Problems in F.B.I. Wiretap Applications Go Beyond Trump Aide Surveillance, Review Finds

WASHINGTON — An inspector general uncovered pervasive problems in F.B.I. wiretap applications, according to a memo released Tuesday detailing a review that grew out of a damning report last year about errors and omissions in applications to target a former Trump campaign adviser as part of the Russia investigation.

The follow-up audit by the office of the Justice Department’s independent watchdog, Michael E. Horowitz, revealed a pattern of sloppiness by the bureau in using powerful tools to eavesdrop on American soil in national-security cases. But it also helps the F.B.I. politically because it undercuts the narrative among President Trump and his supporters that the bureau cut corners to surveil the adviser, Carter Page, as part of a politically motivated conspiracy.

Mr. Horowitz’s investigators reviewed a random sample of 29 applications by the F.B.I. for court permission to wiretap someone as part of a terrorism or espionage investigation under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. They found problems with all 29 of them.

In 25 of the applications, the review found an average of about 20 problems each. One alone had 65 issues. The other four applications could not be scrutinized at all because the F.B.I. could not locate the so-called Woods file, where it is supposed to catalog supporting documentation for each factual claim in a FISA application.

“We do not have confidence that the F.B.I. has executed its Woods Procedures in compliance with F.B.I. policy, or that the process is working as it was intended to help achieve the ‘scrupulously accurate’ standard for FISA applications,” the inspector general report said.

The F.B.I.’s systematic sloppiness in preparing FISA applications could be even worse than the new audit indicates because Mr. Horowitz’s office did not look through the voluminous raw case files in search of any mitigating facts the applications omitted, which was among the problems his office’s close scrutiny of the Page applications identified.

The report took no position on the scale of the errors, whether they were minor or could have changed law enforcement officials’ decisions to seek wiretap orders or a judge’s decision to approve them.

In a statement appended to the report, the F.B.I. said it accepted the findings but also said that it believed it is addressing the source of the problems through corrective steps it put in place following the earlier report about Mr. Page — like greater training and new checklists that officials preparing documents for FISA applications must follow.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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