WASHINGTON — FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on Friday that the bureau will begin advising agents next week of new, stricter procedures to prevent the kind of failures found in their investigation of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
“The FBI has the utmost respect for this Court, and deeply regrets the errors and omissions,” Wray wrote in a court filing about matters revealed in a lengthy report in December by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz. Wray called those failings “unacceptable and unrepresentative of the FBI as an institution.”
The court filing lays out more details about the steps Wray had previously said he would take to ensure that agents provide all relevant information when submitting applications to the court for secret surveillance orders.
The Justice Department and the FBI seek approval from the FISA court for surveillance authority in the country’s most sensitive national security cases involving terrorism or espionage.
The accuracy of filings to the FISA court is considered critically important within the government, largely because the court’s work is so secretive that defense lawyers do not get to gauge the factual assertions behind such warrant applications.
The court “should continue to have confidence in the reliability of information contained in applications submitted to the Court by the FBI,” a Justice Department lawyer wrote to the court, and Wray plans to issue a memorandum Monday to FBI agents advising them of extra steps that will be part of ensuring the soundness of FISA applications.
“The FBI is committed to working with the Court and DOJ to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the FISA process,” Wray wrote.
The FISA court also appointed a former senior Justice Department official, David Kris, to advise the court on the steps the FBI is taking.
Last month, in light of the Horowitz report, the FISA court ordered the FBI to explain what it would do to ensure its agents do not mislead judges again when applying for surveillance orders such as those used in the 2016 investigation of Page, the former campaign aide to Donald Trump.
The inspector general did not find documents or testimony indicating that political bias motivated the FBI to conduct its investigation. But he found a raft of problems in how the FBI pursued the case, including that an FBI lawyer altered an email in 2017 to state that Page was not a source for the CIA, when in fact Page had provided the agency information in the past.
That document alteration has been referred to a prosecutor for possible criminal charges.
The FISA court has also ordered the Justice Department and the FBI to provide information about any other surveillance applications in which the same lawyer was involved.
Horowitz’s review of how the FBI investigated a possible conspiracy between Trump associates and Russia to influence the 2016 election concluded that the FBI had met the low legal threshold to open an investigation but that the pursuit of Page as a suspected agent of the Russian government was plagued by errors, misstatements and omissions.
As a result of his findings, Horowitz has announced that he will conduct a broader audit to see whether factual problems with FISA applications occurred beyond the Page case.