Attorney General William Barr said Wednesday he supports the House’s version of a bill to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, saying that it adequately addresses problems identified in an investigation into the FBI’s surveillance of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
“I have reviewed the House FISA bill and support its passage,” Barr said in a statement.
“The bill contains an array of new requirements and compliance provisions that will protect against abuse and misuse in the future while ensuring that this critical tool is available when appropriate to protect the safety of the American people.”
The House is scheduled to vote on the bill on Wednesday. If approved, it will head to the Senate before going to President Trump for final authorization. Trump, who has been highly critical of the FBI’s surveillance of his campaign, has not said whether he will sign the reauthorization package.
Barr said that the bill includes several provisions that “address past failures,” including those identified in a Justice Department inspector general’s (IG) investigation of the FBI’s surveillance of Page.
In a report released on Dec. 9, 2019, the IG identified 17 “significant” errors and omissions on the FBI’s part in its applications for FISA orders against Page.
“The IG’s analysis and recommendations have helped shape our proposals,” said Barr, who has pressured Congress to reauthorize the government’s surveillance powers before they expire on March 15.
“It is of the utmost important that the Department’s attorneys and investigators always work in a manner consistent with the highest professional standards, and this overall package will help ensure the integrity of the FISA process and protect against future abuses going forward. This legislation deserves broad bi-partisan support.”
House Republicans had pushed for more drastic reforms to FISA in the wake of the IG report.
The IG found that the FBI submitted inaccurate and incomplete information to the FISA Court in order to obtain surveillance warrants against Page in 2016 and 2017. The applications relied heavily on unverified information from Christopher Steele, a former British spy hired to investigate the Trump campaign on behalf of Democrats.
Steele’s primary source for his investigation told FBI agents in January 2017 that the ex-spy misrepresented or exaggerated information in his infamous dossier. The FBI agents involved in the interview failed to disclose the derogatory information to the FISA Court.
The House bill addresses some of the issues flagged in the IG report. It explicitly institutes punishments for government officials who knowingly submit false information in FISA applications, as well as those who leak FISA-related information, which is classified.
The Justice Department conceded that the last two of four FISA orders granted against Page were invalid because of the FBI’s errors.