Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Outline of OIG Investigation into FBI Conduct in Crossfire Hurricane Investigation

The DOJ Office of the Inspector General Report :

(prepared by Brian T. Lynch, MSW)

1.      “… the FBI opened Crossfire Hurricane on July 31, 2016, just days after its receipt of information from a Friendly Foreign Government
a.     Papadopoulos "suggested the Trump team had received some kind of suggestion from Russia that it could assist ... with the anonymous release of information ... damaging to Mrs. Clinton
b.     The FBI… (EC) open[ed] the Crossfire Hurricane investigation state[ing] that…  "this investigation is being opened to determine whether individual(s) associated with the Trump campaign are witting of and/or coordinating activities with the Government of Russia."
c.     [The OIG] did not find information … indicating that any information other than the FFG information was relied upon to predicate the opening of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.
d.     FBI officials involved … had reason to believe that Russia may have been connected to the Wikileaks disclosures … in July 2016, and were aware of … Russia's efforts to interfere with the 2016 U.S. elections.
e.     [The FBI] did not become aware of Steele's election reporting until weeks later and we therefore determined that Steele's reports played no role in the Crossfire Hurricane opening.

2.     The FBI assembled a …team of special agents, analysts, and supervisory special agents …[to] conducted an initial analysis of links between Trump campaign members and Russia. Based upon this …analysis, the Crossfire Hurricane team [as they were known] opened individual cases in August 2016 on four U.S. persons - Papadopoulos, Carter Page, Paul Manafort, and Michael Flynn- all of whom were affiliated with the Trump campaign at the time the cases were opened.

3.     Crossfire Hurricane was opened as a Full Investigation and all of the senior FBI officials who participated in discussions about whether to open a case told [The OIG] the information warranted opening it…. [T]he combination of the FFG [foreign friendly government] information and the FBI 's ongoing cyber intrusion investigation of the July 2016 hacks of the Democratic National Committee's (DNC) emails, created a counter-intelligence concern that the FBI was "obligated" to investigate. 

4.     Additionally, …[the OIG] concluded that the FFG information, provided by a government the [U.S.] Intelligence Community (USIC) deems trustworthy, and describing a first-hand account from an FFG employee of a conversation with Papadopoulos, was sufficient to predicate the investigation. This information provided the FBI with an articulable factual basis that, if true, reasonably indicated activity constituting either a federal crime or a threat to national security, or both, may have occurred or may be occurring.

5.      [The OIG] also sought to determine whether there was evidence that political bias or other improper considerations affected decision making in Crossfire Hurricane, including the decision to open the investigation … General Counsel, and a FBI Deputy General Counsel. We concluded that …the investigation was in compliance with Department and FBI policies, and [the OIG] did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced [the] decision.

6.     The Crossfire Hurricane investigation was properly designated as a "sensitive investigative matter," or SIM, by the FBI because it involved the activities of a domestic political organization or individuals prominent in such an organization …We concluded that the FBI satisfied the DIOG's approval and notification requirements for SIMs.
8.     The AG [and DIOG] Guidelines require that the " least intrusive" means or method be "considered" when selecting investigative techniques … Each of [the initial steps] authorized under the DIOG was a less intrusive investigative technique.

9.     Thereafter, the Crossfire Hurricane team used more intrusive techniques …[The OIG] determined that the CHS operations conducted during Crossfire Hurricane received the necessary FBI approvals.

10.  [The OIG] found it concerning that [DOJ] and FBI policy [do] not require the FBI to consult with any Department official in advance of conducting CHS operations involving advisors to a major party candidate's presidential campaign …and [The OIG]  include[ed] a recommendation to address this issue.

11.  At the request of the FBI, the Department filed four applications with the FISC seeking FISA authority. targeting Carter Page. The first application on October I , 2016, and three renewal applications on January, April, and June , 2017.

a.     … the Crossfire Hurricane team's receipt of Steele's election reporting…played a central and essential role in the FBI's and Department's decision to seek the FISA order.
b.     …the same day that the Crossfire Hurricane team first received Steele's election reporting, the team contacted FBI OGC again about seeking a FISA order for Page and specifically focused on Steele's reporting in drafting the FISA request.
c.     Although the team also was interested in seeking FISA surveillance targeting Papadopoulos, the FBI OGC attorneys were not supportive. FBI and NSD officials told [the OIG] that the Crossfire Hurricane team ultimately did not seek FISA surveillance of Papadopoulos, and…no information indicat[ed] that the team requested or seriously considered FISA surveillance of Manafort or Flynn.
d.     [The OIG] did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the FBI's decision to seek FISA authority on Carter Page.
e.     However, as we explain below, the Department decision makers who supported and approved the application were not given all relevant information.
f.      [The OIG] found that the FBI did not have information corroborating the specific allegations against Carter Page in Steele's reporting when it relied upon his reports in the first FISA application or subsequent renewal applications.
g.     However, absent corroboration for the factual assertions in the election reporting, it was particularly important for the FISA applications to articulate the FBI's knowledge of Steele's background and its assessment of his reliability.
h.     [The OIG] review found that FBI personnel fell far short of the requirement in FBI policy that they ensure that all factual statements in a FISA application are "scrupulously accurate."
i.      [The OIG] identified multiple instances in which factual assertions relied upon in the first FISA application were inaccurate, incomplete, or unsupported by appropriate documentation, based upon information the FBI had in its possession at the time the application was filed. [This included] the following seven significant inaccuracies and omissions:
                                               i.     Omitted information the FBI had obtained from another U.S. government agency detailing its prior relationship with Page…
                                             ii.     Included a source characterization statement asserting that Steele's prior reporting had been "corroborated and used in criminal proceedings,"
                                            iii.     Omitted information relevant to the reliability of Person 1, a key Steele sub-source
                                            iv.     Asserted [incorrectly] that the FBI had assessed that Steele did not directly provide to the press information in the September 23 Yahoo News article based on the premise that Steele had told the FBI that he only shared his election-related research with the FBI and Fusion GPS…
                                              v.     Omitted Papadopoulos's consensually monitored statements…in September 2016 denying that anyone associated with the Trump campaign was collaborating with Russia or with outside groups like Wikileaks in the release of emails
                                            vi.     Omitted Page's consensually monitored statements…that Page had "literally never met" or "said one word to" Paul Manafort and that Manafort had not responded to any of Page's emails…
                                           vii.     Included Page's consensually monitored statements…that the FBI believed supported its theory that Page was an agent of Russia but omitted other statements Page made that were inconsistent with its theory, including denying having met with Sechin and Divyekin, or even knowing who Divyekin was…
j.      Further, as we discuss later, we identified 10 additional significant errors in the renewal applications.
k.     [The OIG] found that the team had speculated that Steele's prior reporting had been corroborated and used in criminal proceedings without clearing the representation with Steele's handling agent, as required
l.      [The OIG] concluded that these failures created the inaccurate impression in the applications that at least some of Steele's past reporting had been deemed sufficiently reliable by prosecutors to use in court, and that more of his information had been corroborated than was actually the case.
m.   [The OIG] found no evidence that the 0I Attorney, NSD supervisors, ODAG officials, or Yates were made aware of these issues…
n.     Although [the OIG] found no evidence that [James] Comey had been made aware of these issues at the time he certified the [FISA] application…multiple factors made it difficult [to] determine the extent of FBI leadership's knowledge as to each fact…in the FISA applications. These factors included…limited recollections, the inability to question Comey or refresh his recollection with relevant, classified documentation because of his lack of a security clearance, and the absence of meeting minutes that would show the specific details shared with Comey and [Andrew] McCabe during briefings.
12.  the FBI closed Steele as a CHS for cause in November 2016. However…despite having been closed for cause, the Crossfire Hurricane team continued to obtain information from Steele through [a Department Attorney, Bruce] Ohr, who met with the FBI on 13 occasions to pass along information he had been provided by Steele.
a.     …the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) expressed concern about the lack of vetting for the Steele election reporting and asserted it did not merit inclusion in the body of the [Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) report.
b.     …the FBI, including Comey and McCabe, sought to include the reporting in the ICA. Limited information from the Steele reporting ultimately was presented in an appendix to the ICA.
c.     …the FBI's Validation Management Unit (VMU) completed a human source validation review of Steele in early 2017. The VMU review found that Steele's past criminal reporting was "minimally corroborated," and included this finding in its report that was provided to the Crossfire Hurricane team.
d.     The VMU review also did not identify any corroboration for Steele's election reporting among the information that the Crossfire Hurricane team had collected. However, the VMU did not include this finding in its written validation report …and therefore members of the Crossfire Hurricane team and FBI executives were unaware of it.
e.     [The OIC] further determined that the Crossfire Hurricane team was unable to corroborate any of the specific substantive allegations regarding Carter Page contained in the Steele’s election reporting which the FBI relied on in the FISA applications.
13.  …the FBI filed three renewal applications with the FISC… In addition to repeating the seven significant errors contained in the first FISA application…[the OIG] identified 10 additional significant errors in the three renewal applications…[each outlined in the report]
a.     Among the most serious of the 10 additional errors we found in the renewal applications was the FBI's failure to advise OI or the court of the inconsistences… between Steele and his Primary Sub-source on the reporting relied upon in the FISA applications.
b.     FBI also failed to share other inconsistencies with OI, including the Primary Sub-source's account of the alleged meeting between Page and Sechin in Steele's Report 94 and his/her descriptions of the source network.
14.  [The OIG] concluded that the failures described [in their] report represent serious performance failures by the supervisory and non-supervisory agents with responsibility over the FISA applications. These failures prevented OI from fully performing its gatekeeper function and deprived the decision makers the opportunity to make fully informed decisions… this was a failure of not only the operational team, but also of the managers and supervisors, including senior officials, in the chain of command.

15.  [The OIG] did not identify a specific Department policy prohibiting [Department attorney Bruce] Ohr from [having multiple meetings] with [Christopher] Steele, [Glenn] Simpson [the owner of Fusion GPS], or the State Department and providing the information he learned from those meetings to the FBI…[However the OIG] concluded that Ohr committed consequential errors in judgment by ( 1) failing to advise his direct supervisors or the DAG that he was communicating with Steele and Simpson and then requesting meetings with the FBI's Deputy Director and Crossfire Hurricane team on matters that were outside of his areas of responsibility, and (2) making _himself a witness in the investigation by meeting with Steele and providing Steele's information to the FBI.
16.  The FBI's CHS Policy Guide (CHSPG) provides… [that] a handling agent must not initiate contact with or respond to contacts from a former CHS who has been closed for cause absent exceptional circumstances that are approved by an SSA. [The OIG] concluded that the repeated contacts with Steele should have triggered the CHS policy requiring that such contacts occur only after an SSA determines that exceptional circumstances exist…[and that]… 13 different meetings [between Steele and] Ohr over a period of months…created a relationship by proxy that should have triggered…a supervisory decision about whether to reopen Steele as a CHS or discontinue accepting information indirectly from him through Ohr.

17.  …the Crossfire Hurricane team tasked several CHSs, which resulted in multiple interactions with Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, both before and after they were affiliated with the Trump campaign, and one with a high-level Trump campaign official who was not a subject of the investigation. All of these CHS interactions were consensually monitored and recorded by the FBI…[the OIG] found no evidence that the FBI used CHSs or UCEs to interact with members of the Trump campaign prior to the opening of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation…[and] found no evidence that the FBI placed any CHSs or UCEs within the Trump campaign or tasked any CHSs or UCEs to report on the Trump campaign. [The OIG] also found no documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivations influenced the FBI's decision to use CHSs or UCEs to interact with Trump campaign officials in the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.

18.  While [the OIG] concluded that the investigative activities undertaken by the Crossfire Hurricane team involving CHSs and UCEs complied with applicable Department and FBI policies…in certain circumstances Department and FBI policies do not provide sufficient oversight and accountability for investigative activities that have the potential to gather sensitive information involving protected First Amendment activity, and therefore [the OIG] include[d] recommendations to address these issues.

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