The FBI Seems To Be Leaking Like A Sieve Concerning Details Of Clinton Email Invesgitation
from the aren't-they-supposed-to-keep-this-stuff-secret? dept
Okay, look, let’s face the fact that any time we write about anything having to do with either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, people in the comments go nuts accusing us of being “in the tank,” or “shills.” or even (really) “up the ass” of one candidate or the other (and, yes, this has happened with both of the major party candidates). I’m assuming it will happen again with this post, even though it’s not true. As should be abundantly clear, we’re not big fans of either choice (and don’t get us started on the third parties…). So when we talk about one, the other (or even both together), it’s not because we’re “biased” or trying to help or hurt one or the other. We’re just doing the same thing we always do, and which we never had a problem with before, which is reporting on policy related issues having to do with technology, free speech, the 4th amendment, law enforcement, etc. So, before you rush in to yell at us in the comments, please consider that maybe just because we’re not toeing the party line on your preferred candidate, maybe it’s not because we’re in the tank for the other one.
Anyway… I know there’s been plenty of discussion going on about FBI Director Jim Comey’s letter from last week to members of Congress about the state of the Clinton email investigation, which happened due to discoveries during the unrelated investigation into Anthony Weiner’s apparent sexting. We also explored the questionable nature of Comey’s actions based on the law and previous precedent (though we also mocked both Republicans and Democrats who seemed to completely flip flop their praise/hatred of Comey from the July announcement about not enough evidence against Clinton to Friday’s announcement). That one really set off some people, despite our reporting on Comey’s questionable behavior in office dates way back to basically when he first got the job.
But here’s the thing that got me. Comey’s letter on Friday had basically no details at all. Here’s what it said again:
In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation. I am writing to inform you that the investigative team briefed me on this yesterday, and I agreed that the FBI should take appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation.
Although the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant, and I cannot predict how long it will take us to complete this additional work, I believe it is important to update your Committees about our efforts in light of my previous testimony.
There’s very little actual information in those two short paragraphs. Almost none, in fact. And yet, we now know a ton about what’s going on, including all of the following:
- The “unrelated investigation” is the investigation into Anthony Weiner for allegedly sexting an underage girl.
- The emails that the FBI found were on “a device” or “devices” that belonged to Weiner and/or his estranged wife/Clinton aide Huma Abedin
- The FBI actually found these emails months ago, but didn’t tell Comey until last Thursday.
- The FBI hadn’t actually read the emails because it didn’t have a warrant
- The FBI got a warrant over the weekend.
- It is not believed the emails in question were directly from Clinton
- Before sending a letter Comey sent an internal memo to FBI staff about his decision
- Many in the DOJ are upset about Comey sending the letter
Whether or not you believe that list or not — or whether or not you think there are other things on that list — what’s striking to me is just how much information is easily leaking out of the FBI about a criminal investigation, especially when that investigation is supposedly, in part, about whether or not Clinton’s ridiculously negligent handling of sensitive information may have been revealed to hostile parties. Doesn’t it seem the least bit bizarre that the FBI, in an investigation about sensitive information, can’t seem to help but leak basically all of the relevant details on an investigation?
There are, really, two issues here. Given how much of this information leaked, almost all of it within hours of the letter being made public, why didn’t Comey and the FBI just come out and say all of this in the first place? The second, is how the hell can the FBI — the very same FBI that frequently refuses to comment about “ongoing investigations” — have any credibility in the future when it refuses to comment on other ongoing investigations. Not only did Comey comment in a way he knew would be made public, the FBI had no problem leaking basically all of the details.
I thank James Comey for giving reporters an epic comeback to whenever the bureau tells us they won't comment on an ongoing investigation.
— Spencer Ackerman (@attackerman) October 31, 2016
Everything about how this went down is bizarre, but the most bizarre part — which seems to be getting the least attention — is that the FBI seems to have no problem at all selectively leaking a ton of information about an ongoing investigation when it suddenly wants to do so, despite the fact that it regularly refuses to do so in all sorts of other cases. I don’t put much stock in the claim, making the rounds, that the FBI deliberately refused to take part in the administration’s decision to claim that Russia was behind various hacks, by arguing that it was “too close to the election,” but we do know of plenty of historical cases where the FBI refuses to comment publicly on investigations or reveal any information at all. So why is it leaking like a sieve this time around?