Attorney General William Barr announced new restrictions Tuesday on the process of obtaining FISA warrants after a report from Inspector General Michael Horowitz listed 19 separate errors made in obtaining warrants to conduct surveillance on the Trump campaign in 2016.
“In consultation with FBI Director [Christopher] Wray, I issued two memoranda — one that authorizes the establishment of an FBI Office of Internal Auditing and directs the FBI to undertake aggressive compliance measures, and the other that establishes protocols to ensure the accuracy of FISA applications and the effective oversight of any surveillance applications targeting elected officials and political campaigns,” The Hill reported Barr said in a statement.
FISA applicants now need to consider briefing the subject of the warrant that their campaign might be targeted for foreign interference before getting the warrant. If a briefing is not considered appropriate, the reason must be documented in writing.
In addition, oversight of the use of FISA for surveillance of candidates or elected officials will be increased to ensure they are justified and nonpartisan. Auditing will also increase for FISA processes.
FISA abuse “must never happen again”
Barr affirmed that FISA warrants are a “critical tool to ensuring the safety and security of Americans.”
He wanted to be sure warrants are obtained in a “manner that protects the civil liberties of Americans” going forward.
“What happened to the Trump presidential campaign and his subsequent Administration after the President was duly elected by the American people must never happen again,” he said.
Trump had a generic defensive briefing from the FBI after becoming the Republican presidential nominee, but the FBI never told him some of his own campaign members were being investigated. No one in the FBI told him about suspicions the Russian government might be trying to influence him, either.
Wray on board with reforms
Wray said that he “immediately ordered more than 40 corrective actions, including foundational FISA reforms, many of which went beyond those recommended by the Inspector General” after getting that report in 2019.
“The additional reforms announced today, which we worked on closely with the Attorney General’s office, will build on the FBI’s efforts to bolster its compliance program,” he said.
An FBI official told NBC News that more recent reviews have been conducted by the inspector general and have shown that the information in the FBI’s FISA applications has been accurate.
It’s good to know that steps have now been taken to change how the FBI conducts itself after how it abused the process with Trump, but I’d still like to see more people held to account for those past abuses.