Michael Horowitz has now released an OIG overview of the FBI's use of Confidential Human Sources, finding existing policy deficient and ineffective, with a large report for public release today:https://www.oversight.gov/sites/default/files/oig-reports/a20009.pdf
The 63-page report on the FBI's management of validation processes determined there was a "backlog of long-term" sources of five years or more. Validation is defined as "vetting the credibility of a CHS and assessing the veracity of the information the source provides." Horowitz's staff interviewed more than 100 FBI officials at field offices in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, as well as relevant officials at the Justice Department and another Intelligence Community agency.
Investigators found the FBI and the Justice Department's review committee failed to comply with attorney general guidelines requiring timely validation. "By not timely reviewing long-term CHSs for continued use, the FBI risks retaining active CHSs who should have been closed for cause," said a press release accompanying the audit.
Investigators also uncovered issues with FBI employees who conducted validation reviews, noting they did not "review the full scope" of a long-term source's work for the FBI. "Moreover, FBI employees conducting CHS validation reviews told us they were discouraged from documenting conclusions and recommendations arising from the validation process," Horowitz's team said.
Among other problems found was a lack of adequate oversight from FBI headquarters, insufficiently clear guidance on communications so that agents and sources are not "put in harm's way," and issues "related to the FBI’s ability to align its CHSs with its highest threat priorities."
"Specifically, we found that the FBI lacked an automated process to analyze the threat areas in which it has CHS coverage and relied on an ineffective process that could result in outdated information," Horowitz's team said. "In addition, we found that a proposed automated system being developed would rely on data from several other FBI systems, including its CHS system of record which has known issues related to data quality."
The FBI's electronic record-keeping system for CHS management, called Delta, was determined to not only be inadequate for the FBI, but also hindered the inspector general's ability to obtain information stemming from his requests. Instead, the watchdog audit said an FBI official "was able to manually create a partial spreadsheet" of the requested data.
Horowitz's report made 16 recommendations to assist the Justice Department and FBI to improve the CHS program and said they agreed with all of them and have "started corrective measures."
"We agree it is important to continue to improve the validation process to ensure compliance with the AG Guidelines," Suzanne Turner, an FBI section chief in the inspection division, wrote to Horowitz on Sept. 24.
This audit is separate but somewhat related to the upcoming report on FISA abuse, because it shows how a CHS like Christopher Steele could pass material to the FBI without proper vetting- because the vetting system itself was completely broken.