POLITICO: The FBI issued an extraordinary statement on Wednesday, pushing back on the release of a partisan congressional memo alleging the bureau used improper evidence to obtain legal permission to surveil a Trump campaign adviser. We’ve never seen anything like it. “[T]he FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it,” the bureau said. “As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
The memo, written by Congressman Devin Nunes and barreling toward public circulation at the president’s discretion, has already created a firestorm, and it is not even out yet. Nunes fired back at the FBI hours later, claiming, “It’s clear that top officials used unverified information in a court document to fuel a counterintelligence investigation during an American political campaign.”
Let’s be clear about what’s happening here: This memo is the latest escalation in an eight-month effort to tarnish the Russia investigation that might be the most significant smear campaign against the executive branch since Joe McCarthy—only here, the effort is being led by the head of that branch himself. As the New York Times reported, the Nunes memo seems like a dagger aimed by President Trump at Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is supervising the Russia probe for the Justice Department. MORE
JUST SECURITY: The House Intelligence Committee has voted to release the Nunes Memo, which allegedly outlines widespread abuses by the DOJ and FBI in obtaining a surveillance order against former national security advisor to the Trump Campaign, Carter Page. As a former FBI agent who has been through the process of obtaining these kinds of warrants under the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA), I know that such an allegation, if true, would require a vast number of people – across two branches of government – to be on board and willing to put their careers on the line for a conspiracy. To that end, in advance of the memo being released, I want to highlight five questions that the Nunes Memo must clearly address in order for its allegations of abuse to be substantiated and credible.
1. When did the FBI open an investigation on Carter Page?
It’s important to understand that just because the FBI receives information (like the Steele Dossier), the Bureau cannot immediately run to a FISA court and obtain a warrant. A FISA warrant itself does not make a “case;” rather, it’s an investigative tool used in support of an existing national security case, one that normally would have been opened months, if not years, prior. In fact, FISA warrants can be approved only for what are called Full Investigations. These are the most serious class of investigations within the FBI and require an “articulable factual basis” to open: For counterintelligence cases on U.S. persons (USPERs), these cases involve facts demonstrating that the subject is in contact with and working on behalf of a foreign intelligence service. That means that, at some point prior to obtaining the FISA warrant, the FBI opened an investigation on Carter Page, obtained enough factual evidence to justify making it a Full Investigation, and would have done enough investigative activity to be able to put together a FISA
THE TAKEAWAY: If the Nunes Memo does not indicate when the investigation underlying the Page FISA application was opened or how many months/years of investigative activity preceding the dossier is detailed in the Page FISA application, it is not telling a sufficiently complete or accurate story. MORE