The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) on March 5 effectively barred FBI and Justice Department officials involved in the infamous application to surveil former Trump campaign associate Carter Page.
The chief justice of the secret court, James Boasberg, ordered the ban in a 19-page opinion, the latest in a series of developments triggered by the release of the condemning report by the Office of Inspector General (OIG), which examined the four Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) applications the FBI used to spy on Page.
Boasberg wrote, “No DOJ or FBI personnel under disciplinary or criminal review relating to their work on FISA applications shall participate in drafting, verifying, reviewing, or submitting such applications to the court.”
Boasberg also accepted a detailed plan put forth by the FBI to prevent the kinds of significant omissions and misstatements that made their way into the Page FISA applications despite significant vetting by top officials at the bureau and the Department of Justice (DOJ).
“The court is encouraged by the government’s responses to the OIG report and its orders, as the FBI and DOJ have each indicated that the flaws identified in the OIG Report require significant and systemic remedial action,” Boasberg wrote.
The DOJ inspector general released a report in December that found a number of serious omissions and misstatements in the FISA applications on Page. For example, the FBI failed to disclose that Page had a relationship with the CIA, that the agency had approved Page as an operational contact from 2008 to 2013, that Page notified the agency about his contacts with Russians, and that the CIA had assessed that Page was truthful about describing his contacts.
Exacerbating the omission, an FBI attorney altered an email to say that Page was “not a source.”
Boasberg ordered the FBI and DOJ to include in future applications to the court a statement saying that they contain “all information that might reasonably call into question the accuracy of the information or the reasonableness of any F.B.I. assessment in the application, or otherwise raise doubts about the requested findings.”
On the heels of the release of the OIG report, the FISC issued a scathing order, calling on the FBI to explain what is being done to rectify the malpractice flagged by the inspector general. Boasberg also appointed an independent monitor to assess the FBI’s response. The bureau responded with a menu of procedural, training, and oversight reforms, some of which are already being implemented. Boasberg’s order calls for information and status updates on several of the items.
Boasberg filed his order as lawmakers are considering reforming the FISA act. President Donald Trump told Republican lawmakers in a private meeting on March 3 that he would not sign an extension of the surveillance law without reforms, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told reporters.
In addition to the issues identified in the wiretap applications, some of the key officials involved in the investigation of the Trump campaign were found to have expressed intense bias against Trump and in favor of his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton. The inspector general found no evidence to suggest that the bias motivated the malpractice.
Follow Ivan on Twitter: @ivanpentchoukov