Does a complete fuck-up count as completeness?

    1. Kris readily admits that the fbi has never been complete or accurate. Is he saying that since there is no precedent for that, it is up for debate whether his recommendations should or will be implemented?

    2. It’s not a fuck-up! This was a deliberate attempt to abuse national security laws to secretly control our presidential election. Due to TDS, Reason won’t call a pig a pig and is promoting this ridiculous notion that “oops, we bumbling morons at the FBI accidentally screwed up another FISA application, oops….”

  5. “If so, that would suggest that the FBI did indeed play fast and loose with the rules when investigating the Trump campaign, perhaps because of a bias against him.

    If it turns out that what happened to Page was not unique, it would mean that the FBI has been withholding information in order to engage in an undetermined amount of secret surveillance of American citizens—which would also be bad.”

    I don’t know that we can exclude the middle here. It may also be the case that the FBI has routinely withheld information to engage in secret surveillance of Americans, but it was even more egregious in the Page case because of bias.

    Frankly, cynicism is pushing me towards ‘why not both?’ here.

    1. “If so, that would suggest that the FBI did indeed play fast and loose with the rules when investigating the Trump campaign, perhaps because of a bias against him…”

      Imagine my surprise!

      1. Well I for one am shocked. Shocked I tell you!

    2. FISC already had a review of various databases and found huge numbers of illegal access into it, for such petty things as tracking girlfriends and such.

    3. It is both.
      Reason is desperate to whitewash Obama’s corruption

  6. “If so, that would suggest that the FBI did indeed play fast and loose with the rules when investigating the Trump campaign, perhaps because of a bias against him.”

    Remember when Reason concluded that it was silly to believe there was any bias against Trump involved? Pepperidge Farms rememberers.

    1. “You can’t get thayah from heaya.”

    2. “Now, it appears that there was some influence of political bias by low-level FBI agents, but certainly no evidence of systematic corruption at the highest levels of the Obama administration. Unless you have videotape of Obama personally ordering illegal surveillance of the Trump campaign, you can’t prove anything.

      In other news, another bombshell today from an unnamed, highly place source in the Trump administration…”

  7. >>After seriously messing up its warrant applications with the FISA Court, can the FBI be trusted?

    they’ll believe so provided headline-question writers continue to cover for them

  8. I love how much later Reason is to this topic than most everyone who comments here. We all followed this clown show along for literally years while Reason tried to “both sides” and “maybe Russia” and “maybe putins puppet” every step of the way. It was all an establishment/ media attack on the guy who beat out lord hillary, and you fell for it hook, line and sinker.

    Reason has become boring in their desire for clicks over original thought. You now want to claim you’re skeptical of the intel community now that the cat’s out of the bag.

    GFY

    1. Maybe you should read before posting. Reason has been against FISA from the start.

      1. Actually cytotoxic, you lying subhuman piece of shit, Reason has literally supported every single action of the FBI, including the FISA malfeasance, since day 1 of Crossfire Hurricane almost 4 years ago.

        1. Shit, I’m sorry sqrsly, I forgot which handle-hopping lowlife chunk of cunt mucus you were. Allow me to correct myself:

          Actually Mikey Hihn, you lying subhuman piece of shit, Reason has literally supported every single action of the FBI, including the FISA malfeasance, since day 1 of Crossfire Hurricane almost 4 years ago.

    2. My guess is once Trump is out of office, Reason MIGHT go back to their objectivity. It’s unfortunate they’ve sacrificed it on the alter of TDS. But there you have it, while Trump is in office, Reason is just a milder, slower version of MSM, promoting their personal narratives over any objective reporting.

  9. “If it turns out that what happened to Page was not unique, it would mean that the FBI has been withholding information in order to engage in an undetermined amount of secret surveillance of American citizens—which would also be bad.”

    IF?! holy shit you’re still going to play dumb?

    1. He’s not playing.

    2. Well, the real question is “Is this how bad it normally is or was it a special, anti-Trump fervor that made it far worse than normal?” That’s a valid question.

      I’m actually not certain which is worse.

      1. I tend to suspect that they did this to all the Republican candidates who were given any chance of winning, and we only found out about Trump because he shocked them by winning. They started targeting Trump long before it was obvious he’d be the nominee.

        Let’s face it, if he’d lost, we’d never have heard of any of this, it would have been hidden by the new administration.

  10. What’s needed isn’t training, that just teaches them what the properly filled out paperwork should look like, it doesn’t motivate them to be honest or ethical. What you need is consequences for malfeasance sufficient to make people reluctant to commit it, including ways to catch people.

    1. Like a bounty system.

      FBI agents: for each falsified warrant you turn in your pension grows by 10% (unless it’s yours, in which case you gain immunity) that’s vested immediately – you can take it to another job if you want to leave the FBI, and your first pension is vested the moment you turn in your first falsified warrant, in case you think you’ll need to get another career we’ve got you covered even there.

      And then strip of all benefits and criminally prosecute for attempted kidnapping anyone who falsifies a warrant. The purpose of a warrant is to result in an arrest, of course, and if you arrest someone without authority you’re a kidnapper, so you wouldn’t even need a new law for that (though a new law that only restricts government agents would be good too).

  11. I thought there was already a penalty for lying on government forms… yet I don’t see the FBI pursuing this action.

  12. “The FISC’s judges were extremely unhappy to discover information had been withheld from them, and then-presiding Judge Rosemary M. Collyer (who has since retired) ordered FBI Director Christopher Wray to send a plan to the court by January 10 explaining how the FBI would avoid making similar mistakes in the future.”

    Actually they were unhappy with being exposed as rubber stamp authorities.

    1. Yup. And they appointed an Obama administration lawyer and FBI apologist as a smokescreen to pretend they’re cleaning it up.

  13. Trump’s delay of releasing funds: “Illegal”

    FBI falsifying documents: “Mistakes”

    The Reason stylebook must be shaped like a Moebius loop.

    1. It’s shaped like the Obama clone-a-willy dildo that Shackford has had stuck up his ass since January 20th 2009.

    2. “messing up”
      i.e.
      “no criminal intent”

  14. “Wray’s plans revolve primarily around adding most steps to verify and re-verify information contained in the warrant requests to make sure that FBI agents and supervisors are not omitting information that might undermine or compromise their case for a surveillance warrant.”

    This is odd, since the original IG report stated the FBI was training its agents to omit any exculpatory reports in 302 summaries or other pieces of evidence to avoid brady.

    1. You’ll know the FBI is actually reforming when they ditch the 302 summaries in favor of recordings and matching transcripts.

      Until they start recording everything, they’re still dirty and mean to stay that way.

      1. Agreed, there’s no legitimate governmental interest in not recording an interaction between a government agent and anyone else as a matter of policy.

        Sure, there might be some circumstances where it’s impractical (undercover agent going surfing with a drug lord perhaps), but there’s no legitimate reason to have non#recording as a policy.

    2. Wray isn’t serious about stopping lies on official forms until someone at a fairly high level is fired and _prosecuted_ for it.

  15. And still nothing about Virginia Coonman’s impending war against the Bill of Rights, or Bernie’s campaign staff being raging and poorly closeted totalitarians.

    1. more sins of omission.

    2. Don’t worry. When the Virginia National Guard and state shock troopers gun down hundreds of activists at the capitol Reason will be there to climb onto the pile of bodies, blame the victims, and exonerate our fearless and brave public servants. Marxist pieces of shit kind of a have a fetish for mass murder.

  16. Lies of omission are impossible to police by a disinterested third party. It can only happen under cross examination by someone well versed in the facts.

    FISA omits this key safeguard. And is therefore impossible to “fix”.

    1. I wrote a potential fix. Not that it would be adopted or stay uncorrupted.

  17. Why isn’t Wray in jail for contempt of court? He clearly deliberately ignored the judge’s directions. He should be jailed until his replacement finishes the job to the courts satisfaction.
    And, oh, by the way, all people involved in falsifying the Page warrants should be charged with lying under oath, and when convicted, lose their pensions.
    (And every child should get a pony.)

  18. The FISA Court must be abolished. They have no credibility whatsoever.

    The FBI needs a serious downsizing. They cannot be trusted. Ever.

    POTUS Trump, if you’re reading this: Fire Christopher Wray

    1. YES
      +1000 found the libertarian.

  19. When a warrant target can dispute the warrant, the adversarial nature corrects most problems. Secret warrants naturally have no such adversarial nature, but maybe that could be fixed (not that it will be!).

    Ask independent lawyers to volunteer as secret adversarial lawyers, run the necessary background checks, and whenever any of these warrants comes up, pick an adversarial volunteer lawyer to fight the warrant, at the government’s expense. You want the lawyer with the highest rating (see below) who accepts the case.

    After all is said and done and the target learns of the warrant, have them review how well their secret adversarial lawyer fought against the warrant. Probably need to get a judge involved. What you want is for the target to decide whether that secret lawyer fought well enough. That goes into the lawyer’s rating. The higher he is rated, the more of these warrant disputes he gets, and the more money he makes.

    Kick the lowest rated or most idle lawyers out of the pool and find new ones to replace them.

    1. “maybe that could be fixed ” I don’t think anyone involved on either side actually wants to fix anything. They like it just like it is but they have to do something to placate We the People…..

      1. I did not post that as a desired fix. The desired fix is to follow the Constitution and get rid of FISA.

        I posted it to show a potential fix which they will never adopt because it would constrain them, and they don’t like being constrained.

        1. How is FISA unconstitutional?

  20. I guess perjury charges are not an option in Super-Secret courts.

  21. Crazy idea here. I don’t work in government so I’m sure I’m looking at this wrong but. Lies of omission are still lies. Defrauding a Federal Court is a crime. Take those guilty of this Perjury and Defrauding and put them in jail. Then when you have your next training session you can tell your agents being trained “see those former FBI agents in jail, that is what happens when you commit perjury and defraud a federal court. “

    1. People who are watching this charade are sick to death of watching our institutions turn into a third world morass and no one getting PUNISHED but the little people.
      Add that to the list of reasons why Trump was elected.

  22. I’d say that the FBI did indeed play fast and loose with the rules investigating the Trump campaign because of bias against him.

    And I’ll add the establishment politicians, R and D both, are perfectly OK with that. Trump is an outsider and not one of them.

  23. So Reason is not even going to mention abolishing these secret courts?
    Or use this as an example of how these unconstitutional courts violate the rights of citizens? No article about how the president’s constitutional rights have been violated?
    I mean, isn’t this against everything we libertarians believe in.. yet the tone of the article seems… bored.

    1. How does that violate the rights of citizens? The FISA courts actually give MORE protection to international phone calls than an ordinary domestic warrant does.

      FISA has more requirements than domestic wire taps have. One judge, one claim, you can wiretap the mob in the US.

    2. Unfortunately we are seeing Reason fall in line with the rest of MSM by taking sides and selling a narrative vs objective reporting. Only a moron could think these actions were not a deliberate attempt to abuse national security law to control a national election.

      Like many of us, Reason editors and writers don’t like Trump. However in their position as reporters they are on the hook to be objective and they are not. So they are promoting these illegal conspiratorial acts that horribly abused national security laws for political gain as “accidentally filling out FISA applications incorrectly”. It’s disgraceful, it really is. I’ve lost so much respect for Reason due to this.

  24. But Kris has also been skeptical of how the federal government uses surveillance against American citizens

    A lie, since he spent an inordinate amount of time on Lawfare defending the FBI abuses.

    So Reason is just going to fabricate shit to sell the leftist talking points. When did this place become Jacobin?

    1. Somewhere between late 2015 and early 2016.

      1. Libertarian case for Obama was waay before then.

  25. I come to Reason for objective reporting. I’m no Trump fan but I’ve gathered that Reason writers have serious TDS. It comes through when they claim these FISA “errors” were just “accidental mistakes”. This was clear deliberate abuse of FISA and it is quite evident to anyone that is objective, it’s sad Reason is not.

    1. I think Reason has gotten a lot of objective people defending Teump so much that some of her became Trump supporters to a degree because of them.

  26. Hey remember like a month ago when you were literally arguing that the FBI was beyond reproach and that Trump was going to go to jail because of their tireless public service? Because everyone else does you subhuman faggot piece of lying shit.

  27. At a minimum, FISA must be either eliminated or POTUS must personally sign any application for spying on an American citizen. Furthermore, at a minimum, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI must be broken up into two separate organizations; one for national security and the other for criminal work. The separate organizations must have no common employees and should only be able to communicate through the POTUS. Finally, it should be a law that J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI must always be referred to with their dead leader’s prefix.

    1. And all agents have to wear dresses

  28. “Kris had previously defended the FBI’s surveillance of Page and had been critical of claims by Rep. Devin Nunes (D–Calif.) that the warrants against Page had problems.”

    Come on, reason, at least get the basics right. Nunes is a Republican. It’s problems like this, frequent errors from trivial to substantive, which have discouraged me from donating or paying a subscription fee – for a long time.

    Well, at least he wasn’t misidentified as a “tank”…

  29. “Students of FBI history, meanwhile, can debate whether “accuracy and completeness” have ever been part of its organizational culture.”
    That is the critical question: Should the entire organization be gutted? From this outsider’s perspective, the answer is clearly Yes.

    Unfortunately, that Q&A extends to virtually all our intelligence services. Thank you Edward Snowden.

  30. Falsifying documents is not “a mistake”, it can only be deliberate. And failing to correct the records in subsequent applications to extend the term of the FISA warrant proves that all the “mistakes” were intentional.

    People have to be indicted and prosecuted over this, or make it undeniable that there are two systems of justice in this country.

    1. Despite Reason’s TDS based explanation, you are correct. These folks knew what they were doing. They broke the rules and abused national security law in an attempt to control a national election. Its sad to see Reason call these actions “accidental mistakes”. Reason’s loss of objectivity is the worst casualty of this whole mess.

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  32. It’s all a load of crap until people are prosecuted for defrauding the court and violating the constitutional rights of Carter Page.

  33. If the people in government get away with this against President Trump, this country is over. They will know they can get away with anything.

  34. If I understand the FBI’s policy correctly, a four-year college degree is generally required to be an agent. Prior to computers becoming involved in so much of crime, agents were largely comprised of lawyers and accountants, though other disciplines are also represented more and more. Since many of the crimes investigated by the FBI involve fraud, investigating perjury is likely a routine occurrence and plays a material part in the crimes that FBI agents typically submit for prosecution. Yet we’re supposed to believe that when they sign a legally binding document that states “I swear, under penalty of perjury, that my statements are truthful to the best of my knowledge.” or a document with a materially similar warning, they didn’t really understand what that means, even though they’ve likely routinely prosecuted civilians for the exact same reason.

    This isn’t a training issue. They don’t need a refresher course. Their willingness to sign off on materially misrepresented information is prima facie evidence establishing reasonable suspicion and/or probable cause that one or more of at least five possible events occurred. Either they were suffering from some form of legally excusable diminished mental capacity when they signed the forms, their mental capacity was chronically insufficient to understand what perjury meant and thus were unable to understand what they were signing, they were operating in good faith upon assumptions that were the legitimate result of honest mistakes, their signings were the result of negligent mistakes possibly rising to the level of a criminal offense, or they did understand what perjury means and chose to violate the law anyway. For that reason, the only appropriate response to 17 incidents of suspected mistakes or negligence, diminished capacity, or perjury is 17 investigations of alleged mistakes by an investigator with the authority to pursue grand jury indictments, 17 hearings for suspension/termination/mental health or competence review, 17 probable cause or grand jury hearings for perjury, or any combination thereof. Anything else constitutes reasonable suspicion or probable cause that their superiors or in-house investigators are complicit in covering up incompetent and/or probable illegal behavior and explains much of the growing public sentiment that many law enforcement organizations are nothing more than criminal organizations that bully the People by enforcing a double-standard that routinely punishes only civilian violations. There’s a popular name for a country or other political body that routinely permits such crimes against the People to be ignored for the benefit of government actors. It’s called a police state and the reason that many human rights organizations no longer regard the United States as a democracy or a nation that provides fundamental due process protections to the People for whom the nation exists.

    Plato warned us of a common penchant of protectors to become wolves. He also reminded us that while circumstances may change over time, human nature predictably creates tragedy. There is no excuse for ignoring this latest one, nor legitimate reason to excuse those who may have created it. If that is what’s occurring, then perhaps those responsible for bringing it to answer for it’s behavior are too afraid of it to do so. If that’s the case, it’s all the more reason to pursue justice with mindful perseverance. Pretending to so so just further injures the People.

    1. These were no accidents, they knew they were flouting the laws, this was an illegal use of national security laws in an attempt to secretly control a national election. Reason writers are throwing a cloud over it simply because they don’t like Trump. I don’t like Trump either but I like the truth. It’s so sad to see in this moment Reason sacrifice the truth on the alter of partisan politics. This is the one place I always thought was above the fra,y but no more.

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  36. I just ran through Reason’s attacks on the Steele Dossier.

    They were so bad I cannot recognize any Reason Magazine accusation as having any credibility.

  37. I’m not a Trump fan but it is so sad to see Reason lose their objectivity simply due to their Trump hatred. The lies and rule breaking to allow spying on Carter Page was DELIBERATE! They flouted the rules (and likely broke laws) in several ways to attempt to stop a Trump presidency probably assuming that when HRC was elected this would all be swept under the carpet.

    It’s very clear to see. It’s so disappointing that due to TDS, normally reasonable Reason writers are calling these deliberate and likely criminal actions, “accidents” and “poor judgments”. It’s bewildering really.

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