Wednesday, February 28, 2018

UPDATED: What's The Reality Of How The Fisa Process Normally Works?

In my various blogs on this subject I've been highly critical of the FISA Court's handling of the Carter Page FISA application--and rightly so, as I continue to believe. Therefore, the brief part of the linked blog that particularly caught my eye was this paragraph:

Mr. DOJ stated that he prepared and presented FISA applications to the FISA Court. The reason that the rate of applications approved is so high is because the standards are so high with the court. Mr. DOJ knows that applications have to be well written and cover all the bases before being provided to the court. He reviewed applications for a time and was responsible for reviewing them. They had to be perfect when they went to the court. When the FISA applications were sent to the FISA Court to spy on President Trump, the fact that any information was omitted or hidden from the court, was a criminal act.

I have no desire to defend criminal conduct, and that's exactly what I've seen in this outrageous affair all along. With that said, however, I will state that "Mr. DoJ's" characterization of the way FISA applications were treated comports exactly with my own experience. We were always told that we simply couldn't afford to have less than the absolute highest standards of integrity when it came to the preparation of FISA applications. If any doubt in that regard were ever allowed to enter the minds of the FISC judges the results could be disastrous for the effective conduct of our investigations. This was drummed into us whenever the subject of FISA came up.

So, that being the case, a serious question is presented. Was the FISC lulled into a false sense of trust in the integrity of FBI/DoJ representations to the court in their FISA applications precisely because of an excellent track record--because the applications had virtually always lived up to the representations made in them? Did the four judges who handled the original Page application and its renewals perhaps put too much weight on whatever assurances were made to them? As I stated in a comment in the previous thread, we may never know the answer to that question:

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Rivkin & Casey on the Threat of FISA Abuses

Over the years I have enjoyed reading and--I like to think--have learned a good deal from the articles by David B. Rivkin Jr. and  Lee A. Casey, which appear regularly on the Op-Ed pages of the WSJ. So it was with disappointment that I read their brief article today: FISA Abuses Are a Special Threat to Privacy and Due Process: The standard for obtaining an intelligence surveillance warrant is lower than that in a criminal investigation.

Rivkin and Casey are unquestionably correct that FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) abuse poses a special threat to privacy and due process--the privacy aspect has become all the more chilling as the extent to which we live our lives in ways that are readily accessible by electronic means of surveillance has increased exponentially. Consider: when FISA was first passed into law, there were no cell phones, no internet. As we are now learning, however, an even greater threat perhaps is posed by the weaponisation of the Executive Branch departments and their agencies against their political opponents and critics, using the facilities made available through FISA. Much of this new awareness has focused on the FISA warrant that was obtained by the FBI to target Carter Page, a low level adviser to the Trump Campaign for a few months in 2016. The concern, beyond the targeting of Mr. Page, is that the FISA warrant was then leveraged to broadly target virtually anyone who had been in contact with Mr. Page.

As is apparent from the title, Rivkin and Casey lay much of the blame for the abuse in this case on the legal standard for obtaining a FISA warrant. I say "much of the blame" because they also blame, and rightly so, the officials of the Executive Branch (DoJ and FBI) who withheld critical information from the FISA Court (FISC). Both of these contentions are, however, misguided: the first in whole and the second in significant part.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Schiff Memo and the Scandal of FISAGATE

The Schiff memo is out, and as could have been expected it's a complete joke from a strictly legal standpoint.

It's first point is that the Steele "dossier" wasn't the catalyst for the FBI counterintelligence (CI) investigation of--in effect--the Trump campaign. Well, duh! I think all sentient humans already knew that the real catalyst was Trump becoming the odds on favorite to win the Republican nomination. Can we agree to agree on that?

But as regards this business of the FISA warrant against Carter Page there's more to be said, and it's worth our while to take a closer look at Schiff's attempt to defend the way the FISA process worked in this case.

Schiff begins his discussion of the actual application for a FISA warrant on Page with a fib: "DOJ's warrant request was based on compelling evidence and probable cause to believe Page was knowingly assisting clandestine Russian intelligence activities in the US." Close, but no cigar.

The "FISA recipe" used by the FBI for internal training is rather more specific about the required showing for a warrant; its requirement goes beyond that of simply "assisting." The "recipe" states (p. 3) that "the efforts undertaken by the target [Page] on behalf of the foreign power [Russia] constitute [for our CI purposes] ... clandestine intelligence activities." That's very specific probable cause. Pages own efforts must constitute clandestine intelligence activities. Not just assist, but constitute.

Well, then, accepting for the sake of argument that Schiff may have misspoken, what does he have to tell us on that score?

Friday, February 23, 2018

John Lamont: The Bergoglian Assault on the Faith

I've just finished reading John Lamont's lengthy essay at Rorate Coeli: "The Meaning of Amoris Laetitia According to Pope Francis." This essay, in my view, has a direct bearing on an issue raised by Fr Hunwicke's recent blog post Sedevacantism. In that post Fr Hunwicke posed the question:

"Suppose a pope were, additionally, to require of every Catholic explicit assent ex animo to heresy as a necessary condition for Communion with himself, what would be the situation?"

Lamont's essay is important because it 1) sets out the principles of how we must proceed in judging situations such as the current crisis in the Church, and 2) he follows through and draws conclusions, as well as pointing out what steps need to be taken--but have not been taken.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Of London, Rome, And Christopher Steele

In Christopher Steele As Frontman I briefly alluded to a somewhat obscure aspect of Steele's activities:
No wonder Steele has been so reticent to testify under oath. Especially since, if he retains ties to British Intelligence he could be prosecuted for espionage under British law for simultaneously working as a source for the FBI.
I believe it's a well established fact that British Intelligence (GCHQ) as well as the Intelligence Services of several other European countries (including, really, Estonia!) colluded with US Government agencies (presumably the CIA) in the effort to avert a Trump presidency. Perhaps they feared Trump, or perhaps they naively believed the MSM narrative that President Hillary was inevitable and thought this was a smart way to curry favor with the incoming administration. It backfired and, in the case of the British, in a very public way: GCHQ boss Robert Hannigan quits for 'personal reasons' after just two years. Right--who wanted that job anyway? And what was that date? January 23, 2017, giving only three days notice? Surely this had nothing to do with Trump being inaugurated, when was that? January 20, 2017, the very same day Hannigan gave his notice? Yes, very messy, and we can probably trace PM May's rocky relationship with Trump to this, oh, misunderstanding.

But, Steele. What are the possibilities regarding his intelligence affiiliations? Perhaps he still works for British Intelligence in some role, even after his retirement. After all, the fulsome praise for Steele in yesterday's WaPo profile of the former spy could be taken that way:

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

UPDATE: IMPORTANT: Rep. Jim Jordan's Timeline to the Election

In an interview with Fox News Rep. Jim Jordan very handily ties together all the dates and events we've been referencing into a convenient timeline--one that is pregnant with meaning--and then shows the importance of those dates and events to the blockbuster story of today: Obama's desire to know everything the FBI is doing (as stated in a 9/2/16 Lisa Page text to Peter Strzok).

Harris Faulkner begins the interview by asking whether Jordan thinks this new text revelation is a "problem" for Obama. In response Jordan immediately points out that the text has to be understand in the context of a timeline, and proceeds to sketch that timeline out.

July 5: Hillary Email Investigation--closed.

Later in July: Strzok opens Trump/Russia investigation.

Sept 2: "POTUS wants to know EVERYTHING we're doing."

Having laid out the bare bones of the timeline, Jordan doubles back: Understand, he says, that between the opening of the Trump/Russia investigation and the September 2 "POTUS wants to know EVERYTHING" text comes the "insurance policy" text on 8/16/16. Then, just to make sure Faulkner gets the significance of what he has in mind, Jordan repeats the timeline, this time inserting the "insurance policy" text:

July 5: Hillary Email Investigation--closed.

Later in July: Strzok opens Trump/Russia investigation.

Aug 16: "Insurance Policy" text.

Sept 2: "POTUS wants to know EVERYTHING we're doing."

Jordan's point is that the Hillary Email Investigation is well past, as we pointed out earlier. Therefore, "potus wants to know everything we're doing" can't be focused on Hillary's emails. Of course, since POTUS wants to know everything, if something new comes up on that he'll want to know about it, but that's not the focus. The focus is on the future, the remaining weeks before the election. Jordan is quite clear in his mind that the key to all this is the "insurance policy" text, which comes between the opening of Russia/Trump and the Potus wanting to know everything the FBI is doing.

Now, Jordan thinks the reference to an "insurance policy" means that Strzok is saying that the FBI needs something that will "guarantee" that Trump won't get elected. Therefore, he's suggesting that Obama wants to know everything the FBI is doing to guarantee that Trump won't get elected. Here I think Jordan's a bit off track, in the sense that it's not that simple.

UPDATE: News Is Coming Fast And Furious Today

The big news, of course, is the release of new Strzok/Lisa Page texts, and especially one dated Septermber 2, 2016, in which Lisa Page says Comey will be briefing Obama, adding "potus wants to know everything we're doing."

According to Fox News "this text raises questions about Obama’s personal involvement in the Clinton email investigation." However, I'm a bit skeptical. Of course, "everything" means "everything," so if the FBI did something on the Clinton email investigation then Obama would want to know that. But that investigation had supposedly been disposed of, with Hillary exonerated, back on July 5, 2016--two months before the text, and close two months before Comey's decision to take a New Look at that "matter."

So, in context, my guess is that Rep. Louis Gohmert is correct in saying that this means "the President [Obama] wants to know what they [the FBI] are doing to try to stop Trump.” "Stop" might be a bit, but only a bit, strong. Perhaps "undermine" would be a better description of the FBI's role.

All in all, this is Very Big. I think it's been more or less assumed all along, but to have it confirmed in black and white ...

UPDATED: Christopher Steele As Frontman

This will be short and sweet. Well, the sweetness will depend on individual taste.

What seems to be slowly emerging from the murky background of the Russia Hoax--or perhaps I should be saying The Great Russia Hoax--is that Christopher Steele was more of a frontman for the "dossier" than an actual author. While his writing skills are not in doubt, honed as they were in his days as a student Leftist at Cambridge, it's becoming clear that his true usefulness to the Clinton Campaign had to do with his credentials. The FBI and DoJ couldn't very well go in front of the FISC with an application and attached affidavit and tell the judge, This is something that Nellie and the boys or, as might be, Sid and the boys, came up with. No, much better to be able to talk about a former Spook from an allied country with experience of Russian matters, who has Russian sources, who knows their tradecraft, methods, and goals. Who is familiar with their desire to sully the purity of our political processes. And perhaps best of all, conservatives and Republicans tend to be an Anglophilic bunch, and thus less inclined to question the representations of a source from "British Intelligence."

On closer examination, that narrative didn't hold up well to closer examination. Assuming the truth of what we've been told about Steele, he hadn't been in Russia for many years, hadn't even been in MI-6 for quite a few years. His "sources," such as they were and given the tumult of Russian politics since the end of the Cold War, could be regarded as stale at this point, without further authentication. And, importantly, since he admits at the very least to have been dealing with these sources through intermediaries, verification of any of their assertions would be problematic--to say the least.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

UPDATED: About That Insurance Policy

This morning at Gateway Pundit an alternative theory is floated regarding Carter Page. In a way you could say that it's similar to the theory I advanced yesterday, that Carter Page was the "insurance policy" for the FBI--but at least 50% in a CYA sense. The Gateway theory riffs off the new information that indicates that Carter Page remained on the FBI's books as some type of informant or cooperating witness--UCE-1 in the 2013 Three Russian Comrades case--right up to March, 2016. Keep that date in mind, because by March, 2016 Trump was looking to be unbeatable in the Republican Presidential candidacy race. Only a few months later after the Russia case was finally concluded and Trump was being simultaneously recognized as the overwhelmingly likely Republican nominee--by July, 2016--Carter Page was magically transformed from FBI Undercover Employee 1 to Carter Page Master Spy. To celebrate this transformation, a real landmark in the Russia Hoax, the FBI opened a Full Investigation on Carter Page. That meant, among other things, that among the investigative techniques that could be deployed against Page was--you guessed it--FISA.

Now, recall that my theory yesterday posited that the August 16, 2016, text between Strzok and Lisa Page referred to a strategic meeting of the top FBI CI players plus Deputy Director Andy McCabe--a meeting at which, in my theory, the decision was made to utilize Carter Page as "it", the insurance policy in the form of a FISA target.
"I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office — that there’s no way he gets elected — but I'm afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you're 40."
My view then was that this was in good measure a defensive move: to protect or insure against the event of a Trump presidency, in the sense of offering a justification for the spying that the FBI had already been engaged in against Trump associates.

The Gateway theory poses the question:

Monday, February 5, 2018

UPDATED: The Dem Carter Page Playbook--For Today.

So, Politico this morning reveals the talking point of the moment for Democrats: Whatever Carter Page got from the FBI, he deserved it.  Because, Russia!

Why Carter Page Was Worth Watching
There’s plenty of evidence that the former Trump campaign adviser, for all his quirks, was on suspiciously good terms with Russia.

OMG! Suspicion! Embrace your inner totalitarian! We need wall to wall electronic coverage of that guy's life yesterday!

So the author starts with the whole 2013 episode, and he tries to play it ominous, yet can't help revealing the joke of it all:
The Russian spies, however, had one promising lead. This was a guy—an energy consultant based in New York City. Unlike the women, he was eager to help. And, it appeared, keen to make money in Moscow. There was a drawback: The source—whom the FBI called “Male-1”—was something of a dimwit.
There we are again: the hapless Carter Page. But, not so honestly, the author utterly fails to disclose, in the lengthy summary of 2013 events, that Page actually cooperated with the FBI against he Russians.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

My Theory of the Carter Page FISA Fraud

One of the major mysteries of the whole Russia Hoax is: what's all the fuss about Carter Page? Why a FISA on him, of all persons? Bill Jacobson at Legal Insurrection sums up the view of skeptics well:
Carter Page was so important the FBI went out on a limb to use a questionable document in court to convince a judge to surveil him? I’m not buying it. ...
The surveillance of Carter Page was not about Carter Page. He’s a bit player in a larger drama, and that larger drama is what we need to understand.
We already know what the larger drama is--the attempt to prevent a Trump presidency or, failing that, to abort it. At this point it may not be possible to determine exactly how Carter Page fits into that larger drama, but while awaiting further developments we can at least advance a theory. After all, that's how science progresses, right? You advance a theory and let others try to knock it down or refine it. So, in the spirit of good, clean fun, let's have a go at it.

First, a bit of background on Carter Page's recent activity as it relates to Russian intelligence activity. Back in March to June of 2013 the FBI learned, through its ongoing FISA coverage of Russian nationals in the US, that Carter Page was in contact with Russians in whom the FBI had a particular interest. Did the FBI run out and seek a FISA on Carter Page upon discovering his contacts? Of course not. Like any sensible and professional counterintelligence agency, the FBI opened a preliminary investigation of Carter Page to get an better handle on who he was and where he was coming from, then they interviewed him. He apparently was fully cooperative, and you can read an entertaining account of it all in the FBI's court filing in the case against the Russians (Page is definitely "Male 1" in paragraphs 32-34 and I'm guessing he may also be CS 1--Confidential Source 1--in paragraphs 66-74.)

The point is that, after this high profile fiasco, the Russian SVR would certainly have conducted a damage assessment and they would have had to have been brain dead not to realize that Carter Page had cooperated with the FBI. The idea that they would turn around and try to make Page into a master spy in the Trump campaign three short years later strains credulity--to put it mildly. So keep that in mind as we take a look at the 2016 presidential campaign.