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Feb 04 2018

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The Nunes Memo

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We Need the Rest of the Story…

So now we know.

After weeks of anticipation, the Nunes Memo, summarizing certain, specific aspects surrounding the request for, issuance, and re-certification of a  FISA Court warrant on Carter Page, is now public record.

The Memo completely fails to fulfill the promises predicted by various partisans.

Claims by Democrats and others – increasingly hysterical as release became a certainty –  that national security would be irreparably harmed if the Memo were made public, were proven ludicrous. At the same time, claims by Trump supports and Republicans that the Memo would “blow the lid” off “Deep State” bias, collapsing the Mueller investigation, and invalidating the charges against Trump associates, providing POTUS with “vindication” are preposterous on their face.

There is no doubt that the Memo, considered absent any other contextual or corroborative information, is disturbing.

The document states that the FISA warrant application for (then former) Trump advisor Carter Page, requested and issued on October 21, 2016, was based in part on the Steele dossier, which was itself an unverified document, and supported by open source news articles where Steele himself was the source. Essentially making the case that the dossier was credible because Steele said it was.

Worse, despite knowing the origins of the Steele dossier – Fusion GPS, Perkins Coie, DNC and the Clinton campaign – the FBI did not include this context in warrant application. The Memo states that none of the extensions to the warrant, in January, April and July of 2017, ever corrected the record.

Based on the assertions of the Memo alone, Americans of all stripes should be shocked, as the Memo paints a picture of reckless disregard for the Fourth Amendment rights of an American citizen, in pursuit of highly biased agenda.

But before we burn the house down with righteous outrage, let’s pause and dig a bit deeper regarding what the Memo indirectly confirms, and, importantly, what it leaves out.

Confirms

The Memo indirectly confirms that the Russia investigation was ongoing when the warrant for Page was sought. The FBI already had a FISA warrant to tap George Papadopoulos, issued in July 2016. This warrant was triggered by intel received by the US from the Australian government, summarizing a conversation between an Aussie diplomat and Papadopoulos from May 2016. During the conversation – which occurred before the WikiLeaks DNC email dump, Papadopoulos claimed that the Russians had thousands of emails that would embarrass Hillary Clinton.

The Memo indirectly confirms that the original warrant on Page was useful. It was renewed three times through 2017. While the Memo focuses on the fact that the same questionable support elements of the original warrant were used identically in each extension,  it does not state that these were the only elements used to justify the extensions.

Leaves Out

The Memo is not an original source document, but a summary of a specific facts gathered by GOP lawmakers, taken from thousands of documents that the House Intelligence Committee has in its possession as part of the Russia probe. Critically relevant, the Memo does not categorically state that the Steele dossier and public news stories were the only the only sources of supporting documentation for the Page warrant.

The FBI’s statement of January 31st regarding the Memo’s release is relevant here. “As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.” Note, the FBI did not say the Memo was incorrect. It said that the memo was incomplete.

Consider first that there is ample publicly available information on Carter Page, with probable, classified counterparts, to support a Page warrant.

Page, a Naval Academy graduate and former intelligence officer, was as a private businessman based in Moscow for three years on behalf of Merrill Lynch, and claimed lucrative business experience in the Russian energy sector. His pro-Russian views were public. Page even claimed to be an advisor to the Kremlin in 2013. He had previously been under FISA ordered surveillance in 2014, after Russian operatives in the New York tried to recruit him. All of this information would be relevant to probable cause finding that Page was an agent of a foreign power.

But there is also a reason to believe that incredibly sensitive intelligence was used as part of the Page warrant application.

According to a now largely forgotten expose on Russian interference in the US election, published in the Washington Post in June 2017, it was reported that in the first few days of August, 2016, CIA Director Brennan met with President Obama to share some of the most highly classified Human Intel (HUMINT) that the US possessed. In that briefing, Brennan divulged that the US had access to a source, inside the Kremlin – inside Putin’s inner circle – that had provided a verbatim accounting of Putin’s specific instructions regarding an operation to interfere in the 2016 election. It can be inferred that an informant with that kind of access would be privy to developments in the plan as it played out, presumably including meetings between Russian officials and Americans, including Trump campaign officials.

If you play this out, that there was a body of body of credible, classified information used to support the FISA warrant on Page, then value of the Steele dossier and other supporting material identified in the Memo would change significantly. It would be that of a supporting document, confirming more sensitive intelligence. In this instance, Steele’s background as a credible former MI-6 agent would be more relevant than who paid him to find the data.

This is clearly speculation.

But we are free to speculate because the question of scope in the warrant’s supporting documentation is not known. If the Memo identified the entirety of supporting sources for the warrant, then the FBI and DOJ bear responsibility for breathtaking recklessness. If there was more, as the Democrats and the FBI maintain, then the Memo is at best misleading and at worst an intentional diversion.

 If Nunes and the Republicans are sure of their work product, there should be no problem de-classifying the Democrat rebuttal Memo. It is not a sign of strength in the GOP’s case that they have voted down a motion to make public the Democrat version. Speaker Paul Ryan has said that he is open to de-classifying the Democrat response, and he should take pro-active steps to make that happen, consistent with national security procedures.

For now, we only know part of the story. We cannot make judgements about the Page warrant, the Russia investigation or the Special Counsel, until we know the rest of the story. Citizens of every political persuasion should insist upon it, as the only way to fully understand what has been done in our name over the last 18 months.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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