Justice Department says it found mistakes in more FISA applications


Even with the errors, there was enough probable cause to still surveil suspected foreign agents, the DOJ wrote in a recent redacted court filing to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Executive branch attorneys had told the court about the errors and omissions previously, the department disclosed.

The new public disclosures amount to another black eye on the FBI and its use of wiretaps in foreign intelligence investigations as it faces increased scrutiny for sloppiness, including during its efforts to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in late 2016 and 2017.

The disclosure of more problems with foreign intelligence surveillance efforts came tucked deep in a 54-page filing the DOJ made to the court on April 3, explaining steps to stamp out possible mishaps. The department released the court filing this week with redactions, not saying anything more about its national security targets.

Throughout the court filing, the department pledged a series of reforms and explained how it is improving its applications process for intelligence wiretaps of US citizens, such as mandating training for attorneys who work on the applications and rewriting forms the FBI uses to check for accuracy.

The FBI has also pledged to reform its FISA work.

“Consistent with our duty of candor to the Court and our responsibilities to the American people, we will continue updating the FISC and the Department of Justice to ensure that our corrective steps are implemented in a timely manner and that our FISA authorities are exercised responsibly,” an FBI spokesperson said in a statement following the Justice Department’s revelations.

The ultra-secretive court, set up by Congress and comprised of federal judges, had demanded answers following the independent Justice watchdog noting several problems with the Page warrants in a scathing December report.

Republicans and even the President have grasped onto those Page missteps as they continue to criticize the FBI’s handling of the early Russia investigation and attempt to undercut findings and criminal cases opened by former special counsel Robert Mueller.

DOJ also flagged in the recent court filing a larger number of less-significant errors in several applications it reviewed in 2018, according to the filing.

The Justice Department’s national security division noted 329 non-material errors among 40 reviews it did that year, it said.

Those errors included wrong dates, incorrectly identified sources of information, FBI determinations that were asserted as fact, mistakes in direct quotations and facts that lacked supporting documents or differed from what supporting documents said. The division said “none of these errors were material,” according to the court filing.

The Justice Department also noted it had to pause reviewing other surveillance for accuracy because of the coronavirus pandemic. The reviews won’t start again until 30 days after epidemic-related travel and staff restrictions are over, the department told the court.


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