FBI broke own rules to spy on Trump cam­paign

Re­cruited ‘con­fi­den­tial hu­man source’ as plant

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

The FBI’s own guide­lines re­strict the de­ploy­ment of in­for­mants to spy on Amer­i­cans, such as the bureau’s de­ci­sion to plant a hu­man source among Don­ald Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign aides.

The cau­tion­ary reg­u­la­tion is con­tained in the FBI’s nearly 700-page Do­mes­tic In­ves­ti­ga­tions and Op­er­a­tions Guide. The re­stric­tions are prompt­ing na­tional se­cu­rity an­a­lysts to say the FBI should have heeded its own rule­book, which en­cour­ages al­ter­na­tives to hu­man spies in any in­ves­ti­ga­tion, much less one into a pres­i­den­tial po­lit­i­cal cam­paign.

The FBI should have fo­cused, they say, on Rus­sian agents who were med­dling in the elec­tion by hack­ing com­put­ers and by spew­ing false in­for­ma­tion on so­cial me­dia.

In­stead, the bureau, dur­ing Pres­i­dent Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, took the mo­men­tous step of re­cruit­ing a na­tional se­cu­rity aca­demic, Ste­fan Halper, to spy on Trump as­so­ci­ates by strik­ing up what seemed to be in­no­cent pro­fes­sional con­tacts.

Mr. Halper was a “con­fi­den­tial hu­man source,” an of­fi­cial cat­e­gory of spy that is reg­u­lated by the FBI’s do­mes­tic in­ves­ti­ga­tions di­rec­tive. The FBI com­pleted an up­dated doc­u­ment in 2013 and posted on­line a redacted ver­sion in 2016.

Hu­man sources are reg­u­lated un­der a pro­gram called “Oth­er­wise Il­le­gal Ac­tiv­ity,” or OIA. It is called “oth­er­wise il­le­gal” be­cause spy­ing on Amer­i­cans would be against the law if, as the pol­icy says, the spy­ing is “en­gaged in by a per­son act­ing with­out au­tho­riza­tion.”

Thus, the pro­to­col says the con­fi­den­tial in­for­mant must be ap­proved by the Jus­tice Depart­ment, mean­ing an Obama po­lit­i­cal appointee might have given the go-ahead in sum­mer 2016.

The guide­line says a hu­man source should be used only in lim­ited cir­cum­stances, which in­cludes “when that in­for­ma­tion or ev­i­dence is not rea­son­ably avail­able with­out par­tic­i­pa­tion in the OIA.”

The rules also say that “oth­er­wise il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity” should be “lim­ited or min­i­mized in scope to only that which is rea­son­ably necessary.”

A U.S. of­fi­cial told The Wash­ing­ton Times that the bureau should have tar­geted Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials first to de­ter­mine whether there was ev­i­dence that they were con­tact­ing or col­lud­ing with Trump peo­ple be­fore au­tho­riz­ing do­mes­tic spy­ing by what the source called an “agent provo­ca­teur.”

John Dowd, Pres­i­dent Trump’s for­mer de­fense coun­sel, said the FBI had a duty to no­tify, not spy on, Trump peo­ple.

“If you are con­cerned that the Rus­sians are try­ing to pen­e­trate a cam­paign or med­dle with the elec­tion cam­paign process, you in­clude the can­di­dates and their top se­cu­rity pro­fes­sion­als in that ef­fort,” Mr. Dowd told The Times.

Obama Jus­tice Depart­ment of­fi­cials con­sid­ered in­form­ing the Trump cam­paign that it was the tar­get of Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence but opted not to, ac­cord­ing to the fi­nal ma­jor­ity Repub­li­can re­port from the House Per­ma­nent Se­lect Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence.

The com­mit­tee re­port rec­om­mended: “When con­sis­tent with na­tional se­cu­rity, the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity should im­me­di­ately in­form U.S. pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates when it dis­cov­ers a le­git­i­mate counter-in­tel­li­gence threat to the cam­paign, and promptly no­tify Congress.”

J.D. Gor­don, a for­mer Pen­tagon spokesman and Trump cam­paign na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, re­jected Democrats’ ar­gu­ments that the FBI in­for­mant was pro­tect­ing the Repub­li­can can­di­date.

“Obama as­so­ci­ates are mis­lead­ing Amer­i­cans about FBI sur­veil­lance of the Trump cam­paign,” he said. “If the FBI merely wanted to ‘pro­tect’ the cam­paign and avoid tip­ping off the Rus­sians, as we’re be­ing told, they should have in­formed Mr. Trump of spe­cific al­le­ga­tions about sus­pected in­di­vid­u­als be­fore the sur­veil­lance be­gan. Fail­ing that, it looks like one large sting-and-smear oper­a­tion against the en­tire cam­paign, in­clud­ing Mr. Trump.”

Bri­tish spy con­nec­tion

James B. Comey, whom Mr. Trump fired as FBI direc­tor in May 2017, tweeted a de­fense of us­ing a hu­man source. Mr. Halper’s role was ap­proved un­der Mr. Comey’s watch.

“Facts mat­ter,” Mr. Comey tweeted. “The FBI’s use of Con­fi­den­tial Hu­man Sources (the ac­tual term) is tightly reg­u­lated and es­sen­tial to pro­tect­ing the coun­try. At­tacks on the FBI and ly­ing about its work will do last­ing dam­age to our coun­try. How will Repub­li­cans ex­plain this to their grand­chil­dren?”

Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Repub­li­can, is the point man for the House Per­ma­nent Se­lect Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence for ex­am­in­ing classified doc­u­ments about the spy­ing.

He told CBS News that the dis­clo­sures show the FBI was in­ves­ti­gat­ing Rus­sian in­flu­ence and not mon­i­tor­ing the cam­paign. His as­sess­ment is a break from those of a num­ber of other con­ser­va­tives who ridicule the no­tion that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion wasn’t spy­ing on a can­di­date whom Mr. Obama was work­ing to de­feat.

Mr. Halper is a long­time Repub­li­can-con­nected scholar who has performed classified work for the U.S. in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity and is tied to Bri­tain’s spy ser­vice, MI6, through for­mer direc­tor Richard Dearlove. They are part­ners in the in­tel­li­gence con­sul­tancy Cam­bridge Se­cu­rity Ini­tia­tive.

An­other MI6 link to the Trump-Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion is for­mer spy Christo­pher Steele. With fund­ing from the Hil­lary Clin­ton cam­paign and the Demo­cratic Party, Mr. Steele wrote an anti-Trump dossier and fed his Krem­lin­sourced in­for­ma­tion to the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment and the FBI.

Mr. Halper, who op­posed Mr. Trump’s elec­tion and en­dorsed Mrs. Clin­ton, tar­geted at least two Trump volunteers: Carter Page and Ge­orge Pa­padopou­los.

He first en­coun­tered Mr. Page at a conference in Cam­bridge, Eng­land, af­ter the vol­un­teer spent a few days in Moscow in early July 2016 dur­ing which he de­liv­ered a pub­lic com­mence­ment speech.

Mr. Halper also made a num­ber of con­tacts with Pa­padopou­los and paid him for a re­search pa­per, ac­cord­ing to re­port­ing by The Daily Caller.

Pa­padopou­los was un­der FBI scru­tiny for mak­ing con­tacts with Rus­sian-con­nected peo­ple in an ef­fort to ar­range a Trump-Krem­lin meet­ing, which never hap­pened. He has pleaded guilty to ly­ing to the FBI about when he joined the Trump cam­paign and his meet­ing with a Moscow-linked pro­fes­sor from Malta.

The pro­fes­sor told him he heard that the Krem­lin owned thou­sands of Clin­ton emails, an ap­par­ent ref­er­ence to the 33,000 mes­sages she or­dered de­stroyed by her law firm be­fore in­ves­ti­ga­tors could ac­quire them.

Pa­padopou­los has not been charged in any con­spir­acy. Mr. Page has de­nied un­der oath any wrong­do­ing and has not been charged.

What role the Steele dossier played in the FBI’s de­ci­sion to ac­ti­vate Mr. Halper is un­clear. Mr. Steele be­gan feed­ing dossier charges to the bureau in July 2016.

The FBI planned to pay Mr. Steele $50,000 to con­tinue in­ves­ti­gat­ing Mr. Trump, but the agency fired him af­ter he went to Mother Jones mag­a­zine with his story of TrumpRus­sia col­lu­sion.

Be­fore Mr. Steele’s fir­ing, the FBI em­braced his re­port­ing and used it as the bulk of its ev­i­dence to ob­tain a court or­der for wire­tap­ping and sur­veil­lance of Mr. Page, an en­ergy investor who once lived in Moscow.

The bureau re­lied heav­ily on the dossier to ob­tain three war­rant re­newals from a judge, tak­ing the sur­veil­lance into the fall last year, long af­ter Mr. Page had left the cam­paign in which he played a mi­nor role and never spoke with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Steele re­ported an “ex­ten­sive con­spir­acy.” To date, none of his col­lu­sion charges has been proved pub­licly. Trump peo­ple named in the dossier have called it a work of fic­tion.


FBI guide­lines say a hu­man source should be used only in lim­ited cir­cum­stances, which in­cludes “when that in­for­ma­tion or ev­i­dence is not rea­son­ably avail­able with­out par­tic­i­pa­tion in” oth­er­wise il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity.

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