Russia Probe Report Suggests ‘Major Problem’ With FISA Wiretaps

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The “basic and fundamental errors” made by the FBI cited in the Justice Department’s inspector general’s report on the Russian investigation raise questions about the accuracy of more than 1,000 wiretap applications processed every year under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), reports USA Today. About 25 to 40 applications go before a few top DOJ officials every week; most are not singled out for additional review, the report said. “It would be surprising if the [Russia] case were the only one that had serious problems,” said Steven Aftergood, who works on intelligence policy at the Federation of American Scientists. “And in fact, the inspector general makes several systemic recommendations that suggest that the problem is broader than a single case.” These problems, though not political, are equally troubling, experts said. “It’s a different problem, and it’s a big problem,” said Elizabeth Goitein of the Brennan Center for Justice. “If there’s no political bias, then this thing must be routine, [and] this level of carelessness and inaccuracy is likely … a major problem.”

Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report cited 17 errors. In many cases, investigators omitted information that contradicted their suspicions, effectively inflating the justification to monitor then-Donald Trump adviser Carter Page. FBI Director Christopher Wray has announced more than 40 corrective steps, including additional verification of agents’ assertions, more documentation, training and internal audits. The problems are not new. In 2000, government officials confessed to making 75 errors in FISA applications related to investigations into terrorist attacks against the U.S. The errors were so common that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court held a special meeting to discuss them. About 1,300 surveillance applications are submitted each year to the FISA court. The court approves nearly all of them.

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