Director Christopher Wray provided the following letter to the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General in response to the report titled “Review of Four FISA Applications and Other Aspects of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane Investigation,” released today.
December 6, 2019
The Honorable Michael Horowitz
U.S. Department of Justice
Washington, D.C. 20530
Dear Inspector General Horowitz:
Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) Report titled, “Review of Four FISA Applications and Other Aspects of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane Investigation” (Report).
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) appreciates the OIG’s crucial independent oversight role and the thoroughness and professionalism your office brought to this work. The Report’s findings and recommendations represent constructive criticism that will make us stronger as an organization. We also appreciate the Report’s recognition that the FBI cooperated fully with this review and provided broad and timely access to all information requested by the OIG, including highly classified and sensitive material involving national security.
The Report concludes that the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation and related investigations of certain individuals were opened in 2016 for an authorized purpose and with adequate factual predication. The Report also details instances in which certain FBI personnel, at times during the 2016-2017 period reviewed by the OIG, did not comply with existing policies, neglected to exercise appropriate diligence, or otherwise failed to meet the standard of conduct that the FBI expects of its employees — and that our country expects of the FBI. We are vested with significant authorities, and it is our obligation as public servants to ensure that these authorities are exercised with objectivity and integrity. Anything less falls short of the FBI’s duty to the American people.
Accordingly, the FBI accepts the Report’s findings and embraces the need for thoughtful, meaningful remedial action. I have ordered more than 40 corrective steps to address the Report’s recommendations. Because our credibility and brand are central to fulfilling our mission, we are also making improvements beyond those recommended by the OIG. And where certain individuals have been referred by the OIG for review of their conduct, the FBI will not hesitate to take appropriate disciplinary action if warranted at the completion of the required procedures for disciplinary review.
Below is a summary of the actions we are taking, which we describe in more detail in the attachment to this letter.
First, we are modifying our processes under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), both for initial applications and renewals, to enhance accuracy and completeness. The FBI relies on FISA every day in national security investigations to prevent terrorists and foreign intelligence services from harming the United States. We are making concrete changes to ensure that our FISA protocols, verifications, layers of review, record-keeping requirements, and audits are more stringent and less susceptible to mistake or inaccuracy. These new processes will also ensure that the FISA Court and the Department of Justice (DOJ) are apprised of all information in the FBI’s holdings relevant to a determination of probable cause.
Second, we undertook an extensive review of investigative activity based out of FBI Headquarters. The FBI is a field-based law enforcement organization, and the vast majority of our investigations should continue to be worked by our field offices. Moving forward, in the very rare instance when FBI Headquarters runs a sensitive investigation, we are requiring prior approval by the FBI Deputy Director and consultation with the Assistant Director in Charge or Special Agent in Charge of the affected field offices.
Third, we are making significant changes to how the FBI manages its Confidential Human Source (CHS) Program. Many FBI investigations rely on human sources, but the investigative value derived from CHS-provided information rests in part on the CHS’s credibility, which demands rigorous assessment of the source. The modifications we are making to how the FBI collects, documents, and shares information about CHSs will strengthen our assessment of the information these sources are providing.
Fourth, I am establishing new protocols for the FBI’s participation in Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI)-led counterintelligence transition briefings (i.e., strategic intelligence briefings) provided to presidential nominees. The FBI’s role in these briefings should be for national security purposes and not for investigative purposes. Continued participation by the FBI in these transition briefings is critical to ensuring continuity in the event of a change in administrations. The new FBI protocols about transition briefings will complement procedures already implemented by the FBI earlier this year to govern the separate category of defensive briefings. The FBI gives defensive briefings, which are based on specific threat information, in a wide variety of contexts and for myriad federal, state, and other public and private individuals and entities. The procedures we recently established for defensive briefings regarding malign foreign influence efforts have brought a new rigor and discipline to whether and how such briefings should proceed.
Fifth, I am mandating a specialized, semiannual training requirement for FBI personnel at all levels who handle FISA and CHS matters. This training will be experience-based, and it will cover specific lessons learned from this Report, along with other new and revised material. Earlier in my tenure as Director, I reinstated an annual ethics training program for all FBI employees, because I learned the training had been discontinued in prior years. While that training was not introduced in response to this Report, all current FBI employees involved in the 2016-2017 events reviewed by the OIG have since completed this additional training in ethics and professional responsibility.
Finally, we will review the performance and conduct of certain FBI employees who were referenced in the Report’s recommendations — including managers, supervisors, and senior officials at the time. The FBI will take appropriate disciplinary action where warranted. Notably, many of the employees described in the report are no longer employed at the FBI.
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I want to emphasize that the FBI’s participation in this process was undertaken with my express direction to be as transparent as possible, while honoring our duty to protect sources and methods that, if disclosed, might make Americans less safe. Where protection of certain sensitive information is well-founded, I remain committed to upholding the laws and longstanding policies governing classification and public release. I am just as committed to the principle that possible embarrassment and chagrin to the FBI or its employees is not, and should never be, the basis of a decision not to divulge FBI information. The FBI has worked closely with the OIG and DOJ on the classification issues implicated by the Report. Our joint process with the OIG and DOJ has ensured all material facts could be presented in this Report, with redactions carefully limited and narrowly tailored to specific national security and operational concerns. I am grateful for the mutual assistance of the OIG and DOJ in responsible presentation of this extremely sensitive information.
Since becoming FBI Director in August 2017, I have emphasized to FBI agents, analysts, and staff the importance of doing things the right way, by the book. I am humbled to serve alongside these dedicated men and women, and I am confident that the actions we are taking will strengthen our historic institution, ensure that we continue to discharge our responsibilities objectively and free from political bias, and better position us to protect the American people against threats while upholding the Constitution.
Christopher A. Wray