Robert Mueller, the current special counsel in the Russia investigation and former FBI director, was brought before the nation’s secret intelligence court recently. He was asked to respond to a large number of instances where the FBI allegedly cheated on sensitive surveillance warrants, according to evidence gathered by congressional investigators.
Typically over the last 16 years, this kind of information never reaches the public because of the secrecy of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). But because of a recent testimony from a former FBI lawyer, there is now a rare window into documented abuses of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants and how the courts handled the matter.
This is significant because Mueller is moving into the final stages of his Russia probe at the same time that evidence is mounting that the FBI work previous to his appointment as special counsel may have involved improprieties while getting a FISA warrant to spy on Donald Trump’s campaign in the final weeks of the 2016 campaign.
The problem that plagued the FBI two decades ago, and that now hovers over the Russia case, involves the omission of material facts by agents applying for FISA warrants in sensitive counterterrorism and counterintelligence cases.
Trisha Anderson, who recently stepped down as the FBI’s principal deputy general counsel, told House investigators late last year that early in Mueller’s FBI tenure, the FISC summoned the new director to appear before the judges to address concerns about extensive cheating on FISA warrants.
“It preceded my time with the FBI but as I understood it, there was a pattern of some incidents of omission that were of concern to the FISA court that resulted in former Director Mueller actually appearing before the FISA court,” Anderson told Congress.
“My understanding is he committed to the court to address the problem and then that the series of reforms that we implemented, including the use of the Woods form, were the direct result of his engagement before the FISA court,” Anderson also testified.
Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller at the special counsel’s office, declined comment on Anderson’s testimony.
The question that still looms over the Russia investigation is, do the current FISC judges and Justice Department supervisors care the same about the integrity of the FISA process?
Credit: The Hill