US judge blasts FBI over handling of wiretap applications of ex-Trump campaign adviser

FBI headquarters building in Washington December 7, 2018. — Reuters pic
FBI headquarters building in Washington December 7, 2018. — Reuters pic

WASHINGTON, Dec 18 — A federal judge blasted the FBI yesterday for repeatedly submitting applications to wiretap former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page that were riddled with errors and omissions, and ordered the government to inform the court on how it plans to reform the process.

The scathing order from Rosemary Collyer, the presiding judge over the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, marks the first time the court has responded to the controversy, which became public last week with the release of a report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

Horowitz’s probe scrutinised the FBI’s actions in the early stages of its investigation into contacts between Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia, known as Operation Crossfire Hurricane. The investigation was later handed off to Special Counsel Robert Muller, who was appointed in May 2017.

Horowitz concluded that while there was no evidence of political bias, the FBI’s original application to wiretap Page and its three subsequent renewal requests contained errors and omissions, including failing to inform the court that Page had served as a source for another US intelligence agency.

Horowitz found that a former low-level FBI attorney also doctored an email that claimed the opposite - saying that Page in fact was not a source for the other agency, which Reuters has since identified as the CIA.

“The FBI’s handling of the Carter Page applications, as portrayed in the report, was antithetical to the heightened duty of candor,” Collyer wrote in her December 17 order.

“The frequency with which representations made by FBI personnel turned out to be unsupported or contradicted by information in their possession, and with which they withheld information detrimental to their case, calls into question whether information contained in other FBI applications is reliable,” she wrote.

The judge gave the government until January 10 to file a submission outlining “what it has done, and plans to do, to ensure that the statement of facts in each FBI application accurately and completely reflects information possessed by the FBI that is material to any issue presented by the application.”

The FBI, in a statement, said that Director Chris Wray feels the conduct of certain FBI employees described in Horowitz’s report is “unacceptable and unrepresentative of the FBI as an institution.”

“The director has ordered more than 40 corrective steps to address the report’s recommendations,” the bureau said, adding that the FBI is committed to working with the court and the Justice Department “to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) process.” — Reuters

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