Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) plans to call DOJ inspector general Michael Horowitz to testify before congress regarding his office’s audit of the FBI’s FISA application process, which was released Tuesday and revealed potentially systematic abuses of the transparency measures required of the Bureau when agents interact with the FISA court.
“I have just been briefed on Inspector General Horowitz’s audit of FISA applications involving American citizens. This random audit shows discrepancies regarding verification of the information under the Woods Procedures,” Graham said in a press release. “I intend to have Inspector General Horowitz come to the Committee to explain his findings and receive his recommendations about how to change the program.”
Horowitz’s latest report revealed that the FBI included “apparent errors or inadequately supported facts” in all 29 FISA surveillance applications filed between 2014 and 2019 and reviewed as part of the audit.
The Woods Procedure dictates that the Justice Department verify the accuracy of and provide evidentiary support for all facts stated in its FISA application. The FBI is required to share with the FISA Court all relevant information compiled in a Woods file when applying for a surveillance warrant.
Four of the 29 applications lacked Woods files entirely, while the other 25 had “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.”
“FBI and NSD officials we interviewed indicated to us that there were no efforts by the FBI to use existing FBI and NSD oversight mechanisms to perform comprehensive, strategic assessments of the efficacy of the Woods Procedures or FISA accuracy, to include identifying the need for enhancements to training and improvements in the process, or increased accountability measures,” the report states.
Horowitz recommended that the FBI begin to “systematically and regularly examine” its Woods reviews to uncover abuse, beginning with a “physical inventory to ensure that Woods Files exist for every FISA application submitted to the FISC in all pending investigations.”
In a statement after the audit’s release, the DOJ said that it is “committed to putting the Inspector General’s recommendations into practice and to implementing reforms that will ensure all FISA applications are complete and accurate.”
DOJ statement on today’s report from IG Horowitz identifying concerns with the FBI’s handling of procedures related to FISA applications. pic.twitter.com/DAiB61IoSk
— KerriKupecDOJ (@KerriKupecDOJ) March 31, 2020
The findings are the latest in a growing trail of FBI abuses involving the FISA Court. Horowitz appeared in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in December after finding “basic and fundamental errors” in the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation of the 2016 Trump campaign, and blamed the FBI chain of command for lacking oversight in the FISA applications used to surveil Trump-campaign adviser Carter Page.
“The circumstances reflect a failure, as we outline in the report, not just by those who prepared the applications, but also by the managers and supervisors in the Crossfire Hurricane chain of command, including FBI senior officials who were briefed as the investigation progressed,” Horowitz said in his statement to Graham and the other senators.
Later in the hearing, Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) said Horowitz’s findings showed how the “the FBI effectively meddled in an ongoing presidential campaign,” while other Republicans acknowledged that they had not realized FISA abuse was a serious threat.
“As a national security hawk, I’ve argued with Mike Lee in the four-and-a-half or five years that I’ve been in the Senate that stuff just like this couldn’t possibly happen at the FBI and at the Department of Justice,” Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) said. “ . . . Mike Lee has warned me for four-and-a-half years the potential for abuse in this space is terrible and I constantly defended the integrity and the professionalism of the bureau and of the department that you couldn’t have something like this happen.”
Senator Thom Tillis (R., N.C.) echoed Sasse in recognizing Mike Lee’s past criticisms of FISA.
“Because we’ve now seen the abuses we were warned about, you can smirk again, you were right,” Tillis told the Utah Republican.