January 25, 2022

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Statement of Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers on the Public Release of the Department’s Findings with Respect to the 29 FISA Applications that Were the Subject of the March 2020 OIG Preliminary Report

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<div>“The Department of Justice has completed its review of the 29 FISA applications that were the subject of preliminary findings by the DOJ Inspector General (OIG) in March 2020.  We are pleased that our review of these applications concluded that all contained sufficient basis for probable cause and uncovered only two material errors, neither of which invalidated the authorizations granted by the FISA Court.   These findings, together with the more than 40 corrective actions undertaken by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Division, should instill confidence in the FBI’s use of FISA authorities.  We would like to express our appreciation to the OIG for their focus on the Department’s use of its national security authority.  We remain committed to improving the FISA process to ensure that we use these tools consistent with the law and our obligations to the FISA Court.  The ability to surveil and to investigate using FISA authorities remains critical to confronting current national security threats, including election interference, Chinese espionage and terrorism.”      </div>

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers stated:

“The Department of Justice has completed its review of the 29 FISA applications that were the subject of preliminary findings by the DOJ Inspector General (OIG) in March 2020.  We are pleased that our review of these applications concluded that all contained sufficient basis for probable cause and uncovered only two material errors, neither of which invalidated the authorizations granted by the FISA Court.   These findings, together with the more than 40 corrective actions undertaken by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Division, should instill confidence in the FBI’s use of FISA authorities.  We would like to express our appreciation to the OIG for their focus on the Department’s use of its national security authority.  We remain committed to improving the FISA process to ensure that we use these tools consistent with the law and our obligations to the FISA Court.  The ability to surveil and to investigate using FISA authorities remains critical to confronting current national security threats, including election interference, Chinese espionage and terrorism.”      

Background

In March 2020, the OIG issued a Memorandum regarding the preliminary findings from its audit of 29 historical FISA applications.  The audit was designed to determine whether the contents of the FBI’s Woods files supported the factual statements in these applications.  The OIG found deficient documentation in these accuracy (i.e., Woods) files and potential errors.  Specifically, the OIG found that FBI was unable to produce the Woods files for 4 of the 29 applications, and the OIG identified numerous apparent errors or inadequately supported facts in all 25 of the 29 applications for which Woods files could be produced.

The OIG did not determine whether any factual assertions in the applications were inaccurate, materially or otherwise.  In addition, when the OIG found a fact unsupported by a document in the Woods file, the OIG did not give the FBI the opportunity to locate a supporting document for the fact outside the file. 

The Department has reviewed the OIG’s preliminary findings for each application.  Each of these applications was also subject to an independent accuracy review.  The Department was able to resolve many of the potential issues identified by the OIG. The FBI was also able to compile Woods files for the 4 applications where an original Woods file could not be located, and the FBI was able in many instances to locate documentation to support a factual assertion either elsewhere in the Woods file or in other files available to the FBI.  Based on the Department’s findings, of the hundreds of pages of facts contained in the 29 applications audited by the OIG, the Department has identified only one material misstatement and one material omission, neither of which we assess to have invalidated the authorizations granted by the FISC.  These findings have been provided to the FISA Court and were posted publicly today.   

The filing can be found here.

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