In a rare order, the chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court condemned the FBI on Tuesday for misleading the court in its application to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, saying the sheer number of problems with the petition raises questions about other filings by the law enforcement agency.
The order from Judge Rosemary M. Collyer comes a week after Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz released a scathing report concluding the FBI bungled its Foreign Intelligence Services (FISA) application to wiretap Mr. Page. She called the report “troubling.”
“The frequency with which representations made by FBI personnel turned out to be unsupported or contradicted by information in their possession, and which they withheld information detrimental to their case, calls into question whether information contained in other FBI applications is reliable,” Judge Collyer wrote.
“The FISC expects the government to provide complete and accurate information in every filing with the court. Without it, the FISC cannot properly ensure that the government conducts electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes only when there is sufficient factual basis,” she continued.
President Trump said the FISA court order proves the FBI acted improperly in a partisan bid to undercut his campaign in 2016.
“Wow! ‘In a stunning rebuke of the FBI, the FISA court severly (sic) chastised the FBI for the FISA abuses brought to light,’” Mr. Trump said in a tweet, citing a Fox News report. “Statement by the Court was long and tough. Means my case was a SCAM!”
DOCUMENT: FISA court's rebuke of FBI
Judge Collyer said the FBI has until Jan. 10 to come up with 10 “corrective solutions” to ensure future applications are accurate. She did not specify how she expects the FBI to overhaul its policies for obtaining surveillance warrants from the court.
“The FBI’s handling of the Carter Page applications, as portrayed by the OIG report, was antithetical to the heightened duty of candor described above,” she wrote.
In a statement issued late Tuesday, the FBI said the conduct described in Mr. Horowitz’s report was “unacceptable and unrepresentative of the FBI as an institution.”
“The director has ordered more than 40 corrective steps to address the Report’s recommendations, including some improvements beyond those recommended by the IG,” the bureau said.
FBI Director Christopher A. Wray said last week that he has ordered the FBI to change how it submits FISA requests.
“The FBI has some work to do,” he said
In his report, Mr. Horowitz said he did not find evidence that political bias influenced the FBI’s mistakes in the Page application. But he did uncover that agents had withheld critical evidence that undercut assertions they made to the court.
Mr. Horowitz found a total of 17 inaccuracies or omissions in the FBI’s application to monitor Mr. Page, which started the Russia collusion investigation that dogged Mr. Trump well into his presidency.
Mr. Horowitz told the Senate Judiciary Committee he has already opened a review looking into whether the FBI is providing accurate information to the FISC. The FBI seeks warrants from the court when it is conducting investigation into terrorism or spying.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham praised the FISA Court’s condemnation of the FBI. Last week, Mr. Horowitz testified before the committee.
“Very pleased to see the FISA court condemn the FISA warrant application and process against Carter Page,” the South Carolina Republican said. “As Inspector General Horowitz’s report describes in great detail, the FISA process falsified evidence and withheld exculpatory evidence to obtain a warrant against Mr. Page on numerous occasions.”
Mr. Graham pledged to reform the FISA process to better protect civil liberties, calling one the Judiciary Committee’s top priorities.
The FISA court is comprised of 11 federal judges chosen by the Supreme Court’s chief justice and meets in secret at a federal courthouse in Washington. It has long been a target by civil liberties groups claiming the court has intruded on the rights of Americans.
Democrats have long criticized the court for being a rubber stamp for government applications, the vast majority of which it approves. It also has been a target by civil liberties groups claiming it has intruded on the rights of Americans.
“This was not the first time the government abused its surveillance powers, nor was it the first time the intelligence court was made aware of surveillance abuses,” ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel Neema Singh Guliani said in response to Judge Collyer’s order.