Friday, May 29, 2020

UPDATED: I Was Wrong About 'CR Cuts'

Yesterday a friend pointed out to me that I was mistaken regarding the meaning of a Peter Strzok reference to "CR cuts." For that I apologize. Here's the short version:

Whereas I thought that the words "CR cuts" referred to "tech cuts" associated with the Crossfire Razor, i.e., Michael Flynn case, in fact the reference is to the Steele dossier. 

Now here's the longer explanation.

First, I want to be clear that this changes nothing regarding the Flynn/Kislyak conversations as far as issues of non-minimization or 'unmasking' are concerned. The testimony of disgraced former Director James Comey and of Andrew McCabe is explicit: Those conversations were written up, at least initially, in the form of 'tech cuts' and Flynn's name was not minimized or redacted. The reason for his name was not minimized was that Flynn was already the subject of a Full Investigation and thus fell within the exceptions to the minimization requirements. I've covered all that previously, and it all remains 'operative.' As a reminder, here's what a 'tech cut' is:

In FBI parlance a FISA order is referred to as "technical coverage". Or, simply, a "tech." The typed up summaries of, for example, telephone conversations captured in that way are referred to as "tech cuts" or, commonly, as "cuts."

Thus, I assumed that "CR" meant "Crossfire Razor" and "cuts" meant "tech cuts." However, there's a sort of dual context involved:

1) The context at the time Strzok and Lisa Page were texting, and

2) The context at the time I was writing.

To start with #2, I was writing in the context of new documentary revelations regarding the Flynn case, and debates about whether Flynn's name had ever been masked and, if not, why not. I was able to address those issues successfully, but then wrongly assumed, working from incomplete data, that "CR cuts" fell into the same category. In other words, I assumed that Strzok and Bill Priestap were objecting that DNI James Clapper should not be providing raw tech cuts to the White House. 

Now we turn to #1. Here's the fuller data, the full text thread between Strzok and Page on January 3, 2017, slightly reformatted:

STRZOK: “Our material in the report is much better now. Don’t like an annex, but is what it is. Did you follow the drama over the PDB [Presidential Daily Brief] last week?”

PAGE: “Yup. Don’t know how it ended though.”

STRZOK: “They didn’t include any of it and Bill didn’t want to dissent.”

PAGE: “Wow. Bill should make sure Andy knows about that, since he was consulted numerous times about whether to include the reporting.”

STRZOK: “He [Priestap], like us, is concerned with over sharing. Doesn’t want Clapper giving CR cuts to WH. All political, just shows our hand and potentially makes enemies.” 

PAGE: “Yeah, but keep in mind we were going to put that in the doc on Friday [January 6th], with potentially larger distribution than just the DNI.” 

STRZOK: “The question is should we, particularly to the entirety of the lame duck USIC with partisan axes to grind.”

My friend argued, convincingly, that when Strzok speaks of "Our material in the report" he can't be referring to raw tech cuts. In fact, the FBI material--"our material"--is said by Strzok to be in an "annex" to the "report." 

What then appears to be a digression regarding the PDB I take to be related: There had been some controversy over whether the material that is now in an annex to the report should be included in the PDB. A decision was made not to include "our material" in the PDB, and Priestap went along with that decision--probably despite the contrary wishes of Andy McCabe. Note that this dispute happened "last week." Since the Flynn/Kislyak calls happened on Friday, 12/29, the dispute must not have been regarding tech cuts of the calls.

Next we learn why Priestap went along with not including "our material" in the PDB--as well as what "our material" actually is: it's "CR cuts". Priestap didn't like what looks like raw data being turned over to the White House by Clapper. 

To determine what "CR cuts" means, we refer to Comey's House testimony

"Mr. Gowdy. Do you recall -- when I use the phrase "crown material," what does that refer to?

Mr. Comey. I think it refers to material that -- now called the Steele dossier. I mean, I could be wrong about that, but I think that's the name that the analysts use for that material.

Mr. Gowdy. I think you're correct. So do you recall whether any, quote, crown material or dossier material was included in the IC assessment?

Mr. Comey. Yes. I'm going to be careful here because I'm talking about a document that's still classified. The unclassified thing we talked about earlier today, the first paragraph you can see of exhibit A, is reflective of the fact that at least some of the material that Steele had collected was in the big thing called the intelligence community assessment in an annex called annex A."

From this we know that Steele dossier material was included in the ICA. The clincher comes in Lisa Page's final text, in which we learn that the "report" Strzok and page were discussing is certainly the ICA report that Page refers to as "the doc on Friday"--Friday, January 6, the day that the ICA report came out.

Thus we conclude that CR doesn't mean Crossfire Razor but rather CRown. According to Comey, "Crown material" was FBI analyst jargon for the Steele dossier, indicating that it was "Brit/UK material." In this context "cuts" must mean "selections, excerpts". Selections or excerpts from the Steele dossier. This raises an interesting question that we can't address here: Is use of the term "Crown material" with reference to the Steele dossier just analyst banter, or does it suggest that Steele's activities may have had a greater degree of official sanction than the British government wants us to believe?

It may be useful to conclude now with a sort of timeline tracking events in the plot against the incoming Trump administration from the week after Christmas, 2016, up to issuance of the ICA on January 6th. By doing so we'll see how the different threads of the plot are interwoven. This was a very busy time for the anti-Trump plotters.

* Things begin happening with the formulation of the ICA, designed to set in stone the public narrative that Putin "meddled" in the US election on behalf of Trump, thus establishing that Trump was an illegitimate president.

* At the same time, there must have been ongoing discussion on how to use the Steele dossier against Trump. As we've seen, portions of it were used in the ICA, placed in Annex A. But that wasn't the end of the matter, because the plotters wanted to find a way to get the dossier out to the public forum.

* Another line of provocative action was undertaken by Obama himself--the expulsion of Russian diplomats on 12/29, with the expectation of causing a crisis in US-Russian relations. That didn't happen, thanks to the efforts of Michael Flynn--and this may have been the sought after event, since the Obama administration very quickly sought to take advantage of it. The FBI quickly got some version of Flynn's conversations to Obama through James Clapper--possibly in the form of raw tech cuts but possibly in an oral briefing.

* That brings us to the eventful first week of January, 2017.

* On 1/3 we seek Strzok and Page texting about the ICA and the Steele "Crown" material.

* At the same time, however, other matters are on Strzok's mind. On 1/4 he texts Joe Pientka at WFO, telling Pientka to hold back the closing EC on Crossfire Razor (Michael Flynn) because "the seventh floor" (Comey and McCabe) are now involved in the Flynn matter.

* The next day, 1/5, Comey goes to the famous Oval Office meeting with all the highest level plotters. All of these matters are discussed:

- Obama is briefed on the ICA;

- The Steele "Crown" material is discussed; it is decided that Comey will brief Trump on the ICA but will use that briefing as a pretext to provoke Trump by teasing (attempting to blackmail?) him by telling him about the dossier and the likelihood that it will go public--in the most lurid terms possible.

- After the main meeting concludes, Obama takes Comey and Sally Yates aside to discuss the Flynn/Kislyak conversations. A stunned Yates learns of this for the first time, but notes that Obama already knows all about it. Keeping Crossfire Razor open is key to the attempt, later in the month, to frame Flynn.

UPDATE: J. E. Dyer, in a comment, writes:

On the main topic of this post, I concluded separately (as apparently you did originally) that the "CR cuts" reference was to Crossfire Razor. I still think that makes more sense than "Crown cuts."

I can see the force for this position. It would consist in recognizing a shifting of gears in the Strzok/Page texting, the wording of which is somewhat unclear on its face. That's what happens when you're interpreting a text without being inside the thought loop. To paraphrase how this interpretation would work:

* Strzok relates that Priestap went along with a group decision (within FBI/DoJ) not to include Dossier material in a PDB--even though McCabe wanted to. McCabe was apparently not present for that decision and Page is surprised that Priestap didn't insist on inclusion since he probably knew McCabe's desires. 
* Strzok expands on the point by noting that both he and Priestap are concerned with "oversharing" and then (reading into his text) points out--in effect--that if Clapper (who, as DNI, produces the PDB) were allowed to include Dossier material in the PDB, Clapper might next want to include Flynn/CR/Crossfire Razor [tech] cuts in a PDB. The actual text isn't that clear. Strzok says that would be taken by the incoming Trump administration as the FBI overtly taking partisan sides. 
* Page's response is the clincher, either way the text exchange is interpreted. She says, "keep in mind we were going to put that in the doc on Friday." Does "that" refer to Crown or Flynn? Could be either. If it refers to Flynn she's probably saying that Flynn related tech cuts had been considered for inclusion, but were apparently left out. As it is, we know that "Crown" Dossier material was included--in an annex to the full document.

Neither interpretation is totally straightforward, so we'll probably have to wait on events to be sure.


  1. @Mark

    "Keeping Crossfire Razor open is key to the attempt, later in the month, to frame Flynn."

    Why? Because it serves as a 'predicate', however dubious?

    'By the book' has some funny implications....

    1. Exactly. The point is that if you appear to be acting 'by the book' rather than in total disregard of 'the book' you get to make the excuse that you simply made an error in judgment or of understanding.

  2. Minor typo: "Obama takes ComeY and Sally...."

    On the post's substance, I can quite see how you would assume "CR" to mean "Crossfire Razor".
    It's rather odd, for Strzok to risk confusion, by using "CR", rather than "CM", to refer to "Crown materials".

  3. Replies
    1. Mike, unfortunately both of those article are deeply stupid. The stupidity begins when Dyer tells her readers--incorrectly--what I had in mind:

      "When FBI agent Mark Wauck spoke of FISA monitoring of Sergey Kislyak, he had in mind wiretapping the Russian embassy. ... the practical scope of a physically static wiretap capability would have obvious, and severe, limits."

      I had no such thing in mind. In fact, I specifically pointed out that Kislyak would probably have been using a cell phone. Dyer has some bizarre notion that FISA is a "wiretap." Remember when everyone made fun of Trump for using that term? But we all knew Trump knew that's not how telecomm collection happens, for the most part.

      The fact that Dyer doesn't get is that FISA covers all physical and electronic foreign intelligence collection regardless of the method used. Instead she goes on at her usual excessive length talking about a specific method as if it were somehow outside the scope of or otherwise "non-FISA." She actually uses that term.

      She also very obviously has no understanding of how monitoring is done.

      So, in response to your comment, I retired 1/1/07. I won't pretend to know how the FBI collects for cell phones, but as I stated originally, I know that it does and that it does so under the provisions of FISA.

    2. I'm still shaking my head at the stupidity of suggesting that FISA collection is somehow limited to "a physically static wiretap capability."


      "The official position of the US Federal government is that the use of Stingrays does not require a probable cause warrant, because they claim Stingrays are a kind of pen register tap, which do not require a warrant, as decided in Smith v. Maryland.[11] The government notes that they do not intercept the actual conversation, only tracking identity of the phone and its location. The devices do have the technical capability to record the content of calls, so the government requires these content-intercepting functions to be disabled in normal use.[12] In September 2015, the US Justice Department issued new guidelines requiring federal agents to obtain warrants before using stingray devices, except in exigent circumstances."

    4. Thanks for your comments.

      Nevertheless, I still wonder whether the FBI used the StingRay -- outside of regular procedures -- in this particular case.

      Dyer indicates that Kislyak was briefed officially about the sanctions at the State Department on December 29, 2016, and then, from his car, phoned Flynn while riding in his car away from the State Department. (At least that is my understanding of Dyer's account.)

      I assume that Flynn was in the Dominican Republic at that time (I am not sure).

      If Kislay indeed was phoning Flynn from his car while riding away from the State Department building right after being briefed on December 29, then the StingRay is a good explanation of how the FBI -- not NSA -- recorded the conversation.

      Dyer's second article indicates that the FBI obtained a recording of the phone conversation immediately -- which means to me that the FBI obtained the conversation directly, not from some other domestic or foreign agency.

      I won't defend everything that Dyer wrote in those two articles, but I find that part of her argument to be compelling.

    5. The government notes that they do not intercept the actual conversation, only tracking identity of the phone and its location. The devices do have the technical capability to record the content of calls, so the government requires these content-intercepting functions to be disabled in normal use.

      Of course, the FBI might make an exception to the normal rules if the FBI had good reason to think that the new National Security Advisor was a witting agent of Russian Intelligence.

    6. Two points, Mike.

      First, I'm not a tech guy, so I can't speak authoritatively re collection methods. However, since Stingray is a man-in-the-middle technique, I would strongly believe that NSA would have more reliable and less labor intensive means of mass collection. I assume, without being able to point you to documentation, that the FBI and NSA have a long standing cooperative relationship re the collection and sharing of these types of communications.

      Re the "immediacy" of the FBI obtaining the call ...

      I address (in this post) the specific fact situation Dyer outlines, and point out that it's almost 100% certain that it had nothing to do with the Flynn/Kislyak call. On a technical level, I would envision that the NSA/FBI relationship I assume would allow for live monitoring. Dyer is talking about stuff she obviously knows nothing about.

      Second, I recommend a reading of FISA re exceptions to normal rules. The point being: FISA covers all bases.

    7. Most of us thought - as probably Trump did when he used the term - that “wiretap” was just a generic term for some kind(s) of snooping into what was going on, regardless of the means employed to get information one was not entitled to have. You may have to be a certain age to understand that...

  4. Mark, you commented in an earlier blog where I had commented that my theory aligns with Nunes... Now it seems you're leaning that direction or am I off base?

    1. No. Nunes has always seemed a straight shooter on this issue.

  5. I'm looking at the Flynn/Kislyak phone calls, and still coming up with the idea that Kislyak, was in on the whole thing, maybe threw Brennon. The pressing for a name of who would come to the meeting just seems a little out of norm.

    1. I didn't take it that way at all.

    2. Nothing unusual about Russians wanting to pull up everything they know on who they'll be talking to. We do it, too. However, unless they were meeting for a bit of friendly judo sparring, there is something very unusual about Kislyak throwing Brennan. ;)

  6. "Crown." One wonders if some at FBI believed that Steele's garbage was "unofficial" UK intel sharing.

  7. Read the released transcripts of the calls.

    This is what Comey told Obama was righteous?

    This is what some Dems recently wanted to release to demonstrate Flynn’s guilt?

    Are they serious? There is nothing there. Nothing!

    OMG! Really? I have no words.

    - TexasDude

  8. NSA is the entity to collects EC. The FBI is simply one of many agencies that have limited access to the database for official purposes. They are a downstream consumer of NSA product, which is referred to as "raw" data. The movie version of collection which consists of agents sitting in an unmarked van across the street and wearing headphones is long gone.

    More significantly, Grennell has stated publicly that the December 29, 2016 telephone call between Flynn and Kislyak was not NSA product. That means it was the Brits via their GCHQ that monitored the call and provided the summary to Clapper, who then relayed to the FBI via Strozk.

    1. "Grennell has stated publicly that the December 29, 2016 telephone call between Flynn and Kislyak was not NSA product."

      He said it wasn't "IC" product. He could be excluding FBI as part of USIC.

  9. "Grennell has stated publicly that the December 29, 2016 telephone call between Flynn and Kislyak was not NSA product."


    1. Perhaps this?

    2. I saw that before and didn't think it meant it was collected by a foreign power. Only that DNI had custody of some transcripts but not all. Unfortunately, I don't know the ins and outs of custody of such things. However, since the foreign power--the Russian embasssy and ambassador--were on US soil, there's no reason why the US wouldn't have been the collector and every reason why it would have been.

    3. I believe Grenell was using the term "intel product" in the sense of a finished intel product for distribution to other government "customers."

      If it were NSA "product" in that sense, Flynn's identity would have been minimized.

      But we know that wasn't the case; ergo, the intercept was NOT a finished NSA intel product for distribution, but rather a raw intercept collected (possibly by NSA) under the continuous FISA of Kislyak, for FBI's internal CI use.

      That's my best understanding.

  10. To Mark Wauck - I did not say, nor do I think, that FISA is limited to wiretapping. I'm well aware of the scope of FISA collection.

    When I spoke of your comments I was going by what was in the article I was citing, which incorporated quotes from you and from Andrew McCarthy. The quote from you was linked to wiretapping, on which you may have been misinterpreted by the author. If you were, then fine. I also didn't say, nor do I think, that YOU imagine all FISA collection to be wiretapping.

    On the main topic of this post, I concluded separately (as apparently you did originally) that the "CR cuts" reference was to Crossfire Razor. I still think that makes more sense than "Crown cuts."

    That divergence obviously leads to two different takes on what the 3 Jan exchange between Strzok and Page was about. We may eventually get more clarity on that from released documents. In the meantime, there's no point in squabbling over it.

    1. See below for further comments. My intent is not to get into a spat. I will address your views on CR in an update.

  11. "When FBI agent Mark Wauck spoke of FISA monitoring of Sergey Kislyak, he had in mind wiretapping the Russian embassy. ... the practical scope of a physically static wiretap capability would have obvious, and severe, limits."

    When I spoke of FISA monitoring I had in mind electronic monitoring as authorized by FISA.

  12. LOL. When I read that sentence the first time I thought, Wow, J.E. meant to say 'former' FBI agent Mark Wauck!

    I'm glad you two are talking. You have both made great contributions to our understanding of this monstrous scandal.

    I'm hoping you guys (with a little bit of help from the rest of us here) can crack this case so that the American people will finally know with total clarity the scope of their betrayal by those in whom the greatest trust has been placed.


    1. My basic problem with Dyer's articles is that she leads readers to view FBI NS collection as possibly having a "non-FISA" component. Her term, not mine. Trust me on this--the FBI has been monitoring foreign diplomats for many, many decades. Before FISA it was done on the president's constitutional NS authority, after FISA it's ALL covered by FISA in one way or another. FISA has nothing to do with techniques per se, but rather with legal/constitutional authority.

    2. I have no problem with principled disagreement. Its probably the best way to get to the truth.

      We have a common 'enemy' which is an authoritarian elite which is willing to abuse power and break laws to impose its illegitimate will on the people. This poses an immense danger to our 'voluntary' system of self-government.

      In these circumstances, where our opponents are doubling down on their lies, what can we do?

      My best answer is to continue to seek the truth and work to get the whole story out. I think that's our best hope. I don't want to contemplate the alternative.