WASHINGTON (Full Measure) - If the FBI wants to spy on a US citizen, there are strict rules requiring that every fact presented to a judge must be extreme-vetted for accuracy — and presented to the court only if verified.
There’s no dispute that at least some, if not a great deal, of information in the anti-Trump “Steele dossier” was unverified or false. Former FBI Director James Comey testified as much himself before a Senate committee last June. Comey repeatedly referred to “salacious” and “unverified” material in the dossier, which turned out to be paid political opposition research against Donald Trump.
Presentation of any such unverified material to the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court to justify a wiretap would appear to violate crucial procedural rules, called “Woods Procedures,” designed to protect U.S. citizens.
Yet Comey, Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, former Attorney General Sally Yates and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein each reportedly signed at least one application to wiretap a Trump campaign advisor.
Woods Procedures were enacted in 2001 to “ensure accuracy with regard to … the facts supporting probable cause.” This came after recurring instances, presumably inadvertent, in which the FBI had presented inaccurate information to the FISA court.
The FBI’s multi-layered review requires approval through FBI chain of command and is designed to prevent unverified information from ever reaching the court.
In November 2002, the FBI implemented an additional check -- a special FISA Unit with a unit chief and six staffers.
All of this information was provided to Congress in 2003. The FBI director at the time also ordered that any issue as to whether a FISA application was factually sufficient was to be brought to his attention. Personally.
Who was the director of the FBI when all of this careful work was done?
There’s a reason Woods Procedures exist in the first place. They aren’t arcane rules that could have been overlooked or misunderstood by the seasoned professionals working under the Obama and Trump administrations who touched the four wiretap applications and renewals.
In the past, when the FBI has presented inaccuracies to the FISA court, it’s been viewed so seriously that it’s drawn the attention of the Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility, which investigates Justice Department attorneys accused of misconduct or crimes in their professional functions.