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Horowitz Examining Past FISA Applications to Determine if FBI’s ‘Basic Errors’ are Systemic

U.S. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., December 11, 2019. (Erin Scott/Reuters)

The Justice Department inspector general said Wednesday that his team will take a closer look at Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant applications involving counterintelligence and counterterrorism in order to determine whether the “basic errors” the FBI made in applications to surveil the Trump campaign are widespread within the agency.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a report earlier this month on the FBI’s handling of the Russia investigation that concluded agents failed to inform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that the controversial Steele dossier, cited in applications to spy on Trump campaign associate Carter Page during the 2016 election, was unreliable.

“The concern is that this is such a high-profile, important case. If it happened here, is this indicative of a wider problem — and we will only know that when we complete our audit — or is it isolated to this event?” Horowitz told lawmakers during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday. “Obviously, we need to do the work to understand that.”

The inspector general said the FBI agents involved in the Page FISA application failed to follow Woods Procedures, which require that the Justice Department verify the accuracy and provide evidentiary support for all facts stated in the warrant application and then log it in the Woods File.

The FBI neglected to independently verify the information in the dossier, compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who was investigating then-candidate Donald Trump for an opposition research firm hired by the Hillary Clinton campaign. The dossier contained salacious allegations against Trump and purported to show connections between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

Horowitz said he plans to “have our auditors do some selections of counterintelligence and counterterrorism FISAs.”

“This was a counterintelligence FISA, and we’ve heard a lot of concerns about counterterrorism FISAs, about targeting and other issues there. We’re going to take a sampling,” Horowitz said. “We’re going to look and compare and see how the Woods Procedures played out in those FISAs by comparing the Woods binders to the FISAs and see if the same basic errors are occurring there.”

The inspector general emphasized that the FISA probe is new territory since the close examination the Page FISA received is “the first-ever deep dive anyone has taken in a FISA.”

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