“Robert Mueller, the former FBI director and current special prosecutor in the Russia case, once was hauled before the nation’s secret intelligence court to address a large number of instances in which the FBI cheated on sensitive surveillance warrants, according to evidence gathered by congressional investigators.
For most of the past 16 years, Mueller’s closed-door encounter escaped public notice because of the secrecy of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).
But thanks to recent testimony from a former FBI lawyer, we now have a rare window into documented abuses of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants and how the courts handled the matter.
(…) Trisha Anderson, who recently stepped down as the FBI’s principal deputy general counsel, told House investigators late last year in an interview that early in Mueller’s FBI tenure, nearly two decades ago, the FISC summoned the new director to appear before the judges to address concerns about extensive cheating on FISA warrants.
“It preceded my time with the FBI but as I understood it, there was a pattern of some incidents of omission that were of concern to the FISA court that resulted in former Director Mueller actually appearing before the FISA court,” Anderson told Congress.
(…) Other sources who worked for Mueller at the time told me the court’s concerns arose in 2002 and 2003 — shortly after America was stunned by the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks — when the FISC learned the FBI had omitted material facts from FISA warrant applications in more than 75 terrorism cases that dated back to the late 1990s.
(…) Mueller told the court the FBI had created a new system called the Woods Procedures — named for the FBI lawyer who drafted them — to ensure FISA warrant applications were accurate and did not omit material information, according to Anderson’s congressional interview.
“My understanding is he committed to the court to address the problem and then that the series of reforms that we implemented, including the use of the Woods form, were the direct result of his engagement before the FISA court,” Anderson told Congress.
Mueller does not appear ever to have publicly addressed his appearance before the FISC. But once, in follow-up written answers to the Senate Judiciary Committee, he acknowledged there was a period in which the FBI was caught filing inaccurate FISA warrants.
“Prior to implementation of the so-called Woods Procedures there were instances where inaccurate information was provided by FBI field offices and headquarters personnel to the Court,” Mueller wrote to senators in 2003.
A declassified FISC order from 2002 gives a glimpse into how serious the omissions were: In one case the FBI failed to tell the court that the person they were seeking a FISA warrant to surveil was, in fact, one of their own informants.
The court expressed concern that “misinformation found its way into the FISA applications and remained uncorrected for more than one year despite procedures to verify the accuracy of FISA pleadings.” (Read more: The Hill, 2/06/2019) (Archive)