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Secretive Court Rebukes FBI Over Errors in Russia Probe

Order could lead to surveillance changes
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 18, 2019 3:59 AM CST
Secretive Court Rebukes FBI Over Errors in Russia Probe
FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, Monday, Dec. 9, 2019, in Washington.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The chief judge of a secretive surveillance court said Tuesday that the FBI provided "unsupported" information when it applied to eavesdrop on a former Trump campaign adviser and directed the bureau to report back by next month on what steps it was taking to fix the problems. The four-page order from Judge Rosemary Collyer followed a harshly critical Justice Department inspector general report that said the FBI had withheld key information when it submitted four applications in 2016 and 2017 to monitor the communications of Carter Page. The FBI relied in large part for its surveillance applications on opposition research compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British spy whose investigations into ties between Russia and Trump were funded by Democrats.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz said his office had identified at least 17 significant errors and omissions during the application process, including the altering of an email by an FBI lawyer. The order is a rare public statement from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which operates mostly in secret as it receives applications from the FBI and Justice Department to eavesdrop on American soil on people they suspect of being agents of a foreign power, the AP reports. The directive could prompt fundamental changes in the FBI's use of a powerful surveillance tool that supporters see as vital to thwarting terrorism and espionage but that detractors say is vulnerable to abuse. Collyer directed the FBI to report by Jan. 10 on what it plans to do to ensure the accuracy of information it submits in its wiretap applications.

(More FBI stories.)

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