The secretive court that approves sensitive government surveillance requests said Friday that a lack of confidence in the accuracy of FBI surveillance requests "appears well founded," and ordered the bureau to show whether errors in documents supporting 29 wiretap requests may have rendered the surveillance invalid.
The directive from Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Judge James Boasberg comes just days after an internal Justice Department review found new problems with the FBI's management of wiretap applications, concluding that the documents supporting the requests routinely contained errors or "inadequately supported facts."
A DOJ inspector general's analysis of 29 surveillance requests from eight FBI field offices during the past five years concluded that "we do not have confidence" that the bureau followed standards to ensure their accuracy.
The report expanded on a harshly critical assessment of the FBI's surveillance activities issued in December, focusing on its handling of multiple wiretap applications for the monitoring of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
In four of the 29 applications reviewed, the new report found that the supporting documents – known as "Woods Files" – for the wiretap applications could not be located. In three of those instances, agents did not know whether the underlying information existed at all.
"Files identified apparent errors or inadequately supported facts in all of the 25 (fully-complete) applications we reviewed, and interviews to date with available agents or supervisors in field offices generally have confirmed the issues we identified," the report concluded.
On Friday, the surveillance court said Inspector General Michael Horowitz's assessment "provides further reason for systemic concern."
"It would be an understatement to note that such lack of confidence appears well founded," Boasberg wrote. "None of the 29 cases reviewed had a Woods File that did what it is supposed to do: support each fact proffered to the Court.
"It thereby reinforces the need for the court to monitor the ongoing efforts of the FBI and (the Justice Department) to ensure that, going forward, FBI applications present accurate and complete facts," Boasberg wrote Friday.
Boasberg ordered the FBI to provide the names of all of those targeted in the 29 surveillance applications by June 15, along with an assessment of whether errors invalidated the court's surveillance authorizations.
"Maintaining the trust and confidence of the court is paramount to the FBI and we are continuing to implement the 40-plus corrective actions," the FBI said in a statement Friday, referring to directives issued by Director Chris Wray in December. "Although the applications reviewed by the (inspector general) in this audit predate the announcement of these corrective actions, the FBI understands the court’s desire to obtain information related to the applications.
"In line with our duty of candor to the court and our responsibilities to the American people, we will continue to work closely with the FISC and the Department of Justice to ensure that our (surveillance) authorities are exercised responsibly."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Surveillance court cites lack of confidence in FBI surveillance