Breaking With 30 Years Of Traditional Opacity, DOJ Releases FISA Warrant Applications For Surveillance Of Carter Page

from the FOIA-ACHIEVEMENT-UNLOCKED dept

The Trump Administration can claim a historic first, even though it would probably rather not do so. As the result of multiple FOIA lawsuits — whose arguments were strengthened by Trump’s tweets and statements from the House Intelligence community — the DOJ has released a stack of FISA warrant applications. This has never happened in the 30-year existence of the FISA court.

The 412-page document [PDF] (which is actually four warrant applications and their accompanying court orders) detail the FBI’s surveillance of Carter Page, alleged agent of a foreign power. The affidavits detail Page’s connections to Russia, as well as the FBI’s reliance on contested Steele dossier to build its case.

There are a lot of redactions that obscure Page’s ties to Russian government officials, intelligence officers, and business owners, but there’s enough left out in the open to draw some inferences. What’s most interesting about the warrant applications is how often they rebut assertions made by Devin Nunes and his supposedly-damning memo.

Nunes portrayed this investigation as an abuse of surveillance powers to spy on the Trump campaign. Unfortunately for this member of the Intelligence Oversight Committee, the documents make it clear surveillance of Page didn’t begin until after he had left his position as an adviser to Trump.

That doesn’t mean Trump is off the hook in terms of collusion. The documents also refer to other members of Trump’s campaign team “perhaps” being involved with Russian officials and intelligence services during the campaign.

The affidavits also undercut Nunes’ and Trump’s claims the FBI misled the FISA court about the origins of the Steele Dossier. Both claimed the FBI did not disclose the fact this dossier had been funded by Trump’s political opponents. Footnotes attached to the very first warrant request expressly state Steele (“Source #1”) had been hired by to dig up dirt on Trump’s Russian connections by an outside law firm.

Source #1, who now owns a foreign business/financial intelligence firm, was approached by an identified U.S. person, who indicated to Source #1 that a U.S.-base law firm had hired the identified U.S. person to conduct research regarding Candidate #1’s ties to Russia… The identified U.S. person hired Source #1 to conduct this research… The FBI speculates that the identified U.S. person was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit Candidate #1’s campaign.

Unfortunately, a majority of the truly interesting stuff is redacted. We don’t have many details about Page’s involvement with Russian powers or what other criminal acts the FBI suspected he was engaged in. There’s no unredacted discussion of the surveillance tactics deployed or how many non-targets may have been swept up in the FBI’s intercepts. What is left unredacted is only enough to see how many Russian officials Page had access to and how they used him (one instance is left unredacted) to influence Trump’s Russia-directed statements during the election campaign.

Does this mean we’ll see more FISA surveillance applications released in the future? It seems doubtful. There aren’t any others that have received so much public discussion from high-ranking government officials — the very thing that undercut the DOJ’s attempt to Glomar its way out of producing documents. This investigation is different. It has direct ties to the current president — another high-ranking official who couldn’t stop talking about the FISA affidavits the DOJ kept refusing to acknowledge existed. It’s good these have been made public and it may eventually lead to even more transparency from the nation’s most-secretive court. But this has the feel of an anomaly — the byproduct of a highly-anomalous presidency.

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Comments on “Breaking With 30 Years Of Traditional Opacity, DOJ Releases FISA Warrant Applications For Surveillance Of Carter Page”

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74 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

"Well, if you insist..."

Nunes portrayed this investigation as an abuse of surveillance powers to spy on the Trump campaign. Unfortunately for this member of the Intelligence Oversight Committee, the documents make it clear surveillance of Page didn’t begin until after he had left his position as an adviser to Trump.

The affidavits also undercut Nunes’ and Trump’s claims the FBI misled the FISA court about the origins of the Steele Dossier. Both claimed the FBI did not disclose the fact this dossier had been funded by Trump’s political opponents. Footnotes attached to the very first warrant request expressly state Steele ("Source #1") had been hired by to dig up dirt on Trump’s Russian connections by an outside law firm.

If Nunes is capable of self-reflection I imagine he must be feeling pretty stupid right about now. Releases a ‘damning’ memo(based on something he later admitted he didn’t read just to amp up the hilarity), DoJ responds by releasing warrant applications that completely undermine key arguments in said memo.

Should have just kept his mouth shut.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: "Well, if you insist..."

If Nunes is capable of self-reflection

He isn’t.

Releases a ‘damning’ memo(based on something he later admitted he didn’t read just to amp up the hilarity), DoJ responds by releasing warrant applications that completely undermine key arguments in said memo.

I’m not sure that it matters. Nunes got what he wanted: he stirred up FUD; it was reported on Fox News. His intention was to further the narrative, among people who are already supportive of President Trump, that the Mueller investigation is a witch hunt. He achieved that goal.

Personanongrata says:

Re: Re: Dossier

The information in that dossier wasn’t blindly accepted, it was checked and verified. And it wasn’t contentious when they started examining it.

What are you typing about?

The information in that dossier was never checked and verified.

If the innuendo, rumor, gossip found within the dossier was verified Trump would not be the President of the United States today.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Except that’s exactly what they did. The information wasn’t independently verified. Someone knew enough to use a source trusted by the FBI, so they wouldn’t need to verify it for the warrant.

Notice how the requesting agent’s name is redacted? Wouldn’t it just be neat if he was the same agent who said they’d stop Trump from becoming President?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

It also says, as pointed out by steell in a comment below, that they corroborated the initial claims via multiple, independent sources other that Steele’s dossier in later warrant applications(that the specifics are redacted doesn’t really matter, as both the use of Steele’s intel and the multiple corroborating sources are unredacted, such that you can’t honestly use one to bolster your case and dismiss the other without engaing in some pretty blatant cherry-picking). Would you care to argue that all of those should be dismissed as well?

Regardless, you comment has what to do with my point? Steele was considered a trustworthy source based upon past experience between him and various agencies. Based upon this and the severity of the potential actions they asked for and received multiple warrants in order to investigate those claims, as any even remotely competent intel/investigation agency would do.

Now, flipping it around for a second, since you seem to have a serious problem with what the FBI did here, exactly what do you think they should have done upon being given raw intel from a historically trustworthy source indicating that a presidential candidate was potentially compromised by a foreign government? What should their response to that have been from your position?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Corroborated by other sources…in further warrant applications has nothing to do with the initial application. And the initial application is the one that matters most.

Not to mention the fact that any corroboration look to have been different sources, all using the same basis (the dossier, or leaks about it)

If you were the DNC, and knew you had, at the least, receptive agents on the FBI, who would you use to create a dossier? By using a “trusted” source, they knew there wouldn’t be any verification. It allows them to use almost circular verification, with one document/source supporting the other, but none of it actually verified.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

So no actual response to the points raised and the question asked, just more ducking and dodging. Yeah, sadly that’s pretty much exactly what I expected after reading your other comments.

Get back to me when you’re interested in an actual conversation, rather than wasting time just repeating the same claims over and over again.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

They should be made to eat their own cooking
What is good for the goose is good for the gander
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

I’m sure there are many more of these but you get the drift – right? Cops do not even need probable cause to search your body cavities as they simply make up their own laws, perhaps it would be a good thing if people of influence were to experience the same thing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I see. So they should’ve just left it unverified?

No investigation as to whether or not it’s true?

Not for nothing, but why not investigate it? Trump being the douchebag he is publicly should suggest that there might be some merit to it. It’s not like he was a pillar of morality and goodness before the Russians elected him president.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I realize that I’m replying to a Trumpsucker here, who obviously can’t think straight while his mouth is full of Trump’s rancid cock, but on the off chance that someone ELSE will read this:

If you actually read the document(s), you’ll see that the Steele dossier was NOT the basis for this. It merely confirmed parts of what they already knew about Page, and given that he’d been on the radar for years as a suspected agent of the Russian government, it strengthened the case for surveilling him.

Intelligence analysts are more than capable of integrating information from multiple sources — internal and external, some reliable, some unreliable, some full of crap — and figuring out what approaches the truth. When there’s enough evidence backed by multiple sources and independently verified by direct investigation, then there’s reason to look for more. And that’s exactly what happened here, FOUR TIMES. A careful reader (which leaves you out, Trumpsucker, and why don’t you lick his shit-encrusted asshole while you’re at it?) would note that each of the four applications is longer than the previous one. That’s because each one yielded more information, strengthening the case for further surveillance.

This is how FISA is supposed to work. It’s a textbook case. Evidence is presented, it’s weighed by a judge, and a decision is made based on that evidence whether or not surveillance should be allowed. This wasn’t a blind sign-off based on rumors: it was done based on hard evidence — and there is no doubt more of it, because like I said, Carter Page has been on the COINTEL radar for a long time. I would bet that the FBI reaction to discovering him caught up in this was something like “that fucker again?!”.

The most useful part of this, though, is that it proves that Devin Nunes is a treasonweasel. Some of us knew that all along, but there are always slow learners in the class, and with the release of this, even these morons should be able to grasp the obvious.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’d advice against using such terms as ‘Trumpsucker’ and the related imagery, as it undercuts the rest of your comment and makes it easier for someone to dismiss the rest of it as coming from someone not interested in an honest discussion and only caring about slinging insults, even if the rest of it is right.

There’s already more than enough people doing that sort of thing, here and elsewhere, no need to add to the numbers.

steell (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“We don’t know what’s behind the blacked out text, but Schiff does, and he says it’s multiple independent sources that corroborate Steele’s claim that Page met with Russian officials [Sechin and Divyekin].”

https://twitter.com/pwnallthethings/status/1020845111398330369

I don’t believe the above info will affect your opinion one whit, but maybe others will find it interesting.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Your definition of “ran with it” is checking and verifying.

If I tell the police my neighbor is growing pot and they get a warrant to investigate the alleged pot growing in your world they didn’t check and verify and just “ran with” a baseless accusation before going through the steps to umm… get a warrant? or something?

don’t know why I’m bothering to reply to a russian bot but whatever.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Except this isn’t a physical warrant, but extremely intrusive electronic monitoring.

Following the tried and true tradition of just attaching “electronic” to something so it seems more different?

> And yes, it’d still be an issue, if you’re a rival pot-grower/funded by a rival pot-grower, this makes the information you’re providing a lot less credible.

Less credible doesn’t mean not credible.

Same excuses democrats had when trying to defend Hillary emails. It doesn’t change the content of the emails regardless of the motives of the person behind the revelations. Also cops work off tips from criminals all the god damned time. The hell you think plea deals tend to be?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Normal warrants require them to knock, announce themselves, and wait a reasonable timeframe before forcibly breaking in. No-knock warrants do not. Both allow them to break down the door if you don’t open it for them.

Judges are only supposed to approve no-knock warrants if there’s significant risk of dangerous resistance or destruction of evidence, but they approve a lot of drug-related ones they shouldn’t.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Boy, the FBI in your head sounds pretty stupid, sure hope the real FBI isn’t that bad.

Steele provided them with raw intel, intel that he himself admitted wasn’t all guaranteed to be good, but was, by his estimation, ’70-90% accurate’. Having received intel from a source that had been historically reliable the FBI then went about investigating the claims therein, as any good intel agency would.

Part of this process involved multiple warrant requests, requests that would have required them to demonstrate that they weren’t just engaging in a fishing expedition by showing that said warrants were resulting in actual evidence. That those warrant requests were granted is a pretty strong indicator that they were making progress.

Unless you want to say that the FISA ‘court’ also just took them at their word and were okay with a single, unvetted source(according to you) to conduct investigations that resulted in no solid evidence, it wouldn’t have mattered if he was their only source for the initial investigation, as he would appear to have been a good one.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Nope. Hasn’t techdirt, itself, run multiple stories on how few FISA warrants get rejected?

I’m not saying the FBI is bad at their job. I’m saying they’re very good, but that doesn’t mean the information they based it on was true, or that they themselves, as individuals, didn’t want Trump to become president. This includes their ability to build a warrant application on something they know isn’t enough, but construct it in a way that makes it pass muster to get the warrant.

Digitari says:

verifiable ?

like, I don’t know, maybe using a YAHOO news article about the steele dossier to verify the dossier so it looks like two different sources, Nah that would be “Bias,” or maybe it’s the Same FBI creates “terrorists” threats from people with low IQ’s nah, that Never happens.

funny how AFTER the steele dossier comes out the FISA warrant if finally granted, after being rejected for lack of evidence.

Joseph says:

Did you read the Nunes memo?

I do not support Trump, did not vote for him, and will not vote for him. But I have gotten used to this type of shabby, half-assed commentary. It appears you did not read the Nunes Memo. You state that the memo “claimed the FBI did not disclose the fact this dossier had been funded by Trump’s political opponents”, which is not what the memo states. The memo actually says:
Neither the initial application in October 2016, nor any of the renewals, disclose or reference the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign, or any party/campaign in funding Steele’s efforts, even though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior DOJ and FBI officials.

That is completely different. Steele is the only person mentioned in the new documents. The Clinton campaign is not mentioned. At the time, knowing that the Clinton campaign was in fact behind Steele was both pertinent and relevant information, which the FBI knew. The Nunes memo seems to be not only accurate, but correct in the broader sense.

The Nunes memo is specific, but your commentary is not. Pretending that disclosing Steele’s name is not what Nunes was referring to in his memo. In this light, your summary of the Nunes memo supports Nunes: the FBI did not disclose Steele’s connections to the DNC or the Clinton campaign. They only disclosed Steel’s connections, which is what the memo was arguing in the first place.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Did you read the Nunes memo?

Also useful to note that the information contained in the dossier was not examined and verified for accuracy and reliability by the FBI and DOJ prior to presentment to the FISA court.

For a site that in the past has been extremely critical of the FISA court and process, this author here seems rather quick to articulate positions without examining the underlying facts. Perhaps he would benefit from giving a fair reading to Mr. McCarthy’s most recent article over at the National Review, paying particular attention to the legal requirements that must be met in order for a warrant application to be legally sufficient. It has been reported that Mr. Page had previously cooperated with the FBI in matters involving foreign espionage. It seems natural to wonder why the FBI went straight past a personal interview to a surveillance request.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: 'Pretty please with potential federal charges on top?'

Also useful to note that the information contained in the dossier was not examined and verified for accuracy and reliability by the FBI and DOJ prior to presentment to the FISA court.

Assuming for a moment that that’s true, exactly how do you propose they examine and verify claims made before they got a warrant that would allow them to conduct any sort of invasive investigation? Ask those the allegations are about very politely if they’re true?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 'Pretty please with potential federal charges on top?'

If you want people to read something it helps if you actually link it, rather than just mention ‘that article they wrote on that other site.’

You still didn’t answer my question however, so while you’re digging that up perhaps you can do that too.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 'Pretty please with potential federal charges on top?'

You have been told where the information can be found.

You are apparently not inclined to go to that location and read an article that is presented there.

This is not about burden of proof. This is about one who is too lazy to get off his duff, preferring instead the comfort of an echo chamber that reflects his world view.

Too bad you are passing up an opportunity to actually engage in learning something new and useful.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 'Pretty please with potential federal charges on top?'

The funny thing is you could have provided the link you insist I hunt down with a fraction of the effort you’ve spent refusing to do exactly that. Your apparent aversion to doing so is curious to say the least.

And yeah, it is about the burden of proof. You claimed that another article rebutted this one, yet refused to provide anything more than generalities regarding it other than ‘look for it yourself’. As such your claims can be dismissed out of hand as unsupported and not worth any time or consideration.

It’s also worth noting that you still haven’t answered my question.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:10 'Pretty please with potential federal charges on top?'

I read it, it’s complete trash. Thanks for wasting my time.

The article makes specious claims with no primary sources to back them up. In fact, he outright lies several times in the article with claims that have been disproven beyond any shadow of a doubt.

Additionally, he makes misleading statements such as “the first FISA warrant admitted the information in the dossier was unverified”. First off, he provides no direct evidence from the warrant itself, second the warrant is highly redacted so it could be in there, and third, he completely ignores the other three warrants, using only the first as his ‘gotcha’. Insincerity abounds.

As another note, that entire site is completely and unabashedly biased, as such it’s reporting and articles are questionable at best. It’s fine to have an opinion, and to some extent all reporting is biased, but the entire point of this news site is to basically take one political side against the other. And it shows in its reporting. The author of the article also makes a great deal of his appearing on Fox and Friends, which is an opinion talk show, not a real journalistic news segment.

Please come back when you have something actually resembling valid evidence from primary sources to present.

Oh, and you still haven’t answered TOG’s question.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:10 'Pretty please with potential federal charges on top?'

Yeah, that’s what I figured. You’ve had multiple opportunities to put forth the absolute minimum amount of effort required to support your claims, and instead have chosen to spend vastly more effort trying (and failing) to get me to do your work for you.

Thanks for the entertainment I guess.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:11 'Pretty please with potential federal charges on top?'

I happened to direct my initial comment to one who posted comments that cut against the grain of what typically is presented here. No one asked you to toss your two cents in, but for reasons I can only speculate you chose to do so in what I viewed as a confrontational manner. Nevertheless, rather than ignoring you as an interloper I felt that perhaps by studying an opposing viewpoint you might learn additional information speaking from a different, but well informed, perspective. Your subsequent comments make it quite clear that on this matter your mind is made up and that in this one matter you stand in awe of the FISA court, a position that is out of sync with how this site has talked about that court for many, many years. Just a guess on my part, but it seems quite likely that a search on this site would yield many comments by you decrying the FISA court and its dealings with the DOJ and the FBI.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:12 'Pretty please with potential federal charges on top?'

Don’t go hiding behind “no one asked you” – no one needed to ask him, and no one asked for your two cents either. No one explicitly asked for any comments, ever, and its blasted rare that they do – but by making a public comment, in a forum where anyone can read it and anyone can respond, you must realize that people are going to respond. If you expect to have a private conversation with just the article writer in a comment section like this, you are seriously mis-guided.

You have so far come off as a coward, unwilling to engage in a meaningful fashion and running and hiding when asked pointed questions or to actually link to your sources. Even if your argument has merit, your behavior makes those reading what you write disinclined to listen.

You hurt your own message with this nonsense.

Personanongrata says:

Why all the Redactions if there is Nothing to Hide?

The documents also refer to other members of Trump’s campaign team "perhaps" being involved with Russian officials and intelligence services during the campaign.

Mike Flynn – Trump’s original National Security Advisor – did in fact speak with the Russian ambassador prior to Trump being sworn into office in Jan 2017.

Speaking with the Russians/Soviets is something every National Security Advisor to every president has done since the creation of the National Security Advisor position when Harry S Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947 into law.

Bold/italiziced text below was excerpted from a report found the website thefederalist.com titled 10 Key Takeaways From The Released FISA Warrants Against Carter Page:

1. The State Department Had Its Fingers In this Mess

2. The Applications Relied Heavily on the Steele Dossier

3. The FBI Paid Christopher Steele

4. Warrants Relied On Hearsay from Tertiary Sources

5. The DOJ Used News Outlets to Establish Probable Cause

6. The DOJ Effectively Criminalized GOP Foreign Policy

7. Why Were the Dates Redacted?

8. The FISA Applications Didn’t Establish Probable Cause

9. The FISA Court Clearly Needs Revamping

10. Heavy Redactions Will Give Dems Cover

https://thefederalist.com/2018/07/23/10-key-takeaways-released-fisa-warrants-carter-page/

Why the need to heavily redact the Carter Page FISA warrant application in a case of such national importance?

The tissue paper thin guise of "sources and methods" doesn’t fly.

Anonymous Coward says:

FBI Bootstrapping at its worst

Can’t get probable cause for a warrant?

1. Leak unverifiable accusations to friendly reporter as an anonymous source.

2. Reporter gets story printed.

3. Apply for a warrant based upon “open news stories”.

4. Warrant is granted because “where there’s smoke, there’s fire”.


Disgusting, but only slightly less disgusting than the usual FBI “sting” operations on teenagers & mentally ill drifters.

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