(CNN)The federal court that oversees national security surveillance wants the FBI to explain newly uncovered missteps in government warrants to eavesdrop on Americans after a recent internal audit found the FBI fell short of the standards required.
The Justice Department inspector general said in recent days that after reviewing a sample of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act eavesdropping warrants from around the country, it “lacked confidence” that the FBI was adhering to its standards that require information presented to the court is “scrupulously accurate.”
“It would be an understatement to note that such lack of confidence appears well founded,” the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court said in a Friday order in reaction to a memorandum detailing the new findings
by the Justice Department inspector general.
“The OIG Memorandum provides further reason for systemic concern,” the court said. “It thereby reinforces the need for the court to monitor the ongoing efforts of the FBI and DOJ to ensure that, going forward, FBI applications present accurate and complete facts.”
The newly reported missteps added to the failures that the inspector general reported in December in the FBI’s use of secret surveillance warrants
targeting former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
The new inspector general report cited glaring issues in the so-called Woods files, which are attached to eavesdropping requests and present underlying evidence used to support allegations in court applications for surveillance.
The inspector general went to FBI field offices around the country to look at a sample of 29 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court warrants and couldn’t see original Woods files for four of the 29 applications, the inspector general reported, “because the FBI has not been able to locate them and, in 3 of these instances, did not know if they ever existed.”
The FISA court ordered the FBI to tell the court the identities of the surveillance targets by June 15 and to detail whether the court should invalidate the surveillance orders because of the errors described by the inspector general. The court also ordered the FBI to review surveillance applications dating to January 2015 and to report on efforts to ensure proper Woods procedures were followed.
The FBI has said it is making a series of changes to the handling of FISA applications. But the inspector general’s findings have fueled criticism from some Republican lawmakers and President Donald Trump, who accuse the FBI of abusing its powers in its investigation of the Trump campaign beginning in 2016.
The FBI issued a statement Friday, saying: “Maintaining the trust and confidence of the Court is paramount to the FBI and we are continuing to implement the 40-plus corrective actions ordered by Director Wray in December 2019. Although the applications reviewed by the IG in this audit predate the announcem