The FBI sought and received a Title I FISA warrant on Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page on Oct. 21, 2016. Three subsequent FISA renewals were sought and surveillance continued on Page until September 2017.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) released 412 pages of the Page FISA surveillance court orders and applications on July 21, 2018. Large sections of the documents were redacted, and many pages were completely blacked out.
In response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit by the James Madison Project, the FBI and DOJ filed a lengthy court document on Oct. 19, 2018, that provides a significant amount of new information.
The DOJ withheld eight categories of information in the Page documents, pursuant to Exemption 7(E) (page 9):
- information about the investigative focus of these applications;
- information about collection and analysis of information;
- information about specific techniques used in the national-security investigations;
- information about specific databases used for law enforcement purposes;
- information about payments to confidential sources;
- detailed information about targets, dates, and scope of surveillance;
- information about dates and types of investigations; and
- investigative strategies for particular evidence.
The DOJ withheld four categories of private information in the Page documents, pursuant to Exemption 6 and Exemption 7(E) (page 9):
- identifying information for FBI agents;
- personal information about Page;
- identifying information about a FISC deputy clerk and an NSD attorney; and
- identifying information about a third-party source.
David M. Hardy, the FBI section chief of the Record/Information Dissemination Section (RIDS), and DOJ attorneys jointly submitted the filings. Hardy, who supervises 242 employees, is responsible for managing responses to requests for access to FBI records and information pursuant to the FOIA.
Hardy has made the determination that information contained within the Page FISA documents remains “under control of the United States Government, and contains information pertaining to intelligence activities, sources or methods” (page 7).
Information in the Page documents relates to foreign relations or foreign activities of the United States, and Hardy “determined that disclosure of such information would cause harm to national security.” Additionally, the “withheld information pertains to the pending Russia investigation” and the disclosure of redacted information could reasonably be expected to “interfere with the pending investigation into Russian election interference if publicly disclosed at this time” (page 8).
Despite these qualifications, there is a large amount of information that is either disclosed or inferred. Here are the highlights (page numbers are listed and relate to the overall document):
The prior release of the Page FISA documents was incomplete (page 52):
“DOJ withheld 186 pages in full from the Carter Page FISA packages. Disclosure would reveal classified intelligence methods and law enforcement techniques.”
The document stated that no evidence of Trump Tower wiretapping was found—the confirmation is notably specific (page 24):
“No records of alleged wiretapping of then-candidate Trump in Trump Tower by the Obama administration prior to the 2016 presidential election.”
Newly disclosed is the government’s acknowledgment that it used sources beyond Christopher Steele and his anti-Trump dossier (page 45):
“The FISA applications contain information from and about other sources who provided information to the FBI.”
Additional sources are referenced on multiple occasions. The use of “sources” indicates individuals in addition to Stefan Halper, who was previously revealed as an FBI asset used to spy on Page and Trump campaign volunteer George Papadopoulos (page 39):
“Although the identity of one source has been disclosed, the Page applications include identifying information for other sources as well.”
Steele has been officially acknowledged as Source #1, but information regarding both Steele and other sources remains redacted (page 45):
“The FBI redacted certain non-public information regarding Christopher Steele (identified as “Source #1” in the documents), and all information about and from other confidential human sources.”
Page wasn’t the only individual being investigated, although it’s not entirely clear if additional FISA warrants were issued. Payments to sources were also made (page 38):
“The withheld information includes, for example, detailed information about investigation of individuals other than Page, undisclosed methods used to gather information about Page, detailed undisclosed information about a source’s activities, and information about the specific amounts and timeframes for payments to human sources.”
Important information, including minimization procedures, which would allow determination if the Page FISA was leveraged onto other members of the Trump campaign, is withheld (page 38):
“The FBI redacted information that would reveal the exact timeframes of authorized surveillance and descriptions of exactly what was authorized, including minimization procedures.”
Multiple references to foreign relations and foreign countries are made (page 40):
“The redacted information relates to the United States’ interactions with foreign countries. If disclosed, such information can reasonably be expected to lead to diplomatic or economic retaliation, the loss of cooperation, or the compromise of cooperative foreign sources.”
Aspects of Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation haven’t been made public (page 43):
“The Third Hardy Declaration explains that disclosure of redacted information in the Carter Page FISA documents “could reasonably be expected to interfere with the pending Russian election interference investigation if publicly disclosed at this time.” This includes: aspects of the investigation not previously made public.
Payments to sources were made by the DOJ (page 48):
“DOJ withheld specific information about payments to confidential human sources.”
An indirect source is mentioned twice in the released FISA documents. Identifying information is redacted (page 52 & 102):
“The FBI protected information that would identify an individual who was a source of information that came into the FBI’s possession during a particular phase of the investigation. This identifying information appears on one page in the third FISA application and one page in the fourth FISA application. This particular source…did not provide information directly to the FBI.”
FBI access to specific databases was redacted (page 48):
“DOJ redacted specific databases used by the FBI for investigative purposes. It is not publicly known under what circumstances the FBI utilizes these particular databases, particularly in the context of a national security investigation.”
The details and scope of the surveillance on Page weren’t disclosed (page 49):
“Details about how such surveillance was investigatively or technically implemented, the locations targeted by the surveillance, and the specific time periods under which the surveillance was conducted are not public.”
The DOJ won’t confirm or deny whether additional FISA warrants were issued (page 55):
“DOJ has logically and plausibly explained why it cannot confirm or deny the existence of additional responsive records that would identify other FISA targets, if any, without revealing information that is currently and properly classified and exempt from disclosure under FOIA Exemption 1.”
As a reminder, the DOJ Inspector General is currently investigating FISA abuse. It’s uncertain when a report will be released.
Jeff Carlson is a CFA charterholder. He worked for 20 years as an analyst and portfolio manager in the high-yield bond market. He runs the website TheMarketsWork.com
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.