DOJ Busts James Comey

Journalist and frequent Fox News guest Glen Greenwald summed up the IG report bombshell that lays bare James Comey’s treachery this way:

“Remember when the newly beloved liberal heroes of the security state — the FBI, NSA & DOJ agents who now make up huge parts of CNN & MSNBC and the liberal pantheon — kept telling you the FISA process is very rigorous & immune to abuse? They lied.”

The IG report just dropped and it is damning to Comey and McCabe and the rest – they audited random FISA applications and found errors on every single one. This is either total incompetence or something more nefarious. The report says:

“As you are aware, in December 2019 my office issued a report examining four Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) applications—an initial application and three renewal applications—targeting a U.S. Person and other aspects of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation (“December 2019 FISA Report”).

As detailed in our report, among other things, we identified fundamental and serious errors in the agents’ conduct of the FBI’s factual accuracy review procedures (“Woods Procedures”) with regard to all four FISA applications. We found, for example, numerous instances where the Woods File did not include supporting documentation for factual assertions contained in the FISA applications, as required by FBI policy.

Additionally, we determined that the Woods File did not contain, as also required by FBI policy, documentation from the Confidential Human Source’s (CHS) handling agent stating that the handling agent had reviewed the facts presented in the FISA application regarding the CHS’s reliability and background, and that the facts presented were accurate. We further found that the FBI had failed to follow its policies for re-verifying factual assertions made in the initial FISA application that were also included in the three FISA renewal applications.

As a result of these findings, in December 2019, my office initiated an audit to examine more broadly the FBI’s execution of, and compliance with, its Woods Procedures relating to U.S. Persons covering the period from October 2014 to September 2019.

As an initial step in our audit, over the past 2 months, we visited 8 FBI field offices of varying sizes and reviewed a judgmentally selected sample of 29 applications relating to U.S. Persons and involving both counterintelligence and counterterrorism investigations.

This sample was selected from a dataset provided by the FBI that contained more than 700 applications relating to U.S. Persons submitted by those 8 field offices over a 5-year period.

The proportion of counterintelligence and counterterrorism applications within our sample roughly models the ratio of the case types within that total of FBI FISA applications.

Our initial review of these applications has consisted solely of determining whether the contents of the FBI’s Woods File supported statements of fact in the associated FISA application; our review did not seek to determine whether support existed elsewhere for the factual assertion in the FISA application (such as in the case file), or if relevant information had been omitted from the application. For all of the FISA applications that we have reviewed to date, the period of courtauthorized surveillance had been completed and no such surveillance was active at the time of our review.

As a result of our audit work to date and as described below, we do not have confidence that the FBI has executed its Woods Procedures in compliance with FBI policy.

Specifically, the Woods Procedures mandate compiling supporting documentation for each fact in the FISA application.

Adherence to the Woods Procedures should result in such documentation as a means toward achievement of the FBI’s policy that FISA applications be “scrupulously accurate.” Our lack of confidence that the Woods Procedures are working as intended stems primarily from the fact that:

(1) we could not review original Woods Files for 4 of the 29 selected FISA applications because the FBI has not 3 been able to locate them and, in 3 of these instances, did not know if they ever existed;

(2) our testing of FISA applications to the associated Woods Files identified apparent errors or inadequately supported facts in all of the 25 applications we reviewed, and interviews to date with available agents or supervisors in field offices generally have confirmed the issues we identified;

(3) existing FBI and NSD oversight mechanisms have also identified deficiencies in documentary support and application accuracy that are similar to those that we have observed to date; and

(4) FBI and NSD officials we interviewed indicated to us that there were no efforts by the FBI to use existing FBI and NSD oversight mechanisms to perform comprehensive, strategic assessments of the efficacy of the Woods Procedures or FISA accuracy, to include identifying the need for enhancements to training and improvements in the process, or increased accountability measures.

During this initial review, we have not made judgments about whether the errors or concerns we identified were material.

Also, we do not speculate as to whether the potential errors would have influenced the decision to file the application or the FISC’s decision to approve the FISA application. In addition, our review was limited to assessing the FBI’s execution of its Woods Procedures, which are not focused on affirming the completeness of the information in FISA applications.

Although all 29 FISA applications that we selected for review were required by FBI policy to have Woods Files created by the case agent and reviewed by the supervisory special agent, we have identified 4 applications for which, as of the date of this memorandum, the FBI either has been unable to locate the Woods File that was prepared at the time of the application or for which FBI personnel suggested a Woods File was not completed.

We, therefore, make a recommendation below that the FBI take steps to ensure that a Woods File exists for every FISA application submitted to the FISC in all pending investigations.

Additionally, for all 25 FISA applications with Woods Files that we have reviewed to date, we identified facts stated in the FISA application that were:

(a) not supported by any documentation in the Woods File,

(b) not clearly corroborated by the supporting documentation in the Woods File, or

(c) inconsistent with the supporting documentation in the Woods File. While our review of these issues and follow-up with case agents is still ongoing—and we have not made materiality judgments for these or other errors or concerns we identified—at this time we have identified an average of about 20 issues per application reviewed, with a high of approximately 65 issues in one application and less than 5 issues in another application.

Moreover, although there are specific requirements related to FISA applications that utilize CHS reporting, we have observed that these requirements are not being consistently followed. Specifically, the Woods Procedures require that when a FISA application contains reporting from an FBI CHS, the Woods File must include documentation from the handling agent or CHS coordinator (or either of their immediate supervisors) stating that: (1) this individual has reviewed the facts presented in the FISA application regarding the CHS’s reliability and background; and (2) based on a review of the CHS file documentation, the facts presented in the FISA application are accurate. About half of the applications we reviewed contained facts attributed to CHSs, and for many of them we found that the Woods File lacked documentation attesting to these two requirements. For some of these applications, the case agent preparing the FISA application was also the handling agent of the CHS referenced in the application, and therefore would have been familiar with the information in CHS files.

Nevertheless, the FBI’s policy does not specifically annul the requirement in these situations, and the required documentation was not included in the Woods File. 8 Our preliminary results also indicate that FBI case agents are not consistently following Woods Procedures requirements related to renewal applications. If continued FISA coverage on a U.S. Person is deemed necessary, the FBI must request from the FISC a renewal of its authorization every 90 days. According to FBI policy, the case agent is required to re-verify that statements of fact repeated in a renewal application from an initial FISA application remain true and must obtain supporting documentation for any new statements of fact included in the renewal application that goes to the FISC for approval.

However, based on the results of our review of two renewal files, as well as our discussions with FBI agents, it appears that the FBI is not consistently re-verifying the original statements of fact within renewal applications. In one instance, we observed that errors or unsupported information in the statements of fact that we identified in the initial application had been carried over to each of the renewal applications. In other instances, we were told by the case agents who prepared the renewal applications that they only verified newly added statements of fact in renewal applications because they had already verified the original statements of fact when submitting the initial application.

This practice directly contradicts FBI policy.

We believe that the repeated weaknesses in the FBI’s execution of the Woods Procedures in each of the 29 FISA applications we reviewed to date— including the 4 applications for which the FBI could not furnish an original Woods File—raise significant questions about the extent to which the FBI is complying with its own requirement that FISA applications be supported by documentation in the Woods File as part of its efforts to ensure that applications are “scrupulously accurate.”

Our concerns are supported by the fact that in four instances the FBI could not produce the original Woods File, that the Woods File deficiencies that we identified spanned all eight field offices in which we performed fieldwork, that case agents or supervisors whom we interviewed generally did not contest our results, and that the FBI CDC and NSD OI accuracy reviews conducted for the same period of our review identified similar deficiencies.

As a result, we do not have confidence that the FBI has executed its Woods Procedures in compliance with FBI policy, or that the process is working as it was intended to help achieve the “scrupulously accurate” standard for FISA applications.”

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