Justice Department releases FISA warrant applications on Carter Page

My quick analysis:
400-something pages, mostly redactions, and the rest mostly boilerplate that gets repeated from application to application.
Still, what’s left is interesting. And, naturally, the documents make complete nonsense of the conspiracy theory Devin Nunes and his House Intelligence Committee Republican colleagues have been pushing.
Everything about the Steele Dossier – including Steele’s decision to talk to the press just before the election – was fully revealed to the court, and there was plenty of non-Dossier support for the idea that Page was acting as a Russian agent. Moreover, the extension applications continue to recite that the Bureau believes “Source 1’s” (that is, Steele’s) “reporting herein to be credible.” If the wiretaps conducted under the warrant had in any way disconfirmed Steele’s material, the Bureau could hardly continue to recite that Steele’s reporting was credible.
First application in October 2016, extended January, April, July. (90 days is the limit for a FISA warrant; an extension requires a new application.
Each application is signed by the FBI Director and the Attorney General (or substitute after the Sessions recusal). October and January applications are signed by Sally Yates as AG.
Last two are signed by Boente (April) and Rosenstein (July). Comey signs as FBI Director the first three times; Wray signs in July.
[Footnote: I was close to the parallel process for wiretap applications, requiring sign-off by an Assistant Attorney General. That was taken enormously seriously, the signature was not a rubber stamp. Each application was read in detail by someone on the AAG’s personal staff, and more than one application was sent back or refused outright. Hard to believe FISA applications aren’t taken comparably seriously.]
Presumably much of the redaction is about the product; every extension has to show that the previous 90 days were productive. The Times counted pages: 66 pages  in the original, while the extensions counted 79 pages, 91 pages and 101 pages, suggesting that there was significant product. But that was already clear from the fact that the extensions were requested and granted. Courts frown on continuing to drill dry holes.
Basis of the first application was the FBI belief that Page was “collaborating and conspiring with the Russian Government” and that “the Russian Government’s efforts [to mess with the campaign] were coordinated with Page and perhaps other individuals associated with Candidate 1 [Trump]
Can you say “No collusion”? I was sure that you could.
Update: Leah McElrath points out that this assertion – like the assertion of the reliability of Steele’s reporting – is repeated verbatim in the three extension applications, which it couldn’t be if the wiretaps had failed to confirm it. More detail from Twitter account @PwnAllTheThings.
The application recites that Carter was a knowing intelligence agent, recruited by three named SVR officers acting under Non-Official Cover, one of whom, Buryakov, was arrested in January 2015 and pleaded guilty to a violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) by acting as an unregistered foreign agent in May 2016, getting 30 months.
Page’s mission is said to have been “clandestine intelligence activities (other than intelligence gathering activities).” If that applied to Buryakov, that might explain why he was charged with a FARA violation rather than the more serious charge of espionage.
Comic relief: In February, 2017, Page asks the Voting Rights Section of the Civil Rights Division to investigate whether the Clinton campaign had engaged in “severe election fraud”  involving “disinformation, suppression of dissent, hate crimes, and other extensive abuses” by saying mean things about Page.
Conclusion: The warrant was issued on the basis of the FBI’s belief that Carter Page, a Trump adviser, was knowingly working for the Russians, and that other Trump campaign personnel might be doing the same. It was then extended three times, strongly suggesting that the taps yielded, and continued to yield, valuable counterintelligence. And the terms of those extension applications strongly suggest that the Steele Dossier, and the claim that Page was conspiring with Russia to help Trump, kept looking good.
It gets harder and harder to credit the good faith of anyone who still insists that there is doubt that Russia, as a matter of national policy, interfered with the 2016 election to secure victory for its favored candidate, and that at least one Trump campaign official knowingly helped.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

9 thoughts on “Justice Department releases FISA warrant applications on Carter Page”

  1. The media typically examines the question of whether Trump, himself, colluded with the Russians by focusing on various points in time during the 2016 campaign. However, this overlooks the concept of "accessory after the fact." See 18 U.S.C. § 3 ("Whoever, knowing that an offense against the United States has been committed, receives, relieves, comforts or assists the offender in order to hinder or prevent his apprehension, trial or punishment, is an accessory after the fact.")

    It can be reasonably argued that Trump, in 2017, committed this offense. Thus, he has already committed this crime. However, imagine the following: An indictment against Trump, Jr., Manafort, and Jared centering around the Trump Tower meeting. In reaction, Trump dismisses Rosenstein and dissolves the office of the special prosecutor. At that point, we're squarely within accessory after the fact territory.

  2. It’s pretty amazing how the FBI has all this credibility with liberals all of a sudden. For my part, I’m waiting to see what they can prove in court, assuming they don’t just intimidate everyone into plea bargains and we never learn the whole story. I want to see some reporting by some old time liberal FBI-skeptics.

    1. Who in particular are the "old time liberal FBI-skeptics" you refer to? And rather than just name names, what specific cases/situations were they skeptical of? If you have to go back to the Hoover/MLKing days, I'd say you were just whataboutting.

  3. Sure, I'd be talking about the ones who exposed COINTELPRO. And the FBI culture hasn't changed dramatically, except that they are under stricter oversight now. But I suspect they are still basically a right-wing, hypervigilant, statist establishment prosecutorial culture that plays fast and loose with the Fourth Amendment in their surveillance of Muslims and black activists, for example. It's not hard to imagine that in Trump what they primarily feared was his unpredictability as an outsider who would not go along with the status quo. I doubt they were much bothered by his racism and sexism, though.

    1. It's not hard to imagine that in Trump what they primarily feared was his unpredictability as an outsider the many pieces of interlocking evidence that he's a Russian asset

      Geezus, Unka Aajax. You keep on telling us you hate Twitler as much as the next guy, but we keep finding you with the guy's yearbook picture in your Trapper Keeper.

  4. It is an outrage that those Deep State federal judges signed off on FISA warrants to investigate Carter Page before he had been proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, dontcha think?

    This is my understanding of what Trump supporters are upset about.

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