Chuck Ross, DCNF
The FBI said Thursday that the bureau found just two “material” errors in an audit of 29 applications to surveil American citizens, an error rate that pales in comparison to the 17 “significant” problems discovered in applications for surveillance orders against former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
In a statement, the FBI said that the two errors found in the 29 applications likely would not have changed the FISA Court’s decision to grant the underlying surveillance orders.
“None of the errors that had been identified by DOJ-OIG undermined or otherwise impacted the validity of the FISC’s orders,” the FBI said in a statement, according to Fox News.
That finding is in stark contrast to the Justice Department’s decision to invalidate two of four FISA orders granted against Page because they contained so many errors and omissions.
The FBI conducted the review of the surveillance orders in response to a Justice Department inspector general report that said that errors were found in all 29 FISA orders selected for a random audit. The IG conducted the audit due to the problems discovered in the Page case.
The FBI provided a preliminary update to the FISA Court last month saying that one material error had been found in a review of 14 of the 29 FISA applications.
The FBI’s findings suggest that the bureau’s problems with FISA are not systemic throughout the bureau. But while that paucity of errors might be a positive finding for the FBI overall, it raises questions about why so many discrepancies appeared in applications to surveil Page.
Republicans have accused the FBI of targeting Page for political reasons.
The FBI asserted in four FISA applications against Page, a former officer in the Navy, that he was working covertly as an agent of Russia. The FISA Court granted the first order on Oct. 21, 2016. The surveillance lasted through September 2017.
The IG said in a report released Dec. 9 that the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane team omitted information that undercut the theory that Page was a Russian asset. An FBI agent and an FBI attorney withheld information from the CIA that Page was an “operational contact” for the spy agency through at least 2013.
Investigators also withheld evidence that undermined the Steele dossier, which asserted that Page was a central figure in a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” between the Kremlin and Trump campaign.
Christopher Steele, the dossier author, told FBI agents three weeks before the first FISA order was granted that an individual he believed to be a key source for the dossier was a “boaster” and “embellisher.” The FBI did not include that information in the initial FISA request.
The FBI also failed to disclose details that Steele’s primary source, Igor Danchenko, provided during interviews in January 2017. Danchenko, a Russia analyst, told the FBI that the dossier overstated information he had provided Steele.
The Justice Department deemed the final two FISA orders against Page to be invalid in large part because of the omissions from the Danchenko interviews.
On Dec. 17, Judge Rosemary Collyer, who presided over the surveillance court at the time, said that the FBI provided “false information” to the court and withheld information that was “detrimental” to the case against Page.
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