Wednesday, July 29, 2020

What To Take From The Senate's ICA Report

Yesterday during the Dem House's theater of the absurd involving AG Bill Barr, the Senate Intel Committee released a heavily redacted version of their report on the origination of the notorious Obama administration Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) on Russian "meddling" in US elections. What this report focuses on is the inclusion of the Steele "dossier" as "Annex A" to the ICA.

I think we can take this report as a starting point for John Durham's investigation--at least as regards the ICA and its relevance to the rest of the Russia Hoax and Mueller witchhunt. We've heard at regular intervals that Durham is very much focused on the ICA, that he has been busily interviewing all the analysts involved, and--most pointedly--that he has been gathering all communications between disgraced former FBI Director James Comey and John Brennan. Naturally, the new revelations surrounding the FBI's three-day interview of Christopher Steele's notional "Primary Subsource", Igor Danchenko, make anything we can glean from this report of special interest.

Here's what struck me in reading even this heavily redacted version. You can assess my impressions while reading the excerpts I provide, below.

1. It's clear that the ICA was special ordered from the highest levels. Obama ordered it, but one assumes that there had to have been high level discussions before the decision was made. Those discussions probably involved both the Obama camp as well as the Clinton camp. After all, the Steele "dossier" was Clinton property--they had contracted for it, paid for it, and had already been putting it to use by the time the ICA was written. Getting it into the ICA, mainstreaming it as somehow an intel product rather than a political campaign product, was a big deal. And that was true no matter what caveats CIA analysts may have added.

2. Despite his testimony to the Senate, it seems clear that Comey was the driving force behind getting the dossier into the ICA. Certainly that comes across as the CIA's  understanding of the dynamics. There are hints that the FBI's Bill Priestap--its top CI official--wasn't totally committed, but Comey and disgraced former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe come across as determined. The question, then, is: Was Comey acting strictly on his own, or was he colluding with political operatives, whether from the Obama or Clinton camps, or both? Durham has surely been exploring that angle.

3. John Brennan comes across as rather clever in pointing the finger at Comey in his Senate testimony. This explains why Durham was so eager to get his hands on communications between Comey and Brennan, rather than having to rely on their testimony. What seems clear to me is that if Brennan had insisted, had really gone to the mat in support of the CIA analysts, the dossier could have been excluded from the ICA. Brennan was positioning himself.

4. While the ICA was presented as the assessment of the Intel Community as a whole, it's more clear than ever from this report that the matter of the dossier was strictly between the FBI and CIA--no other agency was truly involved--and Brennan positioned the FBI to shoulder any responsibility.

5. While the CIA analysts may not have been aware of the political provenance of the dossier material, the people at the FBI pushing for its inclusion in the ICA most certainly were fully aware that this was Clinton campaign material. They were also aware of just how unreliable it probably was and the FBI's failure to vet the material was raised insistently by the CIA analysts. Not only was this political provenance concealed from anyone reading the ICA as well as from the CIA analysts, but the fact that the FBI made no attempt to amend or revise the ICA after the Danchenko interview--just three weeks after the ICA came out--is damning evidence of Comey's conspiratorial intent against the president.

Now, here's the major portion of the redacted version of the report. What I've done is to insert an asterisk "*" to indicate redactions in the selected text. My own insertions are in brackets.

CIA reported to the Committee that on the same day, December 20, [2016] FBI first informed the CIA's team that FBI wanted to include material derived from what became known as the "Steele dossier." This information was from a former officer now operating a private commercial intelligence firm, who had an established relationship with FBI. This material eventually became Annex A of the ICA, but its placement in the ICA was not resolved until December 29.

The CIA team working on the ICA first learned on December 20, 2016, of information the FBI held and wanted to include in the ICA. Despite the fact that the ICA explicitly excluded ongoing investigations, FBI sought to introduce a summary of the material from former * officer Christopher Steele.

[This is important. The FBI's insistence on including the dossier violated what were the understood ground rules for the ICA.]

The Committee reviewed the debate over whether and where to include the Steele materials with all participants to the drafting of the ICA. In the first meeting of the Committee with Assistant Director for the Counterintelligence Division (AD/CD) of the FBI [Bill Priestap], he articulated the FBI's concerns. First was the directive from the President to include all the information the IC had on Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election, and this included material that FBI held. Even though the Assistant Director [Priestap] suggested that "the FBI didn't want to stand behind it," it qualified for this directive. Second, the question immediately became how to handle this information in the drafting of the ICA. This was ultimately resolved by including the information as Annex A, a two-page summary attached only to the most classified version of the ICA (i.e., the "Memorandum to the President" version)." FBI officials told the Committee that they "would have had a major problem if Annex A had not been included," and that FBI believed they "had to put everything in."

[So, Priestap appears to be following orders here. He "suggested" that the FBI didn't actually want to be pinned down to vouching for Steele's fictional narrative, yet he and, presumably, other "FBI officials" were insistent that it be included. This contradiction could not have been missed by the CIA analysts. It's a strong indication that the real moving force was coming from higher up than Priestap.]

The Assistant Director for * [a CIA official] recounted a conversation with FBI Assistant Director for CD [Counterintelligence Division, Priestap] on December 22, and recalled the FBI's interest in "weaving their dossier in the actual text of the report." Assistant Director for * [CIA] stated there was no "visibility, at the time of the writing of the report, into the sub-sourcing dynamic for that dossier ... because of the sub-sourcing, I felt [it] was not appropriate for inclusion in the report and would detract from the report." The Assistant Director for * told the Committee that when she asked the FBI Assistant Director for CD for more information on the sources for the dossier, the Assistant Director for CD [Priestap] told her that the FBI's primary source "had not provided information regarding the sub-sources, but that [FBI was] able to independently corroborate some of the sub-sourcing. But he did not provide the names or reliability for the sub-sources." Assistant Director for * [CIA] said the FBI Assistant Director told her. "We feel very strongly that it should be included and woven into the text," to which Assistant Director for * [CIA] stated they would have to "agree to disagree" and that her recommendation would be that the information "not be included in * said report. At a minimum, I was thinking it should be pulled out and put in an annex."

[The CIA Assistant Director is making her view very clear: She regarded the inclusion of such unreliable material as--not to put too fine a point on it--totally unprofessional. Brennan, of course, understood that. We'll see that he plays a little game, pretending that he disagrees with inclusion of the dossier, but not really backing his analysts.]

When asked to comment on Annex A as it appears in the ICA, Assistant Director for * [CIA] stated that she concurred with most of the language on the first page of what became Annex A of the ICA." However, from where the text in Annex A begins with "the most politically sensitive claims by the FBI source alleging a close relationship between the President elect and the Kremlin." the Assistant Director for * [CIA] stated "from there on down, I can tell you that there is no information coming from * sources that would corroborate any of that."

[In other words, the CIA Assistant Director is stating that, despite Priestap's representations, she regarded the dossier material that the FBI was insisting on including as utterly uncorroborated. Again, Brennan would have known this, too.]

The Assistant Director for * [CIA] also noted the FBI insisted on including the Steele reporting because "they didn't want to look like they were hiding anything," and that "[t]o me, that sounded fair." The Assistant Director for * [CIA] and her deputy reviewed the material and sent a copy to Director Brennan and Deputy Director Cohen." The Assistant Director for * [CIA] told the Committee that her understanding was that "the [CIA] analysts were very much against" putting the FBI material in the ICA." "[I]t was very unvetted information." according to the Assistant Director for *, and "some of it made sense.'" "[I]f you look at the theme, are the Russians trying to mess with our elections, that theme is certainly accurate. But the details were really--we wouldn't be able to come up with a good analytic confidence in them before the ICA was due." Ultimately, "[e]verybody agreed that it would just be an annex, and then it was agreed there would be a big caveat put on top of the annex, that this is totally unvetted, unverified.

["Totally unvetted, unverified." The FBI was fully aware of that verdict from CIA, and in fact had that verdict doubly confirmed only three weeks later from Danchenko--yet Comey made no move to correct any mistaken impressions, and even continued to use this BS in FISA applications. Oh my!]

The CIA analysts interviewed by the Committee recalled "at one point the FBI wanted [the Steele reporting] in the text [of the ICA]. The FBI wanted it in one fonii. We had it in a big text box on page 4. ... We had a bitter argument with the FBI to put it in an annex. One analyst acknowledged that the material was already circulating, and that "[i]f we hadn't addressed it, it would have either created the impression among people who didn't go through the sourcing that we had relied on it, which we didn't, or that we were unaware of it."

[One more indication of how strongly the CIA analysts felt about including such unvetted material. But Brennan allowed Comey to bulldoze him? Clever.]

Deputy Director for Analysis [CIA] stated, "We would have never included that report in a CIA-only assessment because the source was so indirect. And we made sure we indicated we didn't use it in our analvsis, and if it had been a CIA-only product we wouldn't have included it at all."

[Garbage in, garbage out--but at least we can point out that it's garbage.]

Director Brennan reiterated the CIA's reservations about the FBI's Steele material, noting that the DDA * "was very concerned about polluting the ICA with this material," and that "there was stiff opposition, especially from CIA, to include that material either in essence or in substance in that report," which "was not used in any way as far as the judgments in the ICA were concerned." ...


Director Comey addressed the question of the dossier and its placement when asked by SSCI Chaimian Burr whether he "insisted that the dossier be part of the ICA in any way, shape, or form?" Director Comey replied:

I insisted that we bring it to the party, and I was agnostic as to whether it was footnoted in the document itself, put as an annex. I have some recollection of talking to John Brennan maybe at some point saying: I don't really care, but I think it is relevant and so ought to be part of the consideration.

["I was agnostic, ... I don't really care" says Comey to the Senate, but that's not the impression the CIA analysts had.]

NSA played no role in the debate over the Steele reporting and the ICA. NSA analysts told the Committee they had "no role in drafting, nor role in its inclusion, no role in reviewing the source material, became aware of it as it was appended." NSA analysts first heard of the information on December 29 and had no insights into Steele's source network, and the Steeie material had no effect on NSA's views of the Key Judgments of the ICA.

On December 27, a SVTC was held between the four deputies of CIA, NSA, FBI, and ODNI, in order to reach an agreement on where to place the Steeie materials in the ICA, with the FBI insisting it remain in the body of the ICA. No agreement was reached and, according to the CIA senior officer assigned to the ICA, Director Brennan left it to the analysts to make the call on where to put it. On December 28, Director Comey was still insisting the document be in the body. On December 29, Deputy Director Cohen and Deputy Director McCabe agreed to place the material in an annex.

[Really? What happened to that devil may care agnosticism?]

Director Brennan recalled to the Committee: "So as long as it was separated from the ICA's substance and judgments and as long as it was not going to be part of the formal briefing we gave on the ICA, we felt, ok, Jim [Comey], you want to do it, okay. We're not going to object."

[Haha! Under the bus you go, Jimbo! You want it, you can have it! But Durham is checking all that out, especially: What passed in their private communications?]


Annex A includes qualifiers for the Steele material, but does not mention the private clients who paid for Steele's work. The Committee found no evidence that analysts working on the ICA were aware of the political provenance of the Steele material.

[The CIA analysts may not have known, but the top brass at FBI certainly did. But they weren't saying. If the CIA analysts who didn't understand that this was Clinton material still objected to its inclusion "bitter[ly]", can you imagine how they would have felt if they'd been told the whole story?]

CIA shared drafting responsibility for the first portion of Annex A, which states, "Some of the FBI source's reporting is consistent with the judgments in this assessment," and the first three footnotes of the ICA are reprised.

The annex language notes, however, that one aspect of the Steele material * . The assertion that the Kremlin "regretted its decision to intervene" *

The Committee asked * whether they had any "intelligence that * "We had no reporting of that at all."

[These redactions are particularly irksome because they appear to be negative assessments of the Steele material.]


  1. Nice summary Mark. "Nothing in the world more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity". - MLK Jr.

    And therefore the ICA carried the ball forward for more FISA abuse, indictments, etc... under the "main justice" stewardship of sleepy R.R. and the Mueller 'SCO' for another 2+ years.

    Comey's a clever guy. His ego and his brainpower surely could have been put to better use somewhere else. Perhaps as an Ambassador to Antarctica or similar.

  2. Your excellent analysis of the Senate report is almost identical to my reactions when I first saw it yesterday.

    A new thought after reading your analysis: I think we now have circumstantial evidence that explains why the FBI conspicuously avoided vetting the Steele material until AFTER the ICA -- with Annex A -- was released.

    Comey was desperate to get it included, and if they knew that Steele's allegations were likely a load of fabricated gossip and rumor (which should have been obvious to skilled intel analysts,) they could ill-afford to vett it and confirm the bogosity of Steele garbage, because they'd have to tell the ICA committee that they couldn't vett it. So they never even tried vetting it until until 3 weeks later, when they finally sit down with Danchenko (PSS,) who confirms it's mostly hearsay gossip from his friends and pals/drinking buddies, and that Steele -- or somebody else -- added/twisted/manipulated what the PSS told Steele.

    This, combined with what appears to be Comey with his hair on fire desperate to get the unvetted Steele material into the ICA one way or another, suggests the ICA itself was a tool to achieve some end, likely providing the "hook" for the publication of the Steele Dossier allegations by the compliant sycophants in the MSM, which -- in combination with Comey baiting Trump into firing him -- helps set the stage for 1) Session's recusal, and 2) appointment of a Special Prosecutor whose job it would be to try to frame Trump for Obstruction.

    IOW, the Senate report suggests there is strong evidence of a conspiracy being carried out.

  3. A couple observations.

    Wasn't Steele paid by the FBI? (In addition to FusionGPS.) In what way could Steele be dismissed/fired by the FBI if he wasn't working for them? Frankly, isn't there an ethical problem using information that has been specifically developed and paid for by a third party, for the use of that third party.

    The CIA deputy director is referred to using female pronouns, surely she can be identified.

    As regarding the CIA analyst evaluation of the Steele dossier, it seems impossible (and unprofessional) for them to apply any evaluative effort on a "source product" without fully understanding the provenance, circumstances, etc. of the dossier and its sources (or sourcing). Judgments are subjective to begin with, unknown provenance and circumstances means the analysts are being gamed. i.e. urged to arrive at an assessment that can be used or discarded as the chain of command determines it fits its agenda. Not sharing what is known and not known is purposeful.

    It's a bit like assembling a jigsaw puzzle without the picture printed on the pieces--all you have are random pieces with no clue how they fit together.

    1. "it seems impossible (and unprofessional) for them to apply any evaluative effort on a "source product" without fully understanding the provenance, circumstances, etc. of the dossier and its sources (or sourcing)."

      It not merely seems unprofessional for them to proceed (without fully understanding the provenance, circumstances, etc.), it's clearly unprofessional for this to happen, not only in the "Intel world", but in any "world" specializing in human interaction (e.g. in journalism, historiography, jurisprudence).

      This is Frosh-level stuff. Of course it was purposeful.

    2. Right. They weren't really stupid--just corrupt.

    3. And Mark, it makes the excuse "mistakes were made" effectively disappear.

      Too many actions taken and directives given were purposeful in commission or omission, that were to far afield from standards and protocol, with too many exceptions around the existing practices and procedures approved, to be mere human failing. It's a catalog of corruption.

    4. All of these developments add together to that effect. That's important in forcing targets into plea deals, which are preferable to trial because quicker. I was talking with a friend who's still close to some of this stuff, and who goes even further than I do in this post.

  4. If they had all sat down in the same room and plotted that the Steele dossier was a wounded duck, but was the best they had so they were going to go with it, the 'paper trail' would have probably looked just as it did...some of the so-called 'smarter ones' being a little better at CYA.

  5. Roaming around, I found a CIA position called “Assistant Director for Current Intelligence”, but no name to go with it.

  6. That organizational chart was the attachment to this:

  7. "Despite his testimony to the Senate, it seems clear that Comey was the driving force behind getting the dossier into the ICA."

    But what was driving Comey? Why take such a risk? Was it that he knew what had already been done to date and needed to cover his and others' prior misdeeds? Was it Comey's personal animosity toward Trump? Or was he working for or with others to continue with the collusion scam?

    It will be interesting to see how Bruce Ohr and Glen Simpson come out of the Durham investigation as they were the worker bees making the honey.


  8. But Johnny B's secret Moscow sauce!

  9. "Despite his testimony to the Senate, it seems clear that Comey was the driving force behind getting the dossier into the ICA."

    I had concluded that Brennan was the spy-master. It seems to me he manipulated Comey (and everyone else) into doing everything that was done. Isn't this kind of plotting the bread-and-butter of what CIA does on a daily basis?

    1. I expressed that badly. What I meant was that Comey was the frontman for inclusion of the dossier. Brennan obviously wanted it in the ICA, too, but cleverly positioned himself for deniability. This is why Durham wanted to see all communications between the two, to document Brennan's real role.

  10. There's one thing I've never read that I'm curious about:

    We know Nellie Ohr got a HAM radio license during this time.
    Was it ever revealed who she was communicating with, using her radio? Or is that even possible to find out?

    1. No, we've never heard more. Her testimony re when she got the license seems clearly false--it's certainly inaccurate, but in the circs it's impossible to believe she was being truthful. People with knowledge of these things say she could only have been using it to communicate with people locally--in the fairly close-in DC area. Given that she was a CIA contract employee, one wonders.

    2. Yacoob Apelbaum's graphic on Nellie's radio range map:

      >> <<

      VHF/UHF ham radios would easily allow Nellie to communicate/signal others in the DC area with line of sight comms, and non-line of sight via use of local repeaters. Her license bestows voice/data privileges on VHF/UHF ham bands.

  11. FLASH:

    Appeals Court grants Sullivan request for en banc rehearing of Mandamus.

    1. The court dives head first into presidential politics and separation of powers. What could go wrong...


    2. Perhaps Turncoat Roberts gave them a nudge with his cozy relationship with the liberals.


  12. Would the full circuit have to actually vacate rather than stay the original order by the three judge panel? I would think they had a choice between those two, so my impression is that this would reset any timelines for implementing any ruling. Even if the full panel again orders Sullivan to dismiss, Sullivan could take his sweet time yet again until, say, November 4th.

    1. My best non-expert understanding is that, given that the full circuit will REHEAR the mandamus petition, the order had to be vacated--it will be replaced by whatever decision comes now. And yes, there are possibilities for further manufactured delay.