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'serious questions'

DOJ watchdog uncovers 'widespread' issues with FBI's handling of surveillance warrants

Department of Jusice Inspector General Michael Horowitz said Thursday he had uncovered "widespread non-compliance" with the FBI's domestic surveillance program, yet another blow to the bureau and "the accuracy of the information underpinning its wiretap warrants," reports Reuters.

More specifically, Thursday's report contained an audit of the FBI's "Woods Procedures," or the "rules the bureau follows to ensure [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] applications to the court are 'scrupulously accurate.'" FISA, which was ennacted originally in 1978, "sets out procedures for physical and electronic surveillance and collection of foreign intelligence information," per the Department of Justice.

"A failure to adhere to the Woods Procedures ... could easily lead to errors that do impact probable cause — and therefore potentially call into question the legal basis for the government's use of highly intrusive FISA warrants," said Horowitz. 

His current investigation grew out of the 2019 revelation that the FBI had "severly botched" applications to continue monitoring Carter Page, an adviser to former President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign, writes Reuters.

The new findings "suggest that the missteps in the Page investigation were not the result of anti-Trump scheming within the FBI, but part of a broader pattern of failure by agents to adhere to their own standards on a wide variety of espionage and terrorism cases," writes The Washington Post. Of the over 7,000 FISA applications reviewed, Horowitz found the Woods file to be either partially or completely missing in about 2.6 percent of cases.

The findings raise "serious questions about the adequacy and execution of the supervisory review process in place at the time of the applications we reviewed," said Horowitz.

In response, the FBI fully accepted the inspector general's recommendations, and said it appreciates Horowitz' "determined focus" on the FBI's FISA process, per the Post. Read more at Reuters.