Washington, D.C. — The U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court harshly rebuked the FBI in a Tuesday afternoon order, saying FBI misconduct in applying for warrants against Trump campaign official Carter Page calls all past warrant applications into question, and setting a fast-approaching deadline to fix the system.
The order was issued in response to an inspector general report that found the FBI failed to include exculpatory evidence in its four succesful applications for surveillance warrants on U.S. citizen, former Naval officer, and then-Trump campaign official Carter Page. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) is a secret court set up in 1978 to grant U.S. intelligence agencies warrants to spy on suspected spies from other countries, or, literally, to surveil foreign intelligence.
“This order,” FISC Judge Rosemary Collyer wrote at the top of the four-page document, “responds to reports that personnel of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) provided false information to the National Security Division (NSD) of the Department of Justice, and withheld material information from NSD which was detrimental to the FBI’s case, in connection with four applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) for authority to conduct electronic surveillance of a U.S. citizen named Carter W. Page.”
“The frequency with which representations FBI personnel made to the court turned out to be unsupported or contradicted by information in their possession, and with which they withheld information detrimental to their case,” Judge Collyer continued, “calls into question whether information contained in other FBI applications is reliable.”
The document orders the government to, by Jan. 10, “inform the Court in a sworn written submission of what it has done, and plans to do, to ensure that the statement of facts in each FBI application accurately and completely reflects information possessed by the FBI that is material to any issue presented by the application.”
If the FBI is unable to comply, the court concludes, the FBI must explain why the order has not been implemented, what steps it is taken to meet the order, the timetable to meet the order, and “why… the information in FBI applications submitted in the interim should be regarded as reliable.”
The court rarely issues public statements, indicating the gravity of this scandal. While demanding the FBI reform its processes, which it described in harsh language, however, the court did not suggest any penalties for those responsible for the offenses.
In his 434-page report issued Dec. 9, Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz identified 17 “significant inaccuracies and omissions” in the Page investigation, adding in a follow-up Senate hearing on Dec. 11 that the FBI “was misleading to the court.”
Three days before the report was publicly released, FBI Director Christopher Wray wrote a letter saying he was ordering “more than 40 corrective steps to address the Report’s recommendations,” summarizing those in five points. Wray’s letter was released the day the report was.
“And where certain individuals have been referred by the OIG for review of their conduct,” he continued, “the FBI will not hesitate to take appropriate disciplinary action if warranted at the completion of the required procedures for disciplinary review.”