File this under things the FBI should have disclosed before 2017. Lindsey Graham certainly thinks so, but also said last night that the FBI should have disclosed it at any time since. Instead, we are finding out only now that the primary source for the allegations in the Christopher Steele dossier came from the target of a previous FBI counter-intelligence operation — leading to the obvious conclusion that it may have been a disinformation campaign targeting the US elections:
#Durham BREAKING: The primary sub-source for the Steele dossier was deemed a possible “national security threat” + the subject of 2009 FBI counter-intel probe. According to new records, those facts were known to Crossfire Hurricane team in December 2016. @LindseyGrahamSC pic.twitter.com/I6Gp4fv98C
— Catherine Herridge (@CBS_Herridge) September 24, 2020
A sub-source used to compile the so-called Steele Dossier, a controversial opposition research document against then-candidate Donald Trump, was previously the subject of an FBI counterintelligence investigation, Attorney General William Barr disclosed in a letter released on Thursday.
The detail was previously redacted from a footnote in Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz’s 2019 report on four Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court warrant applications. …
The declassified footnote states that the “primary sub-source was the subject of an FBI counterintelligence investigation from 2009 to 2011 that assessed his/her documented contacts with suspected Russian counterintelligence officers.”
A two-page document compiled by the FBI and Barr and sent to Graham along with the declassified footnote adds that the investigation was opened “based on information by the FBI indicating that the Primary Sub-source may be a threat to national security.” The investigation was closed in 2011 and not reopened.
The Hill doesn’t explain why or under what context the probe was closed in 2011. CBS’ Catherine Herridge offers a much better explanation:
According to the memo, the FBI opened a preliminary investigation in 2009 after receiving information that a “research fellow for an influential foreign policy advisor for the Obama administration” was approached by the individual, later identified as the dossier sub-source, who allegedly inquired about their future “access to classified information” and if they “wanted to “make a little extra money.”
The memo states that the research fellow and co-worker questioned the possibility the individual might be a “Russian spy.”
The preliminary case was converted to a full investigation after a review of FBI databases revealed the individual had contact in 2005 and 2006 with the “Russian embassy and known Russian intelligence officers.”
In 2010, the individual left the US, and the FBI withdrew a surveillance warrant application to the FISA court and closed the investigation. Significantly, the investigative team stated “that consideration would be given to re-opening the investigation in the event that the Primary sub-source returned to the United States.”
Did he ever come back to the US? Indeed he did, and the FBI — which by this time knew that the previous investigation considered this source a potential national-security threat — sat down with him for a three-day interrogation in January 2017. They apparently never asked about his earlier suspected attempts to penetrate the Obama administration, but only about the allegations that made up the core of Crossfire Hurricane. That turned into a disappointing adventure, as the subsource backed away from the claims:
The dossier’s primary sub-source did return to the U.S. and was interviewed over a three-day period at the FBI’s Washington Field Office in January 2017 where he described some dossier allegations as “rumor and speculation,” and in other cases did not recognize the claims.
We have already long known that the subsource disavowed the Steele dossier claims. What we did not know — and what the FBI never informed anyone until now — was that the subsource was a known Russian-intelligence threat that had previously tried to penetrate the Obama administration, and that the FBI knew he was still considered dangerous. Rather than discard his allegations and inform Congress of those circumstances, the FBI instead chose to engage this intelligence threat in a bid to salvage Crossfire Hurricane.
Somewhere in Moscow, that must have gotten a big laugh.
Not only did the FBI keep this information from Congress, Herridge notes, they apparently never told the FISA court about it either. Instead, they kept getting surveillance warrants targeting Carter Page on the basis of the discredited dossier. That is why this has landed in John Durham’s jurisdiction, and why the possibility of an indictment over it may have just increased significantly. Durham only recently brought this to AG William Barr’s attention, and this time the Department of Justice informed Congress of the issue — about three years late.
Graham released the Barr letter last night on Twitter, which notes that the FBI never reopened the 2009 probe into the subsource. Maybe it’s time to do that now. And maybe it’s time to ask Christopher Wray why he didn’t brief the relevant committees on this issue long before now.
Chairman @LindseyGrahamSC released a letter from AG Barr and a declassified summary from the FBI that indicate Steele’s Primary Sub-source was a likely Russian agent and had previously been the subject of an FBI counterintelligence investigation. https://t.co/m1oMAS5wa1 pic.twitter.com/JYozBm03DC
— Senate Judiciary (@senjudiciary) September 24, 2020