THE FBI made errors in every wiretap application examined as part of a probe into the surveillance of a former Trump aide, a report has found.
The Department of Justice audit suggests that errors while eavesdropping on suspected spies and terrorists extend far beyond those made during the investigation into ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report is part of the fallout into the FBI’s bungled surveillance of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, during the early months of the Russia investigation.
The DoJ watchdog concluded that the FBI had made significant errors and omissions in applications to eavesdrop on Page.
After the Russia report was submitted last December, Horowitz announced a broader audit of the FBI's spy powers and the accuracy of its applications before the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA).
The watchdog office selected for review a sample applications in both counterterrorism and counterintelligence investigations covering the period from October 2014 to September 2019.
The period which included the tenure of both former FBI Director James Comey and current FBI Director Christopher Wray.
It found problems in each of the 29 applications it reviewed, including apparent errors or inadequately supported facts.
The watchdog office said it found an average of about 20 issues per application, including one application with about 65 issues.
Horowitz said in four applications his office selected for review, the FBI could not locate any of the supporting documentation.
“Each of the 25 other applications it reviewed contained apparent errors or inadequately supported facts," the inspector general said.
In those instances, the facts stated in the applications were either not backed up by any documentation or were inconsistent with the documentation.
The FBI has an important job to protect our national security, but it does not have carte blanche to routinely erode the liberties of Americans without proper justificationSen. Chuck Grassley
Sen. Chuck Grassley, a long-time critic of the FBI’s surveillance of Page, said agency’s failings were “alarming and unacceptable”.
“Based on the inspector general’s audit, the flawed Page case appears to be the tip of the iceberg," he said.
“The FBI has an important job to protect our national security, but it does not have carte blanche to routinely erode the liberties of Americans without proper justification.”
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FBI Associate Deputy Director Paul Abbate said the agency agreed with the office's recommendations on ensuring supporting documentation exists for every application in all pending investigations.
Errors identified will be addressed by the more than 40 corrective actions that Wray ordered last year after the Russia probe report.
The Justice Department said in a statement that it welcomes the audit, and that it has been "hard at work" implementing the changes demanded by Wray.
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