How FISA Was Used to Bring Down Trump
More abuses of the system by FBI investigators pale in comparison to the big one.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz recently released a major report auditing the FBI’s practices in 7,000 applications for surveillance warrants submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court. He came up with more than a few errors, and the whole thing is a reminder of how the FBI operated as part of the attempted coup to take down Donald Trump.
Indeed, Horowitz’s 2019 report on the Carter Page surveillance fiasco, and the 17 errors he found, all of which favored Hillary Clinton’s campaign, was the impetus for this larger probe. Here’s how his latest report began:
The FBI’s Woods Procedures [factual accuracy review procedures] are designed to ensure FISA applications are “scrupulously accurate” and require agents to document support for all factual assertions contained in them. However, our audit found numerous instances where this did not occur. In March 2020, we issued a Management Advisory Memorandum (MAM) to report that our audit had identified Woods Procedures non-compliance in all 29 FISA applications we reviewed, which were approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) between fiscal years 2015 and 2019. DOJ thereafter notified the FISC of 209 errors in those applications, 4 of which DOJ deemed material. Our further audit work identified over 200 additional instances of Woods Procedures noncompliance — where Woods Files did not contain adequate supporting documentation for statements in the 29 applications — although the FBI and NSD subsequently confirmed the existence of available support elsewhere. We also identified at least 183 FISA applications for which the required Woods File was missing or incomplete.
Humans make errors, which the report fully acknowledges, but it appears Horowitz has uncovered an FBI culture of deliberate failure to comply with the rules. Errors in all 29 applications reviewed? Some were typographical and others were wrong dates, but many were misidentified sources and unsupported facts. Four such errors were “deemed material,” meaning they had a consequential impact on the approval of the warrants.
Horowitz himself says there has been “a significant lapse in the FBI’s management of its FISA program.” And he whips FBI leadership, including Director Christopher Wray, for not just the “tolerance for error” but the feigned efforts at reforming the reform.
The fundamental problem, however, might be the FISA Court itself. Inserting judges into the process of collecting intelligence actually undermines the typical accountability structures that should govern law enforcement surveillance so as to protect the constitutional rights of American citizens. If the FBI can’t be trusted to submit honest, accurate, and complete information, then the FISA Court can’t function properly. Both can blame each other rather than face true accountability.
That brings us back to the aforementioned Carter Page, who was used (illegally) by deep state FBI actors to get to Donald Trump. That abuse began four years of surveillance, lies, harassment, electoral shenanigans, and ultimately impeachment of a U.S. president, all over the hoax of “colluding with Russia.”
Hillary Clinton may have lost the election, but she succeeded in undermining Donald Trump and in laying the groundwork for Joe Biden.
Meanwhile, thousands of rank-and-file FBI agents do their jobs honorably each and every day. They should be as outraged as anyone that a few bad apples are so thoroughly besmirching the name of the Bureau with constitutionally dubious political games like the Page warrant. And if those practices are as widespread as they now appear to be, it’s high time for some real accountability at the nation’s foremost law enforcement agency.
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