Law & the Courts

FBI Failed to Inform FISA Court that Steele Dossier was Unreliable: Report

FBI Director Christopher Wray waits to testify before a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on threats to the homeland on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. November 5, 2019. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

The Justice Department’s inspector general has concluded that the FBI omitted crucial details in its requests for warrants to surveil Trump campaign associate Carter Page, saying the agency neglected to mention that some of the information the warrant applications were based on was shaky.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s yet unpublished draft report found that the FBI did not inform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that the controversial Steele dossier, cited in applications to spy on Page, was unreliable, according to the Washington Post.

The dossier was compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele who was investigating Donald Trump for an opposition research firm hired by the Hillary Clinton campaign. The dossier purported to show connections between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

The FBI found Steele’s information about a Russian government connection to be dubious but declined to mention as much in the later applications to the FISA court for warrants to surveil Page.

Horowitz also found that an FBI lawyer doctored an email used in the warrant application, a potential crime prosecutors are now investigating.

However, the inspector general did not say the FISA court should have declined to grant the warrants and nevertheless concluded that political bias did not compromise the FBI’s handling of the Russia investigation.

Attorney General William Barr has reportedly said privately that he disagrees with the inspector general that FBI had enough information in July, 2016 to justify opening an investigation into members of the Trump campaign.

“I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal. It’s a big deal,” Barr said in April. “Frankly, to the extent that there were any issues at the FBI, I do not view it as a problem that’s endemic to the FBI. I think there was probably a failure among a group of leaders there in the upper echelon.”

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