FISA

The FBI Is Routinely Screwing Up FISA Warrants Targeting Americans

Carter Page was not an anomaly.

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A report released today by the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Justice (OIG) warns that the problems found with the FBI's secret warrants to wiretap former Donald Trump aide Carter Page were not an anomaly. The agency regularly makes mistakes on its applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendment (FISA) Court when it asks for permission to secretly snoop on Americans.

Back in December, the OIG released a blockbuster report showing that FBI agents made a number of significant omissions and errors in their four warrant applications to snoop on Page in the hopes of determining if he was being unduly influenced by Russian officials during Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz was so bothered by the problems with the Page warrants that he declared that the OIG would perform a deeper audit to see if FBI officials were following proper procedures with their other secret FISA warrants.

The results of that deeper audit were published today and they don't look good for the FBI. The OIG report shows that the agency regularly neglects proper procedures when seeking FISA warrants.

The failing point appears to be adherence to the Woods procedures, a collection of policies implemented in 2001 to make sure that every fact and detail in a warrant application to the FISA court has been carefully vetted for accuracy and to document that process. The FBI failed to properly follow those procedures with Page. Based on this new report, it looks like this failing is a common problem.

How common? The OIG reviewed 29 FISA warrant applications. In 25 of them the OIG identified errors or "inadequately supported facts." In the other four, the OIG couldn't find the associated Woods files—records that document that the FBI agents did due diligence to verify factual accuracy—at all. In three of those cases, the OIG is not certain whether any Woods files even exist. So there's essentially a problem with every warrant application the OIG looked at for this audit.

The report notes that the OIG is not evaluating whether these errors or omissions were material mistakes that would or should have impacted whether the original warrants should have been granted. But that's not the point, and that's why this audit is so important. Because the FISA warrant process is so deliberately secretive, its oversight is limited to the FISA court, which depends on the FBI to be honest about the procedures it is supposed to follow. The FBI has a lengthy internal process to double-check warrant applications. This report notes that the internal processes have found close to 400 errors in 39 FISA warrant applications across the last five years. Inspector General Horowitz writes:

We do not have confidence that the FBI has executed its Woods Procedures in compliance with FBI policy, or that the process is working as it was intended to help achieve the "scrupulously accurate" standard for FISA applications.

Horowitz recommends that the FBI put into place a system of examining past Woods procedures compliance problems to train FBI employees to do a better job. And he recommends that the FBI perform a "physical inventory" to make sure that there's a Woods file for every warrant application submitted to the FISA court.

After the Page warrant audit was released, FBI Director Christopher Wray released a 40-point plan to correct procedures within the department. In the FBI's official response to today's OIG report, FBI Associate Deputy Director Paul Abbate contends that the changes that Wray is already introducing, such as more checklists and training, will help fix these problems moving forward.

It's deeply disturbing that the OIG found problems with every single FISA warrant application it looked at. FISA warrants exist for the purpose of catching spies and terrorists, which is why so much secrecy is permitted. But mistakes and omissions in this secretive process have huge civil liberties implications for any citizen caught in the government crosshairs. Normally, citizens can turn to the courts for relief when warrants are misapplied. But that's not the case with FISA warrants.

Read the new OIG memo here.

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  1. So get rid of the unconstitutional, error riddled process all together and try something radical, like due process.

    1. How isn’t this the most obvious solution?

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  2. Moar training is needed!

    1. Indeed. If you get caught, you need more training.

    2. Well, in an audit, if you want an honest response about errors, you need to take a “we are trying to improve things, not punish people” approach. That’s auditing 101 for any group. If you don’t, then it becomes a standoff, with hiding and deception.

      However, in this case, each and every one of these warrants had errors. The importance of this makes each and every warrant application into perjury.

      While criminal prosecution is probably unwise if you ever want compliance with an audit again, we can’t let this continue. The people in charge of the FBI FISA system need to transferred to writing traffic tickets

      1. They’d lie on traffic tickets, too.

  3. Of course it seems intuitively obvious that if they’d commit these violations in a high-profile investigation of someone who is linked to one of our major political parties, they’d have even fewer scruples in screwing over the average, politically unconnected person.

    “For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” – Luke 23:31

  4. This is exactly what I said. The FBI was not targeting Trump. This is just how they operate. Yes, it’s terrible and in total violation of our rights. Yes, let’s neuter them and abolish FISA courts. Yes, DJT is a lifelong conman and surrounds himself with other, sometimes criminal, con men.

    1. How many of those other applications relied on 3rd, 4th, 5th hand hearsay relayed by a political operative? How many of those other investigations publicly continued and leaked to the Times and Post for 2.5 years after every lead not only failed, but produced evidence of innocence?

      1. How many of them directly changed evidence to state the opposite of what was written.

    2. You’re the exact kind of useful idiot SS is looking for

    3. Dumb or lying? You be the judge!

  5. so cute you call them mistakes when in fact the system was purposefully abused because they can

    1. Well not just mistakes. There were also errors and omissions. In every single case. It all boils down to a lack of training. Anyone who says otherwise is a conspiracy theorist.

      1. “Anyone who says otherwise is a conspiracy theorist.”

        There are no conspiracy theorists. All conspiracy theories are created by the CIA as part of a misinformation campaign.

        #metaconspiracy

        1. Some of our most famous conspiracy theories are kgb passive measures… Makes you think.

    2. This.

      Even at a “libertarian” magazine, the “oopsie, we’re not corrupt, we’re just incompetent” is given credence.

      1. It’s called Hanlon’s Razor, man. Never assume malice where stupidity will suffice.

        1. If it’s not malice, it’s stupidity ON EVERY SINGLE CASE. If stupidity and carelessness is their excuse, they should be fired – with a notation to any employer that asks that they can’t even be trusted to write parking tickets.

  6. The agency regularly makes mistakes on its applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendment (FISA) Court when it asks for permission to secretly snoop on Americans.

    Were they really mistakes, or were they “mistakes”?

  7. In the FBI’s official response to today’s OIG report, FBI Associate Deputy Director Paul Abbate contends that the changes that Wray is already introducing, such as more checklists and training, will help fix these problems moving forward.

    Uh-huh, sure they will.

    1. the changes that Wray is already introducing, such as more checklists and training, will help hide these problems moving forward.

      FTFY.

  8. Horowitz recommends that the FBI put into place a system of examining past Woods procedures compliance problems to train FBI employees to do a better job.

    Without teeth this is meaningless.

    1. Yeah, and what was the follow-up to the FISA court’s huffing and puffing about how they rely on the FBI to be truthful and if the FBI isn’t truthful the court’s rubber-stamping looks bad?

    2. Agreed. I’d love to see Congress modify the statutes to introduce criminal charges for those who fail to follow these rules (and their supervisors). Alas, I sincerely doubt that’ll ever happen.

  9. If you hate people, enjoy violating them, and want to get paid for doing it, who do you work for?

    1. Fucking Buggery Institute

      Douchebag Employment Agency

      Asshole Training Facility.

  10. These sorts of shenanigans, tomfoolery and malarkey should no longer be tolerated! Sternly-worded letters all around!

  11. >>makes mistakes

    acts and omissions.

  12. They are not “screwing up” the warrant applications, they are lying on them. What happens to normal people who lie to the FBI? I think they should find a few liars and put them in jail, or at least fire someone. (And I know, of course, neither thing will happen)

    1. I came here to say this^.
      And quit pretending they’re not violating the Constitution.
      The least they could do is save the taxpayers money by just using a rubber stamp.

  13. Every single agent associated with procurement of these warrants should be fired, stripped of all benefits, and prosecuted.

  14. Yeah, who cares if the FBI interferes in presidential elections . . . as long as it doesn’t effect anyone outside the Trump campaign–is that what I’m supposed to think?

    Well I don’t think it.

  15. Specifically, these are violations of the OBAMA FBI.

    1. It’s probably been going on longer than that, and I’d be surprised if it isn’t still happening.

  16. Only someone with no “justice” system experience would think this does not happen ALL THE TIME

  17. Accuracy?! We don’ need no steenkin accuracy, menh! De law sez whatever you can hornswoggle a lazy judge into saying eet sez!

  18. Well! it will take some time

  19. “no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation”

    So, these federal agents all swore to uphold the law and then swore that their warrant applications followed it, when they obviously didn’t?

    Fire them, prosecute them, and put them in the federal penitentiary system. Don’t pretend that this isn’t a violent crime.

    1. They’re actually immune to prosecution for this. It’s not even qualified immunity this time, it’s just the usual sovereign immunity to suits issuing from performance of duties. In order for them to be liable even for civil suits, much less criminal ones, Congress would have to change the statutes to specifically allow them to be on the hook for their errors and omissions.

      1. Is that really true? If they’re stating an ‘Oath’ that the presented information is accurate, and they didn’t even bother with the Woods procedures, they would have immunity? Seems like at least perjury.

  20. In a Republic with a Constitution that limits government powers those who violate that Constitution would be punished. In a police state those who violate the Constitution are rewarded with bigger budgets and greater discretion.

    The Constitution is dead and the American people couldn’t care less.

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  22. “The FBI is routinely screwing up…”?? If a citizen “screws up” the law punishes. But the “law enforcers” are unofficially exempt, begging the question: Who will protect us from our protectors? This is the fatal flaw in the coercive political paradigm. It is fundamentally unfair, unjust, immoral, impractical. But this superstition persists in all nations and people who point out the irrationality are vilified, ostracized, silenced by force, direct and indirect. The attacks on reason are manifest by the authoritarians who are victims as well as their exploiters. This is a kind of mass insanity induced systematically by the public schools indoctrinations system and reinforced by the MSM, a propaganda machine.
    Reforms are counterproductive. Mass enlightenment resulting in replacement of coercion by choice, reason, rights, is the only fix.

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