The much awaited Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) report, conducted by Inspector General Michael Horowitz, was released today. It finds that the FBI would not have had enough claimed evidence to secretly surveil former Trump aide Carter Page, and thus the Trump 2016 campaign, without using a “dossier” of opposition research funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign.
In 2016, after Page left the Trump campaign, the FBI asked the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) for a warrant to secretly surveil Page. The FBI said it was concerned that Page had ties with the Kremlin in Russia, but their only confirmation of these allegations came from former British intelligence officer Steele.
Steele authored the “dossier” that alleged ties between President Trump and Russia. Steele was hired by Fusion GPS, a research group that received funding from a law firm representing Hillary Clinton’s campaign as well as the Democratic National Committee. Suspicious much?
The newly released FISA report confirms that the FBI would not have been able to spy on Page if it weren’t for Steele’s allegations.
“Nevertheless, we found that members of the [counterintelligence] team failed to meet the basic obligation to ensure that the Carter Page FISA applications were ‘scrupulously accurate,'” the report reads. This is because the counterintelligence team used unverified hearsay from Steele — and only the information from Steele — as evidence to justify eavesdropping.
In November 2017, a British top national security official warned U.S. officials in a memo that Steele should not be trusted. This information was originally published by The Hill, corroborated by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), and mentioned in a filing by Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s lawyers. Yet the FBI subsequently applied for two more reauthorizations of their surveillance of Page.
Despite the lack of credible information to apply for a FISA warrant at the outset, the FBI counterintelligence team went forward with their original filing anyways. They filed four total requests to the FISC to surveil Page, because when a wiretap targets a U.S. citizen, it must be renewed every 90 days as secret surveillance without evidence of a crime directly infringes on Americans’ civil liberties.
In the report, Horowitz’s team also says there were significant inaccuracies and omissions in the four FBI surveillance applications to the secret court.
“We identified significant inaccuracies and omissions in each of the four applications – 7 in the first FISA application and a total of 17 by the final renewal application,” the report says.
In April 2017, Page told the Justice Department, under oath, that his meetings in Moscow had no connection to the election. Yet the FBI filed its third and fourth FISA warrant applications after that point and continued to surveil him.
While the newly released FISA report says investigators did not find evidence of an overt political bias or improper motivation in the FBI’s decision to surveil Page, it is clear they started this investigation on false pretenses and knew long before the special counsel report or the FISA report that the grounds for surveilling Page were shaky at best.