After the FBI was busted fabricating evidence to mislead the top-secret court that approves surveillance warrants, the Justice Department's Inspector General has vowed to conduct a "deep dive" to determine the extent of other potential abuses by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
"We don’t know what we don’t know," Inspector General Michael Horowitz told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee during a Wednesday hearing, according to Bloomberg.
Horowitz says he launched an inquiry into wiretap orders after finding 17 'significant errors or omissions' in the FBI's applications submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court to spy on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
"What we’re going to do in the first instance is have our auditors do some selections of counterintelligence and counterterrorism," he said, adding "We have limited resources, and we want to make sure we’re targeting them in the right places."
President Donald Trump and Republicans seized on Horowitz’s findings as vindication for their claims that anti-Trump forces in the FBI and Justice Department wiretapped Page in order to spy on Trump’s campaign and early presidency.
Horowitz said he found no political bias in the FBI’s decisions but that his office was given unsatisfactory answers by FBI officials on the failures in the Page warrant applications. -Bloomberg
On Tuesday, the FISA court issued a rare public statement, slamming the FBI over Horowitz's findings.
"In order to appreciate the seriousness of that misconduct and its implications, it is useful to understand certain procedural and substantive requirements that apply to the government's conduct of electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes," reads the statement.
"The FBI's handling of the Carter Page applications, as portrayed in the OIG report, was antithetical to the heightned duty of candor" required by federal investigators, adding "The frequency with which representations made by FBI personnel turned out to be unsupported or contradicted by information in their possession, and with which they withheld information detrimental to their case, calls into question whether information contained in other FBI applications is reliable," wrote the court, which called the recent watchdog report from the DOJ's Inspector General "troubling."
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) recommended during Wednesday's hearing that the FISA process should be barred from use on a political candidate or a campaign, saying "We should not subject our political campaigns to secret courts and to secret warrants and secret surveillance."
Barr defends FISA
Attorney General William Barr defended the FISA court on Wednesday at a Detroit press conference, saying "I think FISA is a critical tool to protecting Americans," and "We are committed to preserving FISA, and we think all Americans should be committed to preserving FISA."
Barr lambasted the FBI last week for the failures identified in Horowitz’s report, saying the bureau’s probe was a “complete sham” and was marred by “gross abuse.” On Wednesday, though, he praised current FBI Director Christopher Wray as his “good friend” while standing alongside him.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the job that is being done by the FBI across the board,” Barr said.
The court that approves and oversees wiretaps ordered the FBI on Tuesday to explain what it’s doing to ensure applications are legally sound and accurate, setting a Jan. 10 deadline. -Bloomberg
Few applications are ever rejected by the FISA court - which makes it all the more damning that Carter Page's was denied until the FBI fabricated evidence and included the now-discredited Steele dossier to make their case. Out of 1,318 applied for in 2018, just 72 were denied in full or in part, according to an annual report from the Administrative Office of the US Courts.