Declassified Summary Shows FBI Knew Primary Steele Dossier Sub-Source Was a ‘National Security Threat’ and Suspected Russian Agent
How do you feel about the FBI using the Steele dossier to surveil Carter Page?
What’s the story?
- A newly declassified summary released by the FBI shows that agency was aware the Steele dossier’s primary sub-source had been investigated as a “national security threat” and suspected Russian agent, but still relied on the dossier in its Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) applications to conduct surveillance of Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
- The Steele dossier was compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele for political opposition research firm Fusion GPS with funding from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. It played a “central and essential role” in the FBI’s applications to carry out surveillance of Page, according to DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz.
- Horowitz previously found 17 “significant inaccuracies and omissions” in the FBI’s initial FISA application and the subsequent renewals, several of which were connected to the Steele dossier. Those findings prompted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to rebuke the FBI for failing to disclose exculpatory information. Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates to both testify before Congress that they wouldn’t have signed off on the Page surveillance if they had known more about the Steele dossier.
- Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said in a statement that, “To me, the failure of the FBI to inform the court that the Primary Sub-source was suspected of being a Russian agent is a breach of every duty owed by law enforcement to the judicial system.”
What does the declassified summary say?
- From 2009 to 2011, the FBI investigated an individual who would be identified by the agency as the primary sub-source of the Steele dossier in December 2016. The investigation began after the sub-source, who then worked at a think-tank, approached a pair of colleagues and told them that if they “did get a job in the government and had access to classified information” he could help them “make a little extra money.” The exchange prompted one of the sub-source’s coworkers to question whether the individual may be a “Russian spy.”
- The FBI converted the preliminary investigation into a full investigation, which revealed the primary sub-source had contact in 2006 with the Russian Embassy and two known Russian intelligence officers. The FBI also found that the sub-source met with a D.C.-based Russian officer in 2005, and that they seemed “very familiar with each other.”
- The FBI interviewed the sub-source’s associates in the course of the investigation. One said the sub-source wasn’t anti-American but wanted to return to Russia someday, another said they were pro-Russia and brought up Russian opinions in policy discussions. While neither could recall the sub-source asking directly about their access to classified information, one interviewee noted that the sub-source persistently asked about a particular military vessel.
- In July and August 2010, the FBI and DOJ were seeking FISA surveillance of the sub-source, but investigators learned the sub-source left the U.S. in 2010 and their visa wasn’t renewed, so the investigation closed pending the return of the sub-source to the U.S. in March 2011.
- In December 2016, the “Crossfire Hurricane” team investigating links between Trump associates and Russian officials identified the primary sub-source used by Christopher Steele in his dossier, and became familiar with the earlier FBI investigation. The Crossfire Hurricane team interviewed the sub-source over the course of three sequential days in January 2017, in which they described some dossier allegations as “rumor and speculation” and in other cases didn’t recognize the claims.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: jossuppy via Flickr / Creative Commons)
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