A well-known rule of the intelligence court bars the knowing presentation of flawed evidence to justify a surveillance warrant
Former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe (shown in the image above) may have increased the legal jeopardy he’s facing and that four other top federal law enforcement officials are facing as well — by telling Congress in December 2017 that no surveillance warrants could be sought without using the undocumented Steele dossier.
The reason is simple: By the procedural rules governing surveillance warrant requests to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court, federal officials are barred from knowingly using undocumented evidence.
But thanks to the court’s “Woods Procedures,” that’s exactly what was done by McCabe. That’s also what was done by his former boss, then-FBI Director James Comey, former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, former acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente, and current Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
They did so by signing FISA surveillance warrant requests based on the Steele dossier, the opposition research compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele of allegations about President Donald Trump’s links to Russian government and business figures who supposedly helped him win the White House in 2016.
The Democratic National Committee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign committee indirectly paid for the Steele dossier via a Washington, D.C. law firm. Comey told Congress in 2016 the dossier was “salacious and unverified.”
The FISA court was told of neither the dossier’s undocumented basis nor who paid for its production, a potentially serious violation of the Woods Procedures. Former CBS News investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson explains:
Woods Procedures were named for Michael Woods, the FBI official who drafted the rules as head of the Office of General Counsel’s National Security Law Unit. They were instituted in April 2001 to ‘ensure accuracy with regard to … the facts supporting probable cause’ after recurring instances, presumably inadvertent, in which the FBI had presented inaccurate information to the FISA court.
Prior to Woods Procedures, ‘[i]ncorrect information was repeated in subsequent and related FISA packages,’ the FBI told Congress in August 2003. ‘By signing and swearing to the declaration, the headquarters agent is attesting to knowledge of what is contained in the declaration.’”
Attkisson also points out that the FBI imposed, beginning in 2003, a rigid and complicated internal review process to subject FISA surveillance applications to an extremely rigorous assessment to ensure evidence presented to the court was solidly documented and credible.
The Robert Mueller who was director of the FBI in 2003 is the same Robert Mueller who is now the special counsel, whose investigation is relying in part upon the “salacious” and “unverified” Steele dossier used to gain approval to spy on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page in the Russia collusion investigation.
A Texas Republican congressman is calling for an action that would clarify for everybody involved exactly what the FISA court was told in the applications for surveillance of Page.
Rep. Louie Gohmert, who is a member of the House Judiciary Committee, told LifeZette Monday that “it is absolutely imperative that we in the judiciary committee get the transcripts of what was presented, what was said and argued before the secret FISA court.”
With the transcripts in hand, Gohmert said, “we can determine, among other things, if there was a fraud perpetrated upon the court, whether the court failed to properly elicit sufficient information to justify the secret surveillance of an American citizen, and why the FISA court appears to have taken no action against any attorney if such attorney misled the Court.”
Gohmert noted that “as a former felony judge, I know that a judge who has even the smallest amount respect for his or her position should be righteously outraged when a lawyer misleads or omits critically important information while seeking a warrant, especially a warrant to secretly surveil an American citizen.”
The Texas congressman added that “since it appears our Democrat colleagues have no objections to an administration using politically motivated and contrived information to weaponize the federal government against its political opponents, it is even more critical that the Judiciary Committee get the FISA court transcripts to review what went on within the FISA court, even if we have to do it in a classified setting.”