April 1, 2020

IG Finds Pervasive FBI Abuse of FISA

Horowitz finds that FBI agents routinely failed to comply with FISA application standards.

On Tuesday, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz released his audit of the FBI’s FISA applications and what he found was not a pretty sight. To put it bluntly, there appears to be a widespread culture within the FBI of failing to follow the bureau’s own rules (known as the Woods Procedures) for handling FISA applications. In the 29 FISA applications reviewed, the IG “identified an average of about 20 issues per application reviewed, with a high of approximately 65 issues in one application and less than 5 issues in another application.” The IG reviewed applications from eight different FBI field offices over a span of five years covering 2014 to 2019. It turns out Donald Trump isn’t the only one with a right to complain.

The primary issue Horowitz uncovered was a consistent lack of supporting evidence mandated for FISA applications. Woods Files are supposed to contain “scrupulously accurate” supporting documentation “for every factual assertion contained in a FISA application,” as well as “supporting documentation and the results of required database searches and other verifications.”

However, as the IG report notes, “for all 25 FISA applications with Woods Files that we have reviewed to date, we identified facts stated in the FISA application that were: (a) not supported by any documentation in the Woods File, (b) not clearly corroborated by the supporting documentation in the Woods File, or (c) inconsistent with the supporting documentation in the Woods File.” Furthermore, of the four remaining FISA applications the IG reviewed, no Woods File was found.

So, what does this mean? Well, it now appears that the FBI’s mishandling of the Carter Page FISA application was far from an anomaly. On the one hand, that seemingly undercuts the claim that the deep state was intentionally targeting Trump’s campaign. Yet on the other hand, this pervasive lack of following FISA application standards made it even easier for deep-state actors to abuse the system. As Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey observes, “It makes it much easier to argue that the FBI routinely abuses its authority and misleads the FISC in order to pursue its own purposes, whatever they are.”

Finally, it’s important to note here that Horowitz does not make any determination or conclusion regarding the material substance of the issues he uncovered. To put it simply, Horowitz’s job was to determine if rules were followed or broken, not why they may have been broken. Nevertheless, this pervasive abuse by the FBI of FISA applications raises red flags over the whole FISC system.

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