Leading Republicans in the House and Senate called for Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz to testify about his new Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act report.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina asked the DOJ watchdog to appear before his panel to discuss his new report, just like he did for a much longer but more narrowly focused FISA report in December. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the ranking member on the Democrat-led House Judiciary Committee, again urged Chairman Jerry Nadler of New York to invite Horowitz to testify, which he declined to do after last year’s report.
“The OIG management advisory warned FBI Director Christopher Wray of rampant noncompliance with Woods Procedures,” Jordan told Nadler in a letter Tuesday. “Because of the pervasiveness and seriousness of the FISA application deficiencies — and the pending reauthorization of FISA — we renew our request that you invite Inspector General Michael Horowitz to testify at a public hearing promptly when the House returns to session.”
Horowitz’s preliminary audit released Tuesday focused narrowly on the bureau’s requirement to create and maintain an accuracy subfile known as a “Woods File” to ensure that factual assertions in FISA applications are backed up by demonstrable evidence. FBI policy requires the Woods File to contain supporting documentation for every factual assertion in a FISA application.
“We believe that a deficiency in the FBI’s efforts to support the factual statements in FISA applications through its Woods Procedures undermines the FBI’s ability to achieve its ‘scrupulously accurate’ standard for FISA applications,” Horowitz concluded.
The inspector general’s audit was a follow-up to his larger report in December, which found serious Woods procedure violations in FBI applications for FISA warrants to monitor Trump campaign associate Carter Page.
The inspector general criticized the DOJ and the FBI late last year for at least 17 “significant errors and omissions” related to the FISA warrants for Page and for the bureau’s heavy reliance on British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s salacious and unverified dossier. Steele put his research together in 2016 at the behest of the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which was funded by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee through the Perkins Coie law firm. The DOJ watchdog also criticized the FBI for not passing along information gleaned from its confidential human sources to the court.
On Tuesday, the DOJ watchdog revealed that for four of the 29 applications his team had reviewed, “the FBI either has been unable to locate the Woods File that was prepared at the time of the application” or that “FBI personnel suggested a Woods File was not completed.”
For the remaining 25 applications, Horowitz’s investigators identified claims in the FISA applications that were either not supported or corroborated by or were inconsistent with the documentation in the Woods files.
Jordan told Nadler that Horowitz’s findings “undermine the FBI leadership’s stated confidence in the FISA process” and “validate” the FISA court’s “concerns about the reliability of information contained in applications to surveil U.S. persons.”
“As the Congress continues to consider the reauthorization of — and needed reforms to — the FISA process, the Committee must first fully understand the scope and nature of the FBIs errors and deficiencies in the FISA application process,” Jordan told Nadler.
Jordan asked Nadler to reconsider his decision not to invite Horowitz to testify about FISA in light of this new report.
Graham also issued a statement saying that “this random audit shows discrepancies regarding verification of the information under the Woods Procedures” and that he would like Horowitz to “explain his findings” and provide “recommendations about how to change the program.”
During Horowitz’s appearance before the Senate in December, the DOJ watchdog said he could not determine whether the FISA abuses he’d unearthed were due to “sheer gross incompetence” or “intentional misconduct.” The inspector general also said the intelligence briefing the FBI gave to Trump’s team during the 2016 campaign was a “pretext” to gather evidence on the candidate and his then-foreign policy adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn.
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