The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has said it lacks confidence that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is executing its Woods Procedures in line with FBI policy when applying for court permission to surveil people in the United States.
The FBI implemented its Woods Procedures in 2001 following errors in numerous Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) applications submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) in FBI counterterrorism investigations. The procedures, named for FBI agent Michael Woods, who helped devise them, require that every fact submitted in support of a wiretap application must be verified.
FBI policy requires case agents who will be requesting the FISA application to create and maintain a “Woods File” that contains supporting documentation for every factual assertion contained in the application together with the results of required database searches and other verifications.
A report published by the OIG on March 30 states that a recent audit of the FBI found that in some FISA applications, Woods Files had gone missing or may not have ever existed.
Over the past two months, auditors visited 8 FBI field offices and reviewed a judgmentally selected sample of 29 applications relating to US persons and involving both counterintelligence and counterterrorism investigations.
The OIG report states that “we could not review original Woods Files for 4 of the 29 selected FISA applications because the FBI has not been able to locate them and, in 3 of these instances, did not know if they ever existed.”
In all 25 of the FISA applications the OIG were able to review, auditors identified errors or inadequately supported facts.
The OIG said: “For all 25 FISA applications with Woods Files that we have reviewed to date, we identified facts stated in the FISA application that were: (a) not supported by any documentation in the Woods File, (b) not clearly corroborated by the supporting documentation in the Woods File, or (c) inconsistent with the supporting documentation in the Woods File.”
The auditors’ findings led the OIG to conclude that the FBI’s FISA applications were not as accurate as they should be.
“We believe that a deficiency in the FBI’s efforts to support the factual statements in FISA applications through its Woods Procedures undermines the FBI’s ability to achieve its ‘scrupulously accurate’ standard for FISA applications,” stated the OIG.