First, commenter Forbes recently referred to the forthcoming OIG FISA report as "more an audit than an investigation." I demurred--to an extent, adding that Forbes was on to something. That something is that OIG investigations are often confused with criminal investigations by prosecutors--which they are not. So, for reference, here is how OIG describes its work:
The OIG has jurisdiction to review the programs and personnel of the FBI, ATF, BOP, DEA, USAO, USMS, and all other organizations within the Department, as well as contractors of the Department and organizations receiving grant money from the Department. The OIG fulfills this mission, in part, through auditing and inspecting Department programs and issuing reports of its findings. Below please find the OIG’s audits, evaluations, inspections, and reviews.
I won't get into the distinctions, but rest assured they are real. However, to provide two very relevant examples, the CHS report is classed as an audit: Audit of the Federal Bureau of
Investigation’s Management of its Confidential Human Source Validation Processes. In this case, OIG audited the FBI for compliance with applicable guidelines. Here are the findings of that audit, short and not so sweet:
We found that the FBI's vetting process for CHSs,
known as validation, did not comply with the Attorney
General Guidelines. We also found deficiencies in the
FBl's long-term CHS validation reports which are relied
upon by FBI and Department of Justice (Department or
DOJ) officials in determining the continued use of a
CHS. Further, the FBI inadequately staffed and trained
personnel conducting long-term validations and lacked
an automated process to monitor its long-term CHSs.
By contrast, the forthcoming FISA report is referred to (under "Ongoing Work") as an "examination":
Examination of the Department’s and the FBI’s Compliance with Legal Requirements and Policies in Applications Filed with the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Relating to a certain U.S. Person
And this is what is involved in that examination:
The OIG, in response to requests from the Attorney General and Members of Congress, is examining the Department’s and the FBI’s compliance with legal requirements, and with applicable DOJ and FBI policies and procedures, in applications filed with the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) relating to a certain U.S. person. As part of this examination, the OIG is also reviewing information that was known to the DOJ and the FBI at the time the applications were filed from or about an alleged FBI confidential source. Additionally, the OIG is reviewing the DOJ’s and FBI’s relationship and communications with the alleged source as they relate to the FISC applications. If circumstances warrant, the OIG will consider including other issues that may arise during the course of the review.
So, there you are--OIG came out with their CHS report first, finding that the FBI was not in compliance with Department guidelines on confidential human sources. Next they'll be coming out with a report on their examination of DoJ/FBI compliance--or lack thereof--with legal requirements (as opposed to Guideline requirements) for FISA applications as relating to "a certain US person," i.e., Carter Page. And even more specifically, OIG's examination is focusing on the use of information attributed to a particular confidential source and the DoJ/FBI relationship with that "alleged source"--who we all know was Christopher Steele. I will be very much surprised if the FBI's non-compliance with CHS Guidelines is not seen by OIG to be tied to its non-compliance with legal requirements for FISA applications.
As we've discussed in the past, OIG works within strict jurisdictional and subject matter constraints. As a result, that lends itself to doing discrete audits and reviews on very specific subjects, which also distinguishes their work from the type of investigations we the public are more familiar with from the work of criminal investigative and prosecutive agencies.
With that background on OIG, two quick references to matters that will arise later as we discuss Cates' article.
Earlier this week I briefly mentioned in a comment that I expected the CHS report to dovetail with the FISA report. We've seen that confirmed by OIG, above, and that explains in part why commentators are claiming that the FISA report will be "damning," "explosive", and so forth.
This morning I pointed out, very briefly why the recent revelations of disgraced former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith's evidence tampering is likely to prove very important. I stressed Clinesmith's time not merely with Peter Strzok but also on Team Mueller. We'll discusss that further later on.
Cates first outlines how OIG got to the point of conducting these audits and examinations. His account is fascinating for those of us who have speculated on matters such as: when Rod Rosenstein had a seeming change of heart, what was John Durham up to beginning as early as August or September of 2018 and, above all, what has Michael Horowitz been doing. Significantly, there have been virtually no leaks from these key players, but Cates assembles what is known under the heading, Let’s Remember How We Got Here:
When Horowitz announced his review of the FBI’s handling of the Clinton Email Investigation back on Jan. 12, 2017, few had any idea what he was going to uncover.
Democrats in Congress were angry at the way then-FBI Director James Comey had handled the investigation, especially when he closed it and then suddenly reopened it upon the discovery of the Anthony Weiner laptop.
Many Democrats were loudly demanding the Inspector General review the matter since they believed Comey’s bungling of this investigation played a direct role in Clinton losing the 2016 Presidential election to Donald Trump.
They got their wish.
But Horowitz’s deep dive into the issues surrounding how former FBI Director James Comey, Deputy Attorney General Andrew McCabe, FBI agent Peter Strzok and others handled that “Midyear Exam” investigation is what directly led him to the Spygate evidence.
From January 2017 when he began investigating up until he surfaced in early December 2017 to hand off the first batch of Spygate evidence to Congress, everybody pretty much forgot Horowitz was there and had no idea what he was doing.
The first release of evidence from Horowitz’s IG office in December 2017 included the first batch of text messages between Strzok and FBI counsel Lisa Page.
It was subsequently on March 28, 2018, that Horowitz announced—due to a lot of things he had discovered to that point—that he was opening a new investigation into how a FISA warrant had been obtained on a certain US citizen, which we all knew was former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
And, of course, when Horowitz attempted to do a thorough "examination" of the FISA application on Carter Page, he ran right up against the issue of the FBI's highly irregular use of confidential human sources in the whole Russia Hoax. As a result, Horowitz decided to break the issues out into separate "audits" and "examinations." Logically, the non-compliance with CHS Guidelines paved the way for the non-compliance with legal requirements for FISA applications. The CHS report appeared bland to most commentators, but that's the nature of an audit:
The [CHS report] is a much smaller 57-page report detailing how the FBI’s CHS system broke down and how lack of proper oversight allowed all of these abuses to happen, and what changes need to be made to ensure these events are never repeated. This is essentially a policy and regulation change report that is going to be a very boring read for most people.
This CHS abuse report does not go into any specific cases or names; instead, it deals only with tightening up and improving the oversight of the agency’s use of confidential human sources.
It’s clear the system was being abused and Horowitz’s job as the Inspector General was to give recommendations to the FBI about making the proper changes to the rules and regulations to ensure these kinds of acts do not happen again.
That should change with the FISA report, because OIG has stated that its examination concerns FISA applications filed with the FISC Relating to "a certain U.S. Person," and the role played by "an alleged FBI confidential source." The FISA report will be about a particular case.
Cates goes on to discuss the more general role of sources in the Russia Hoax, and he names the three names that we're all familiar with:
* Christopher Steele
* Professor Stefan Halper
* Professor Joseph Mifsud
Notice that, in discussing the irregularities of the FBI's use of these sources, Cates focuses on the Russia Hoax as a "charade", as not a "real" counterintelligence operation. That feeds into what we've discussed in the past as a conspiracy to defraud the government of honest services or some variation on that idea--John Durham will be focusing on those issues:
When the FBI officials realized they would not be able to hide the fact that Steele was leaking the same fake Trump-Russia information he was feeding them to the news media, they went through a charade where they fake fired him as a CHS and then surreptitiously set up a secret backchannel so they could continue to use his fake information in their ongoing investigations of Trump & Co.
You can bet Horowitz is going to have a lot to say about this in his next report.
A real counterintelligence operation based on information obtained from FBI confidential informant would be placed in serious jeopardy if that person is found to be leaking the evidence to the news media.
The way these FBI officials involved with Steele responded to his leaking is the clearest evidence they knew that Steele’s info was highly suspect. At worst? They knew all along that they were taking fake info from a Clinton dirty tricks operative and not disclosing it to the FISA Court.
And they did this not only through the original proffering of the warrant to the FISA Court but also through three subsequent renewals of it.
And that may not even be the worst thing they did. Not one former federal official involved in this growing Spygate scandal, the worst political scandal that has gripped this country since Watergate, has yet admitted that Professor Joseph Mifsud was an FBI CHS and an OCONUS LURE. They still insist, as Robert Mueller did in his final report, that Mifsud is a genuine agent of Russia.
They have stuck to this narrative even as evidence continues to mount that Mifsud was working for the FBI when he approached Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos.
Now you see where we're heading. Kevin Clinesmith--who is currently almost certainly involved in discussions with John Durham's team--was heavily involved in the Papadopoulos setup scheme that Team Mueller hoped would lead to a Trump removal. He should be very knowledgeable about Joseph Mifsud, one of those three key sources, who was a key to targeting Papadopoulos. Not to mention that Clinesmith should also possess a fund of interesting information about Team Mueller's strategizing with regard to Papadopoulos. Woops! I just mentioned it. Clinesmith could prove to be an important entree for an in depth inside view of the Russia Hoax--including its continuation in the Mueller Witchhunt.
In that context, it's interesting to note--as we did--that John Durham has taken three trips to Rome (John Durham, Frequent Flyer), home base for Joseph Mifsud. Think that may also have something to do with Kevin Clinesmith? I do. And Durham is also homing in on another of those three sources, Stefan Halper (Looks Like Durham's Doing A Deep Dive On The Deep State).
Thus, not only are OIG's reports interlocking with one another, but we can anticipate that some of the their findings will interlock with Durham's work.