At about the same time the FISA warrant was authorized to surveil Carter Page, someone in the FBI or DOJ leaked information about a FISA warrant in connection with the investigation of Russian bank activity between the server in Trump Tower. Since the FBI reopened the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails just 11 days before the 2016 election, this leak looks like an “insurance policy” to protect the FBI’s reputation by making sure that Mr. Trump did not win the election.
I was tempted to get Tyson’s pre-seasoned chicken wings for our Super Bowl meal but these crispy oven baked buffalo wings were so good and easy. Some times pre-seasoned wings have so much sauce that it makes it hard to enjoy the wings. I found a five pound bag of frozen, plain wings on sale this week. So I opted for a little bit more work. I used half of the bag, 13 wings, for two people. It took about an hour and a half to prepare using the recipe from RecipeTins Eats.
- Impacted national security
- Attacked the institutions of the Department of Justice and the FBI
- Destroyed the trust with intelligence agencies
I read the FISA memo and did not see where it impacted national security or attacked the Department of Justice and the FBI as institutions. Mr. Comey needs to look no farther than himself to find someone who leaked and destroyed trust with intelligence agencies. A broader condemnation can be made of the intelligence agencies for the numerous leaks made in October, November, and December of 2016. This is a period Mr. Comey was in charge of the FBI. Due to the information that was leaked, people in the DOJ and FBI involved with the investigation are the likely leakers. Although these leaks are serious issues, the abuses described in the memo are specific to certain individuals in the DOJ and FBI who intentionally misled the FISA court in October of 2016.
The Tyranny of Good Intentions
History reminds us that this is not the first time prosecutors have abused their postion for what they perceive is the common good. Here is a quote from a book published in 2000, The Tyranny of Good Intentions.
When a prosecutor is intent on a frame-up or the Justice Department on a cover-up, not even money and exposure can stop the process. In high-profile cases, clever prosecutors protect themselves by first convicting their victims in the media. With the public aroused against the victim, the prosecutor has a free hand.
One of the small pleasures of life is to drink a nice craft beer while shopping the foodie aisles at Jungle Jim’s. The Untapped app does a great job creating a nice tweet of the experience.
— Bill Huber (@alazycowboy) February 1, 2018
I hope that releasing the memo will help the FBI and Department of Justice become the organizations that as Trey Gowdy said, “do not give a whit about politics“. To achieve that goal they have to stop doing boneheaded things. Borrowing from a Forbes article, 5 Boneheaded Ways Smart People Fail, here are some examples that might help them achieve that goal.
1. Several People In The FBI Thought They Were The Smartest Person In The Room.
Mr. Comey, Mr. McCabe, Mr. Stzrok, Mr. Ohr, and Ms. Page are all smart people but seem to be too self-absorbed to recognize how bad their actions look. As an example, Mr. Comey probably thinks he did the country a great favor by leaking information and forcing a special prosecutor to take over the investigation. While some people may approve of his actions, others will view his actions as those of a political hack using the FBI to crudely attack the President. When you look at the actions of these four people, it is impossible to rationalize this investigation as one that does not give a whit about politics. As Travis Bradberry said in the Forbes article,
Your chance of failure is heightened when you don’t care to know what other people think.
2. The FBI Management Surrounded Themselves With Yes-men and Yes-women.
It is hard for me to imagine how Fusion GPS and the Trump dossier could have been so influential within the Department of Justice without Yes-men and Yes-women.
3. Several People In The FBI Viewed Themselves As Untouchable.
Mr. Comey and Mr. McCabe come across as people who thought they were untouchable. Mr. Comey must have thought he was pretty special after keeping his job despite antagonizing both political parties with his extra-legal actions. Then he was shocked when President Trump fired him. I am still amazed that Mr. McCabe did not recuse himself from the Clinton investigation. A lot of Clinton money went to his wife’s political campaign. As Travis said,
These unrealistic expectations made failure inevitable. Leaders must continually question their positions, especially when they’re on top.
4. Several People In The FBI couldn’t tell where they stopped and the FBI began.
The best example of this Mr. Strzok comments about an “insurance plan”. Just do your job!
5. Several People In The FBI drove past red flags and warning signs.
I think the Top Secret FISA Court Order document obtained by Judicial Watch on May 23, 2017, shows that the FISA Court was livid at the FBI. By April 18, 2016, the FBI they knew that their FISA-702 “Queries” irregularities had triggered a full Compliance Audit by the NSA. That should have been a warning sign not to mess with the FISA court. The idea that people were pushing the Trump dossier within the Department of Justice should have been a red flag. Did the FBI use it to get a FISA warrant despite its origin? As Travis said,
Some leaders are so enamored with their personal visions that they’re willing to drive the company off of a cliff in pursuit of them. Many of these leaders solicit input and suggestions, but they just can’t take their feet off the gas. Persistence is a great quality in a leader but not if it means ignoring the facts.
As an old IT guy, I keep wondering what Crowdstrike was doing during the DNC Hack? It looks like a Lifelock commercial. Here is the Crowdstrike timeline.
- In 2015 Crowdstrike knows that DNC information was transmitted to Russia.
- On April 29th, 2016, the DNC suspects they have been hacked.
- On May 4th, 2016, Crowdstrike installs “monitoring software”.
- On June 10th, 2016, Crowdstrike changes passwords at the DNC.
If Crowdstrike knew the DNC was hacked in 2015 and information was transmitted back to Russia, why did they install a security monitor in May 2016? Why did they wait until June to actually fix the problem? It looks like Crowdstrike set up the DNC network as a “bad” honeypot. Traditionally a honeypot consists of a network site that appears to be legitimate but is actually isolated, monitored, and contains non-vital data. Crowdstrike used the real DNC network as the lure. If Fusion GPS and Crowdstrike are the private contractors who had unsupervised access to raw FISA information on FBI systems, they had to know what the Russians were doing. Were their actions negligent, stupid, or an attempt to divert the attention from the damaging Podesta emails that the Russians were boasting about? Since the Podesta emails were far more damaging to the Clinton campaign, it looks like Crowdstrike felt it was more important to attribute the hack on the Russians than to protect the DNC data.
DNC Hack Timeline
The #FISA Collusion scandal reminds me of the tactics of J. Edgar Hoover. Wikipedia describes him this way.
He was found to have exceeded the jurisdiction of the FBI, and to have used the FBI to harass political dissenters and activists, to amass secret files on political leaders, and to collect evidence using illegal methods. Hoover consequently amassed a great deal of power and was in a position to intimidate and threaten sitting presidents.
Wow, doesn’t that sound familiar! Sara Carter says a classified report alleges extensive ‘FISA Abuse’ related to the controversial dossier. We already know from the Top Secret FISA Court Order that someone in the FBI allowed a private contractor run unsupervised “FISA-702 Queries”. These are tactics J. Edgar Hoover would approve of. Maybe we can save FISA by firing some people. A good first step is to #ReleaseTheMemo.
Someone in the FBI delegated the investigation of a “National Security” issue to a private contractor running unsupervised “FISA-702 Queries”. What does that say about the FBI management? It is obvious from the Top Secret FISA Court Order document obtained by Judicial Watch on May 23, 2017, that the FISA Court was livid at the FBI, Department of Justice, and the NSA. They broke the rules and the judges were pissed. This is a really, big deal both legally and politically. This is the type of flagrant abuse Senator Rand Paul could use to force a debate on the Patriot Act. All of the good intelligence operations working under the auspices of the Patriot Act are threatened. So why did the FBI take the risk?
If FISA-702 “Queries” do not need approvals from FISC so long as inquiries center around “National Security”, why was it being handled by a private contractor and not FBI personnel?
Lawrence Person at the BattleSwarm blog makes the argument Fusion-GPS was the private contractor. It kind of makes sense, if the contractor was charged with investigating Russian interference in the United States political process. Since they wrote the infamous Trump dossier we can safely conclude that they are familiar with the shadier side of politics. I suspect the FBI chose a private contractor so that they could compartmentalize the information and avoid allegations the FBI was being used to spy on political opponents. I have two problems with this strategy.
- Political interference is an important issue but it is not a “National Security” issue. If political interference was not a “National Security” issue then the unsupervised FISA-702 “Queries” were illegal. I think that was the main point the Top Secret FISA Court Order was trying to make.
- Allowing a private contractor with a background like Fusion-GPS run unsupervised FISA-702 queries is a really bad choice. It looks like a fox in charge of the hen house scenario. When I read the Top Secret FISA Court Order complain that “they had access to raw FISA information that went well beyond what was necessary”, I have to assume that the contractor did something illegal or unethical. It is hard to tell whether the Court is madder at the FBI or the private contractor.
Why did the FBI take the risk?
The FISA court believes that these FISA-702 “Queries” should have been supervised and probably submitted to the FISA court. The FBI probably saw the protection of the Democratic party from Russian meddling as their patriotic duty and considered the legality of their actions a minor issue. More importantly, I think the FBI took the risk because they did not think they would get caught. Even if they were caught, they believed because of their good intentions that “no reasonable prosecutor would bring a case”. The last thing they thought was that this investigation would blow up in their faces. By April 18, 2016, the FBI they knew that their FISA-702 “Queries” irregularities had triggered a full Compliance Audit by the NSA. This would lead NSA to admit a non-compliance issue to the FISA court on October 26, 2016. The Top Secret FISA Court Order leaves no doubt that the non-compliance issue was threatening the reauthorization of the Patriot Act. The “good intentions” of the FBI had transformed a minor “National Security” issue into a major one. The only question left is with everyone’s career at the FBI on the line, would the FBI attempt a cover-up?
Coincidentally I am reading a book called “The Tyranny of Good Intentions” and it reminds us that prosecutors and bureaucrats have been trampling the Constitution in the name of justice for a very long time. In that book, they quote Joel Prentiss Bishop, an American lawyer and legal treatise writer who said, “In times of excitement when vengeance takes the place of justice, every guard against the innocent is cast down.” Mr. Comey, Mr. Strzok, and the others seem to embody this particular interpretation of the law in which “vengeance” justifies their extra-legal actions. Once they crossed the line into extra-legal actions, there was no turning back. The Trump dossier can be seen as a natural byproduct of the original crime. In for a penny, in for a pound.
As a person who has been selected for three juries, I am puzzled at the staffing decisions by Mr. Mueller. As a juror, I do not want my time wasted by a prosecution’s case tainted with apparent bias. Bias is a pretty good reason for a juror to say no to the “beyond a reasonable doubt question”. If Mr. Mueller is pursuing the same blind justice that does give a whit about politics, Mr. Mueller’s staff must be beyond reproach. This is not rocket science.
Why did Mr. McCabe, Ms. Rhee, Mr. Ohr, Ms. Page, and Mr. Strzok not recuse themselves from this case?
Although Glenn Kessler makes a good argument that Mr. Mueller “is legally barred from discriminating career appointees based on political affiliation”, there is nothing prohibiting the aforementioned people from recusing themselves because of apparent bias. This would have been the right thing for them to do. Since Mr. Mueller replaced them without much effort we have to assume that qualified lawyers exist without the political baggage. Why not start off with them? Are there any adults at the Department of Justice? Is this the same culture of corruption problem we have seen at the Department of Justice for the last eight years?
If the Department of Justice cannot police themselves should we allow Section 702 of the Patriot Act to be renewed without substantial reform?
In the past, I was willing to believe the Department of Justice would do the right thing and not abuse the special privileges granted in the Patriot Act. My position on the Patriot Act has evolved. Last year I wondered whether the Fusion GPS Dossier Weaponize The FBI? I now believe that the primary motive for FISA warrant in October of 2016 was to discredit the Trump Campaign. The FISA warrant was not about catching spies or terrorists. It was about using the power of the government to punish a political opponent. If the folks at the Department of Justice cannot play nicely with these powers, we need some adults in the room to keep the kids out of trouble. Now is a good time to listen to Amash, Paul, and Others Trying to Stop Congress from Expanding Domestic Surveillance Powers.
I took yesterday off to complete some Christmas shopping. I treated myself to a Reuben sandwich at Izzy’s.