Archive for the ‘FBI’ category

Feds Spends Millions on Failed Program to Combat Extremism in America

July 28, 2017

Feds Spends Millions on Failed Program to Combat Extremism in America, Washington Free Beacon, , July 28, 2017

Members of a Federal Bureau of Investigation SWAT team are seen during an FBI field training exercise / Getty Images

“The time has come to definitely have a more direct approach,” said Raheel Raza, president of Muslims Facing Tomorrow, which seeks to counter extremist ideologies. “Fluff stuff and interfaith dialogue hasn’t really led to much deradicalization. There needs to be specific policies put in place that tackle the ideology.”

Raza also called on Congress to formally designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization due to its efforts to foment radical ideologies.

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The U.S. government has spent millions in taxpayer dollars on programs to combat violent extremism, despite the absence of evidence these programs have prevented the growth of terrorists in the United States, according to Congress, which criticized the FBI and Department of Homeland Security for enacting policy preventing its authorities from referencing “Islam” and “Islamic terrorism.”

The FBI and DHS are still providing upwards of $10 million dollars to fund a slew of community organizations committed to countering the rise of homegrown terrorism. Nevertheless there is little evidence these programs have had an impact, and in some cases, the money has been awarded to “partisan” organizations that have ties to the anti-Israel movement and radical groups such as Black Lives Matter, according to Congress.

The matter sparked a heated debate Thursday between congressional officials on the House National Security Subcommittee and senior law enforcement officials in the Trump administration.

Lawmakers accused DHS and the FBI of relying on Obama-era policies that downplay Islamic terrorism, despite clear guidance from the Trump administration that it does not support this approach.

Law enforcement anti-extremism training manuals—which were codified under an Obama-era program known as Countering Violent Extremism, or CVE—continue to ban the use of such terms as “Islamic extremism.”

While government reports have concluded that these programs are a failure, federal agencies continue to rely on them, sparking concern in Congress amid an uptick in domestic terrorism cases.

The FBI continues to have active terrorism investigations in all 50 states and at least 128 individuals have been charged in the last three years of attempting to aid ISIS.

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.), chair of the subcommittee on national security, verbally sparred with officials from DHS and FBI, who continue to maintain that these CVE programs have been a success.

“Radical Islamic extremism is the primary driver of this problem and deserves the federal government’s immediate attention,” DeSantis said during the hearing.

“Currently, [DHS] still follows the Obama-era policies related to CVE,” DeSantis added. “The guidance developed during the Obama administration specifically limits any intelligence or law enforcement investigative activity through CVE.”

“The government manuals, they will not mention radical Islam, they don’t use anything associated with the word Islam,” he said.

“By leaving this information on the table, CVE efforts are potentially missing opportunities to identify and disrupt terrorist plots,” DeSantis said. “Obama era guidance also fails to properly identify the threat of radical Islamic ideology.”

The Obama-era guidance on the matter, which is still being used, “does not even mention radical Islamic terrorism at all,” DeSantis said.

Grants totaling some $10 million for community organizations that are part of the CVE effort are still being awarded to groups with “questionable agendas,” DeSantis said, noting instances in which grants were given to partisan organizations and those with stated anti-Israel agendas.

DHS has declined to share information on these grant recipients with Congress and also has refused multiple requests from these lawmakers for a briefing on the situation, DeSantis disclosed.

Experts who testified alongside officials from DHS and the FBI also described the CVE programs as a failure.

“The time has come to definitely have a more direct approach,” said Raheel Raza, president of Muslims Facing Tomorrow, which seeks to counter extremist ideologies. “Fluff stuff and interfaith dialogue hasn’t really led to much deradicalization. There needs to be specific policies put in place that tackle the ideology.”

Raza also called on Congress to formally designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization due to its efforts to foment radical ideologies.

Raza pointed to polls showing that 27 percent of Muslims support the execution of non-believers, while around 26 percent of young American Muslims believe that suicide bombing against non-Muslims can be justified.

FBI relies on discredited dossier in Russia investigation

July 21, 2017

FBI relies on discredited dossier in Russia investigation, Washington TimesRowan Scarborough, July 20, 2017

Christopher Steele says in a court filing that his accusations against the president and his aides about a supposed Russian hacking conspiracy were never supposed to be made public, much less posted in full on a website for the world

The FBI is routinely asking witnesses in its Russia investigation about the accusations in a dossier against Donald Trump, further expanding the reach of a discredited opposition research paper sourced from the Kremlin and financed and distributed by Democrats.

A source close to the investigation described the dossier as a checklist agents tick off as they go over numerous unverified charges denounced as fabrications by President Trump and his aides.

The source called it strange that a gossip-filled series of memos is guiding the way the bureau is conducting the investigation.

The memos were used not only to try to surreptitiously influence the November election, but congressional Democrats also used them to attack the president.

The FBI is using the checklist approach even though former Director James B. Comey referred to the memos from ex-British spy Christopher Steele as “some salacious and unverified material” when he testified in June on his firing by Mr. Trump.

He was describing the time on Jan. 6 that he provided the dossier, a loosely sourced bundle of charges, at a closed briefing for the president-elect. Leaks from the meeting became news media’s rationale to detail a document that reporters could not confirm. That month, BuzzFeed posted all 35 pages online.

Mr. Comey has refused in public to answer questions about the bureau’s relationship with Mr. Steele or its bid to pay him to continue investigating Mr. Trump.

The president told The Washington Times that any payment bid would be a “disgrace.”

Some senior policymakers have publicly distanced themselves from Mr. Steele’s work.

When asked at a hearing of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence whether he relied on the dossier to investigate Russian hacking, former CIA Director John O. Brennan replied, “No.”

“It wasn’t part of the corpus of intelligence information that we had,” he said. “It was not in any way used as a basis for the intelligence community assessment that was done.”

Mr. Brennan is the Obama administration official who helped persuade the FBI to investigate the Trump team during the presidential campaign by providing a list of Russians who he said had contacts with Trump insiders. He testified that he did not know what was said.

Next week, at least three Trump associates are scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill, likely assuring that the dossier gets further discussion.

Jared Kushner, a close Trump adviser and his son-in-law, is to testify in a closed session to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He is sure to be asked about the dossier’s charge that campaign aides and Russian intelligence plotted and executed the hacking of Democratic Party computers.

The Trump team denies such a conspiracy.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear Wednesday from Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s summertime campaign manager, and Donald Trump Jr.

The theme: “Oversight of the Foreign Agents Registration Act and Attempts to Influence U.S. Elections: Lessons Learned from Current and Prior Administrations.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, has been investigating the dossier, its creation and its use. He has been stonewalled in his attempt to get Fusion GPS and its founder, former Wall Street Journal reporter Glenn R. Simpson, to provide information on its hiring of Mr. Steele to search for dirt on Mr. Trumpand his team.

The Russian-sourced dossier levels serious charges against at least six people, as well as a technology firm and a bank. It also asserts that Mr. Trump has had a long-term information-sharing relationship with Russian intelligence. The targeted people have all called the charges fabrications.

A scorecard:

• Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s attorney, was accused by Mr. Steele’s Russian sources of plotting with Kremlin agents in Prague to cover up the hacking. Mr. Cohen proved that he had never been to Prague and said he had nothing to do with hacking.

• Paul Manafort, accused of organizing the hacking, denies it.

• Carter Page, an energy investor who lived and worked in Moscow, signed on as a campaign volunteer. Mr. Steele’s Russian sources leveled a number of charges, including that he orchestrated the hacking with Mr. Manafort, that he met with two Kremlin figures in Moscow in July 2016 to negotiate sanctions relief and that in return he would receive a commission on the equity sale of an energy company.

Mr. Page has told The Washington Times that he has never met Mr. Manafort, that did not know about the hacking until after it happened, that he never met with the two Kremlin men and that he never discussed any type of commission.

• Mr. Trump, whom Mr. Steele accused of salacious behavior with prostitutes in the Ritz in Moscow. Mr. Trump calls the story made up.

• Aleksej Gubarev, a technology entrepreneur known for Webzilla, was accused by Mr. Steele’s Russian sources of creating a botnet to flood Democratic computers with porn and spyware.

Mr. Gubarev’s attorneys sued BuzzFeed and Mr. Steele for slander. Mr. Steele filed a document in a London court acknowledging that he did not verify the charges he leveled against Mr. Gubarev. Mr. Steele said the dossier should not have been made public nor should Fusion’s Mr. Simpson have spread it around Washington.

• Mikhail Kalugin, economics section chief at the Russian Embassy in Washington, who was whisked out of the U.S. capital after the hacking became public, according to Mr. Steele’s sources. Mr. Steele said Mr. Kalugin was a spy and was involved in laundering Russian veterans’ pension funds to finance the hacking.

Diplomatic sources told The Washington Times that Mr. Kalugin told his American friends that he planned to leave Washington a year before he departed as part of normal rotation. He is back at the Foreign Ministry, where spokespeople said he is a diplomat, and not part of the Federal Security Service, Russia’s spy agency.

A former State Department official told The Times that there was never any discussion at Foggy Bottom about Mr. Kalugin being a spy and that he was well-versed in economics.

• Alfa-Bank, which Mr. Steele’s Russian sources said paid bribes to President Vladimir Putin. The Moscow bank is suing BuzzFeed.

As a backdrop, Mr. Steele’s Kremlin sources assert that Mr. Trump and Russian intelligence have a long relationship and that dirt on Mrs. Clinton has been passed.

Mr. Comey seemed to dispel this charge when he testified before the Senate intelligence committee in June. He said that a New York Times story claiming Mr. Trump’s team had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials was almost 100 percent wrong.

Meanwhile, Mr. Page, a former Navy officer who runs an energy investment firm in New York City, has repeatedly asked the House and Senate intelligence committees to let him testify.

This week, he sent the same offering to the Senate Judiciary Committee. He complimented Mr. Grassley for his willingness to investigate how the dossier has been used to sully people’s reputations.

“First, the realities of my case can help explain why the FBI’s and intelligence community’s reliance on the 2016 ‘Dodgy Dossier’ reveals both an alarming ignorance about Russia and the willful, unlawful harassment of innocent American citizens for political purposes,” Mr. Carter wrote. “The latter represents one of the most horrendous abuses of power and complete disregard for the civil rights of several U.S. citizens, including myself, during any election in the past 50 years.”

Democrats, FBI Collaborated on Trump Smear

June 25, 2017

Democrats, FBI Collaborated on Trump Smear, Power LineJohn Hinderaker, June 25, 2017

Why was the FBI meddling in a U.S. presidential election? Partisan interference in the election by public agencies like the FBI and major news sources like NBC are far more worrisome than anything Russians allegedly might do from afar.

The FBI, too, is trying to stiff Congress’s investigation into the fake dossier:

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The New York Post has an explosive report on the infamous “dossier” that tried to smear Donald Trump in order to swing the presidential election to Hillary Clinton. The source of the dossier is a Democratic Party opposition research firm called Fusion GPS:

The Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month threatened to subpoena the firm, Fusion GPS, after it refused to answer questions and provide records to the panel identifying who financed the error-ridden dossier, which was circulated during the election and has sparked much of the Russia scandal now engulfing the White House.
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Fusion GPS was on the payroll of an unidentified Democratic ally of Clinton when it hired a long-retired British spy to dig up dirt on Trump. In 2012, Democrats hired Fusion GPS to uncover dirt on GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. And in 2015, Democrat ally Planned Parenthood retained Fusion GPS to investigate pro-life activists protesting the abortion group.

No surprise there. What is shocking is the FBI’s apparent involvement in the effort to smear Trump with false rumors:

The FBI received a copy of the Democrat-funded dossier in August, during the heat of the campaign, and is said to have contracted in October to pay Steele $50,000 to help corroborate the dirt on Trump — a relationship that “raises substantial questions about the independence” of the bureau in investigating Trump, warned Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

It raises more questions than that. Why was the FBI meddling in a U.S. presidential election? Partisan interference in the election by public agencies like the FBI and major news sources like NBC are far more worrisome than anything Russians allegedly might do from afar.

The FBI, too, is trying to stiff Congress’s investigation into the fake dossier:

Senate investigators are demanding to see records of communications between Fusion GPS and the FBI and the Justice Department, including any contacts with former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, now under congressional investigation for possibly obstructing the Hillary Clinton email probe, and deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, who is under investigation by the Senate and the Justice inspector general for failing to recuse himself despite financial and political connections to the Clinton campaign through his Democrat activist wife. Senate investigators have singled out McCabe as the FBI official who negotiated with Steele.

Like Fusion GPS, the FBI has failed to cooperate with congressional investigators seeking documents.

It appears that the Democratic Party has successfully corrupted the FBI as well as the CIA.

The FBI’s Briefing On The GOP Baseball Shooting Couldn’t Have Been More Bizarre

June 22, 2017

The FBI’s Briefing On The GOP Baseball Shooting Couldn’t Have Been More Bizarre, The Federalist, June 22, 2017

(Since the attack had nothing to do with Islam Democrat incitement to the murder of Republicans, perhaps Hodgkinson’s mother’s failure to breastfeed him caused him to feel neglected and he had to do something to become famous. Yeah. That must be it.– DM)

The FBI’s briefing appears so contrary to the facts as to be insulting. When a man with a history of hating Republicans cases a location, takes pictures, verifies the targets are Republicans before opening fire, has a list of Republican politicians in his pocket, and shoots and nearly kills Republicans, it’s hard to swallow the FBI’s contention that the shooting was “spontaneous” with “no target.” The agency should reconsider whether it wants to troll Americans about something this serious.

With trust in institutions at historic lows, and the bureaucracy beset by fears of politicization, the FBI made a poor decision to gaslight Americans by claiming that the assassination attempt wasn’t premeditated terrorism but a spontaneous “anger management” problem.

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The FBI gave an utterly bizarre update on its investigation into an attempt to assassinate Republican members of Congress. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) remains in the hospital from the attempt on his life in which two police officers and a congressional staffer were also shot. The hospital upgraded his condition to “fair” and said he faces a long recovery.

Americans may know, thanks to public social media profiles, that attempted murderer James Hodgkinson was an active Democratic activist and Bernie Sanders campaign volunteer who hated Republican members of Congress. He held membership in multiple social media groups strongly opposed to Republicans, such as “The Road to Hell Is Paved With Republicans,” “Join the Resistance Worldwide,” “Donald Trump is not my President,” “Terminate the Republican Party,” “Boycott the Republican Party,” and “Expose Republican Fraud,” among dozens of other groups. He was a voracious consumer of liberal media and believed the conspiracy theory that Donald Trump colluded with Russia to secure the White House.

The FBI admits that Hodgkinson:

  • vociferously raged against Republicans in online forums,
  • had a piece of paper bearing the names of six members of Congress,
  • was reported for doing target practice outside his home in recent months before moving to Alexandria,
  • had mapped out a trip to the DC area,
  • took multiple photos of the baseball field he would later shoot up, three days after the New York Times mentioned that Republicans practiced baseball at an Alexandria baseball field with little security,
  • lived out of his van at the YMCA directly next door to the baseball field he shot up,
  • legally purchased a rifle in March 2003 and 9 mm handgun “in November 2016,”
  • modified the rifle at some point to accept a detachable magazine and replaced the original stock with a folding stock,
  • rented a storage facility to hide hundreds of rounds of ammunition and additional rifle components,
  • asked “Is this the Republican or Democrat baseball team?” before firing on the Republicans,
  • ran a Google search for information on the “2017 Republican Convention” hours before the shooting,
  • and took photos at high-profile Washington locations, including the east front plaza of the U.S. Capitol and the Dirksen Senate Office.

We know from other reporting that the list was of six Republican Freedom Caucus members, including Rep. Mo Brooks, who was present at the practice.

So what does the FBI decide this information means? Well, the takeaway of the briefing was characterized well by the Associated Press headline about it: “FBI: Gunman who shot congressman had no target in mind.” The Associated Press reported the FBI:

  • believes the gunman “had no concrete plan to inflict violence” against Republicans,
  • “had not yet clarified who, if anyone, he planned to target, or why,”
  • believes he may have just “happened upon” the baseball game the morning of June 14, and that the attack appeared “spontaneous,”
  • are unclear on the “context” of Hodgkinson’s note with six names of members of Congress,
  • does not believe that photographs of the baseball field or other sites “represented surveillance of intended targets,” and
  • “painted a picture of a down-on-his-luck man with few future prospects.”

In fact, USA Today went with “FBI offers portrait of troubled Alexandria shooter with ‘anger management problem’” for their headline, since that’s what the FBI emphasized in the briefing.

The FBI also said there was no “nexus to terrorism” in the attempted mass assassination of Republican leadership by a Democratic activist. The claim that tourists take pictures of a a completely unremarkable baseball field in a tiny neighborhood also seems odd, particularly when the pictures were taken a few days after The New York Times reported that Republican members of Congress practice baseball there with little security. Yoenis Cespedes wrote, “As a guy who could arguably be called a reconnaissance manager when he was in the Army, this is reconnaissance.”

Oh, and here’s a little tidbit that didn’t interest many people in the media beyond a brief mention in the last paragraphs:

Hodgkinson also visited the office of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose campaign he had worked on as a volunteer, and was in email contact with the two Democratic senators from his home state.

As one Twitter wag put it, “You’d think “Congressional Shooter Visited Actual Capitol Hill Offices” would be kinda a big deal and you’d be wrong.”

I wrote last week that the media’s big problem right now is that everyone in the country knows how they’d be covering the shooting if the parties were reversed. Can you imagine if a shooter had visited the office of Sen. Ted Cruz and corresponded with two Republican senators? Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) gave emails to investigators last week but it was treated mostly as local news.

With trust in institutions at historic lows, and the bureaucracy beset by fears of politicization, the FBI made a poor decision to gaslight Americans by claiming that the assassination attempt wasn’t premeditated terrorism but a spontaneous “anger management” problem. Or, as Jason Beale put it:

Their conclusion? Just a down-on-his-luck guy. No planned target. Pix not surveillance. Names lacked context. Jobless. Nothing to see here. pic.twitter.com/8KGLvVoVyF

Finally, this is what we get when the FBI allows politics to intervene in basic investigative analysis. A defensive, PC smoke screen. END/ pic.twitter.com/aQBKUGpud2

View image on Twitter
 The FBI’s briefing appears so contrary to the facts as to be insulting. When a man with a history of hating Republicans cases a location, takes pictures, verifies the targets are Republicans before opening fire, has a list of Republican politicians in his pocket, and shoots and nearly kills Republicans, it’s hard to swallow the FBI’s contention that the shooting was “spontaneous” with “no target.” The agency should reconsider whether it wants to troll Americans about something this serious.

Obama DHS Secretary: We Offered to Help The DNC Combat Russian Hacking, They Declined

June 21, 2017

Obama DHS Secretary: We Offered to Help The DNC Combat Russian Hacking, They Declined, TownhallKatie Pavlich, June 21, 2017

(Why didn’t the DNC want help from either the FBI or the Department of Homeland Security to deal with “Russian hacking?” The then current DHS secretary can’t explain why.

The words “Seth” and “Rich” come to mind. Of course, that’s just a silly conspiracy theory. Isn’t it? Please see also, Tom Fitton gives updates on Obama Spying Scandal, Unmasking Scandal, Rep. Adam Schiff, & Seth Rich. A video posted a few days later which provided substantial information about the death of Seth Rich is “no longer available.”– DM)

Testifying in front of the House Intelligence Committee Wednesday morning, former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson revealed assistance from his department was offered to the Democrat National Committee to combat Russian hacking during the 2016 presidential election, but was rejected.

“I pressed my staff to know whether DHS was sufficiently proactive, and on the scene helping the DNC identify the intruders and patch vulnerabilities. The answer, to the best of my recollection, was not reassuring. The FBI and the DNC had been in contact with each other months before about the intrusion, and the DNC did not feel it needed DHS’s assistance at that time,” Johnson said.

Just before Election Day last year, Wikileaks published thousands of emails belonging to DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, DNC staffers, Hillary Clinton, John Podesta and other high profile Democrats. The emails showed collusion between CNN’s Donna Brazil and Hillary Clinton ahead of a presidential debate and revealed Wasserman-Schultz did her best to rig the primary system against socialist candidate Bernie Sanders.

The DNC also reportedly refused to turn over servers to the FBI, whose agents investigated the email hacking. Intelligence agencies point to Russia as the original hacks of the documents.

“The FBI repeatedly stressed to DNC officials the necessity of obtaining direct access to servers and data, only to be rebuffed until well after the initial compromise had been mitigated. These actions caused significant delays and inhibited the FBI from addressing the intrusion earlier,” CNN reported last year.

During his testimony Johnson reiterated that although the Russian government did meddle in the 2016 presidential election with a number of online propaganda campaigns, the Kremlin didn’t change votes.

For months Democrats have claimed the Russians are the biggest threat to our Democracy since the founding of the country, yet didn’t seem concerned about the threat in the aftermath of hacks. It was only when President Trump won the White House that it became a major concern.

New Lawsuits Could Determine Not Only The Legal Status Of The Comey Memos But The Legality of Comey’s Actions

June 18, 2017

New Lawsuits Could Determine Not Only The Legal Status Of The Comey Memos But The Legality of Comey’s Actions, Jonathan Turley’s Blog, Jonathan Turley, June 18, 2017

Of course, if these documents were viewed as FBI information at their creation, there remains the question on who would take the lead in investigating Comey as a possible leaker. The Justice Department [h]as cut Robert Mueller a great berth. Yet, Comey is now a witness for Mueller — as the recent leak confirmed by telling the media that Trump is now being investigated for obstruction. It is not clear if Mueller would view Comey’s possible violations are falling within the scope of his mandate or whether he would be willing to investigate his own key witness in the obstruction investigation.

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Last week, CNN filed a lawsuit seeking the famous Comey memos from the FBI, which is discussed in the column below in The Hill newspaper.  The lawsuit could produce an official characterization of the status of the memos as either personal or FBI information.  After this column was posted, Judicial Watch also filed a lawsuit seeking the memos which it maintained were the property of the FBI.  The lawsuit states “Upon learning that records have been unlawfully removed from the FBI, you then are required to initiate action through the Attorney General for the recovery of records.”  These lawsuits could prove vindicating or implicating for Comey.

Here is the column:

The lawsuit this week by CNN seeking the memoranda of former FBI director James Comey created something of a curiosity for viewers. In court, CNN is arguing that the memos are “FBI records” and should be turned over under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). On the air, CNN legal and political analysts have been insisting that these memos belong to Comey and are akin to his personal diary. The irony is that the CNN litigation could answer some of the underlying questions over the status of the memos and whether Comey was a leaker in the unauthorized dissemination of FBI information.

On Thursday, CNN filed for the release of the documents as “FBI records” in “unredacted” form and “without further delay.” There are two copies of these memos in FBI possession this week. First were the original versions created by Comey while he was FBI director. The memos were prepared on an FBI computer during the course of Comey’s investigation of the Russian matter. The memos were made in direct relation to the ongoing investigation and shared with his top staff as potentially relevant to the investigation. Second, there are the copies of the memos that were collected from Comey’s friend, Columbia Professor Daniel Richman, who received the memos from Comey to leak to the media.

I have previously written how these memos fit the broad definition of “FBI information” contained in federal rules and regulations. As such, the transfer of the memos to Richman and the sharing of the information with the media constituted a serious violation of legal and professional standards by Comey. Tasked with finding leakers, Comey became a leaker himself in order to strike back at the president.

Worse yet, Comey was fully aware that these memos would inevitably be collected as evidence by both the congressional committee and any special counsel — in addition to his own former team of investigators. Indeed, Comey was aware that he was being called to testify and could have shared these memos in a legal and professional way. Instead, he chose to use a friend to leak the memos early to the media.

CNN analysts came out immediately after Comey’s admission in his testimony, saying that first, this was not a leak because leaks are only classified (something I previously explained as entirely and facially incorrect), and second, these memos were like personal diaries that Comey had a right to disclose. Former FBI special agent Asha Rangappa on CNN balked at the suggestion of any leak as absurd because these were just Comey’s “personal recollections” like a personal diary. Others referred to the memos as being a private record or account of a private conversation.

By filing the lawsuit, CNN could force the FBI to legally identify the status of the memos. There should be multiple copies of these memos unless Comey deleted copies on his FBI computers (itself a potential violation of federal law). Each copy could be addressed in any FOIA production.

previously noted that Comey’s suggestion that these memos belonged to him (and thus could be leaked to the media) would likely not pass muster with folks at the FBI who have to make such decisions. Indeed, it would not have passed muster under FBI Director James Comey. Leakers were pursued under his tenure as FBI director, and many of those investigated may be rather perturbed by the image of someone who went from chief law enforcer to high-profile leaker when it was to his advantage.

The FBI restricts material generated in relation to investigations “FBI information.” The agreement Comey presumably signed clearly encompassed these memos as FBI material and he swore to comply with their bar on “unauthorized disclosure” — not just during his time at the FBI but “following termination of such employment.”

FBI rules cover any “documents reflecting advisory opinions, recommendations and deliberations comprising part of a process by which governmental decisions and policies are formulated.” He is not at liberty to remove such documents after termination by the FBI, let alone leak them to the media. He also agreed that violation would terminate his security clearance and subject him to both criminal and civil liability, including injunctive relief.

Weeks ago, I raised the issue of whether the FBI would have turned over these documents under FOIA if they were demanded by the media. I expressed considerable doubt over such a notion as someone who has dealt with FOIA fights with the FBI for years.

The FBI would likely deny the requests under a number of exceptions. First, it could object that the documents were “related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency,” under 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(2). Second, they could claim that they fell under  documents which are “records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes,” (assuming they fell into one or more of six categories), under 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7). Third, and most importantly, they would also likely claim that the documents were “inter-agency or intra-agency memorandum or letters” which would be privileged in civil litigation, under 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(5).

The FBI specifically would rely on the deliberative process privilege in making such a finding. It has insisted that the release of such information is harmful to “the integrity of agency decision-making by encouraging both full and frank discussions of policy proposals and to prevent premature disclosure of policies under review.”

Any of these claims would seriously undermine Comey’s suggestion (and those of many at CNN) that these were his personal notes and that he was free to leak them to the media.

It is possible that the FBI could dodge this thorny issue by releasing copies received from Richman or finding a way to finesse the status of the original memos. However, the lawsuit could prove highly illuminating on not just the legal status of the memos but the lawfulness of Comey’s conduct. He could be vindicated or implicated by the results. On one end of the spectrum is the suggestion by many that these memos are like diary entries by Comey.

As I have said before, that seems rather hard to square and treats the account like some eHarmony date gone bad (with awkward dinners and uncomfortable silences). On the other end of the spectrum are field reports, often called 302s, where agents memorialize meetings with potential witnesses or important discoveries. This clearly falls somewhere in the middle.

Of course, if these documents were viewed as FBI information at their creation, there remains the question on who would take the lead in investigating Comey as a possible leaker. The Justice Department as cut Robert Mueller a great berth. Yet, Comey is now a witness for Mueller — as the recent leak confirmed by telling the media that Trump is now being investigated for obstruction. It is not clear if Mueller would view Comey’s possible violations are falling within the scope of his mandate or whether he would be willing to investigate his own key witness in the obstruction investigation.

Ironically, Comey may have preferred for this to remain somewhere in the middle — undefined and uncertain. CNN could have just taken a critical step toward removing that ambiguity by forcing the FBI to classify the status of the documents. It is the type of clarity that could prove exceptionally helpful or harmful for James Comey.

Congressional Hearings and Witch-Hunts

June 13, 2017

Congressional Hearings and Witch-Hunts, Front Page MagazineBruce Thornton, June 13, 2017

America’s longest running soap opera is not General Hospital. It’s the Congressional Hearing, usually a venue for pontificating, show-boating, histrionics, preening for the cameras, insulting political enemies, and accomplishing little of value. Meanwhile the real work of the Republic either gets neglected or proceeds in silence at a glacial pace.

James Comey was the star of last week’s latest episode of the eternal DC soap. The one-time FBI director stayed true to his character, preening morally, striking Boy Scout poses, indulging faux-folksy interjections like “Lordy,” pretending to be sober and judicious, but all the while revealing the instincts of a bureaucratic cartel sicaria. He was obviously thirsting for revenge against the hated DC outsider and “liar” who unceremoniously fired him, so much so that he admitted to cowardice on multiple occasions, from failing to immediately confront Trump over his supposed sinister “direction” (Comey’s translation of Trump’s “hope”) that Mike Flynn get let off the hook; to his groveling obedience to AG Loretta Lynch’s politicized, justice-obstructing order to call the investigation into Hillary Clinton a “matter.” He displayed a brazen arrogance in admitting to leaking a memo, written in his professional capacity, to the New York Times through a cut-out, perhaps one of numerous other leaks emanating from this self-proclaimed pillar of professional rectitude even before he was fired.

So we got a few more details about a man we already knew was a publicity hound and power -hungry operator. But that portrait was painted back in July of last year, when Comey publicly laid out the predicates for an indictment of Hillary Clinton, then usurped the authority of the AG to let Hillary (and Loretta “Tarmac” Lynch) off the hook based on a legally irrelevant consideration of “intent.” The only thing interesting last week was watching how far Comey would debase himself to square the many duplicitous circles he had spun over the last few years.

Great fun for political junkies, but what useful purpose will be served by that spectacle? The media are happy, since they get free programming and more chum for their talking heads. They’re celebrating the 19 million viewers who supposedly tuned in, though that sum represents a little more than 10% of registered voters. Normal citizens were working their jobs and tending to their lives. From their perspective, the drama inside the Beltway cocoon is bureaucratic white noise. If they think about it at all, it’s to wonder whether the guilty leakers will be hunted down and punished, or just be “investigated” for months and months and then, like Hillary, given a pass. And Hillary is just one of numerous miscreants that need exposing and punishing for their corruption of the public trust in order to serve their political preferences or careerist ambitions.

Don’t hold your breath. More likely we’ll see a repeat of the 2003 Valery Plame inquisition, that ginned-up crisis about the illegal “exposure” of an alleged “covert” CIA agent. By the time it was all finished, Comey’s buddy Patrick Fitzgerald who, despite knowing the true identity of the leaker, like some low-rent Javert for three years hounded White House staffers until Lewis “Scooter” Libby was questionably convicted of four crimes. So fat chance the biggest offender of all, Hillary Clinton, will ever answer for putting national security at risk and treating the State Department like an ATM. Some small-fry staffers might get caught in the net, but the whales will just swim right through.

What’s really maddening, though, is that we’re into the second year of Trump’s critics still being infuriated by his style, even as they ignore or downplay the much grosser offenses of numerous Democrats. Much of the whole “Russia collusion” fantasy has been generated by Trump’s refusal to abide by the media and establishment-created protocols presidents are supposed to follow. Republican Trump critics are just as bad, still not figuring out that their fealty to exalted “protocols” and good taste are just what energized ordinary citizens, those folks grown sick of bipartisan elites who seemed to have more in common with each other than with the people they’re supposed to represent.

So, for example, we hear once again from the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan––who seems bent on spending the rest of her career playing Margaret Dumont to Trump’s Groucho Marx––whining about Trump’s asking Comey for “loyalty.” “Presidents don’t lean on FBI chiefs in this way,” Noonan sniffed. “It is at odds with traditional boundaries, understandings and protocols.” Really? Sez who? LBJ probably applied worse pressure than that before lunch every day. And few presidents “leaned on” J. Edgar Hoover only because the G-man had some pretty thick files on them.

As for “traditional boundaries, understandings and protocols,” where do they come from? Andrew Jackson? Political decorum and comity are good things, but in democratic politics they usually serve as gate-keepers separating the elites from their clients. They also are camouflage for disguising collusion or incompetence or inaction. They’re just the air-freshener for the political sausage factory. What matters is getting the sausage made.

But the only rule-book that matters is the Constitution. And it says a president can fire any executive employee, including the head of the FBI, any way he wants and for any reason he sees fit. The FBI is a federal agency, not a separate arm of the government, answerable to the Chief Executive, who, unlike Comey or Lynch, is directly answerable to the sovereign people. If they’re unhappy with the president’s tweets or brashness or actions, they’ll let him and his party know at the ballot box.

And that’s what’s objectionable about these opera-buffa “hearings.” The media and politicians are obsessing over superficial issues of presidential style, progressive fake news, and he-said-he-said squabbles, while the real work that needs to get done is being neglected. And Obama left behind some huge messes that Trump promised to clean up. We don’t need “hearings” about Russian interference in the election. That’s a dog-bites-man story. Just shoot the dog by increasing cyber-security, and stop talking about it. We don’t need hearings about alleged “Russian collusion” with the Trump campaign. Just shut up, investigate, and if necessary charge, prosecute, and convict the guilty. Ditto with the federal agencies leaking like a colander, the only substantive story in the Trump-and-Comey puppet show.

All of us need to get focused and hold the politicians’ feet to the fire and to make them deliver the changes necessary for restoring economic growth, reforming our broken health-care system, and straightening out our Kafkaesque tax code. These are hard problems with harder solutions, but they won’t get fixed if Congress is off mugging for television cameras or taking the whole month of August off.

Many Congressmen assure us that they are hard at work below the media’s radar. I hope that’s true, because if the Republicans and Trump fail to deliver on his promises with substantial change, we might see in our country a reprise of what just happened in England’s snap election, where a hard-left buffoon perhaps fatally wounded the Tories’ government. Trump promised to win so much the people will get sick of winning. He’d better make it happen, or else the people who put him in office will get sick of him. And our own country has plenty of hard-left buffoons itching to take his place.