- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The Justice Department inspector general raised alarms Wednesday about the FBI’s use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to spy on Americans, including using surveillance databases for prohibited “fishing expeditions.”

FISA abuses have emerged as one of the top “management and performance challenges” facing the FBI, Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz’s team wrote in a new report. The findings were based in part on a recently declassified Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opinion that the FBI violated Fourth Amendment rights with unauthorized searches of tens of thousands of U.S. citizens.

The conclusions could preview a separate, highly anticipated report focused on accusations the FBI abused its power when it obtained FISA warrants to spy on Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. That report, expected to be released in the coming weeks, will shed further light on the FBI’s dealings with the secretive court.


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Federal law requires the use of intelligence databases only to search for evidence of a crime or foreign intelligence matters, and each search must be documented.

FISA Court Judge James E. Boasberg said in a ruling made public in October that the FBI was not properly identifying or documenting its searches. The FBI also was using the databases to fish for potential criminal acts, which bureau policy expressly forbids, he said.



Mr. Horowitz’s team said the decision found a number of the FBI searches were “not reasonably likely to return foreign intelligence information or evidence of a crime.”

“Proactive risk management and consistent oversight concerning all sensitive authorities are essential to the continued use of these important investigative tools,” the inspector general report said.

The more detailed report on whether the FBI abused its authority to spy on members of the Trump campaign is slated to be released soon.

Earlier this week, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, announced that Mr. Horowitz is scheduled to testify about the report on Dec. 11, indicating public release is imminent.

That report has been plagued by multiple delays and had been expected as early as this past summer.

President Trump and his allies have eagerly awaited the report when an investigation was announced in March 2018. They say the report will show top officials at the Justice Department and FBI under President Obama misled the FISA court to open a criminal investigation.

Democrats, meanwhile, have accused the president of weaponizing the Justice Department to smear his political opponents.

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