Friday, June 15, 2018

Consider the Lilies of the Field Office

Can't come up with a great credit for this, but it's indoors in the New York Field Office,  via

Not quite: there is a single mention, sort of, making it clear that the New York office was where they expected the leak of the Weiner laptop investigation to be leaked from, on p. 359 (h/t Tim Dickinson/Rolling Stone):

But no followup, and that's why Josh's frustration is justified. What made them confident the New York office would leak it?

"True Pundit", the pro-Trump website thought to have been used by some active New York agents to leak allegations of anti-Trump bias in the higher levels of the Bureau, is never mentioned. Rudolph Giuliani's and James Kallstrom's names don't appear. The concept that any New York agent could have felt political bias or personal animus against Clinton doesn't rate a note anywhere in the 500-plus pages of the document, though all of these things had been well covered from as early as 16 November 2016 by Vox, on the case where Andrew McCabe found himself obliged to intervene with the move that got him, but not the leaking New York agents, denounced by Inspector General Horowitz, fired, and deprived of some of his pension
In the words of one anonymous agent quoted by the Guardian, some FBI personnel see Clinton as “the anti-Christ,” and “the reason why they’re leaking is they’re pro-Trump.” The FBI, the agent said, “is Trumpland.”
The willingness of some agents to break with FBI policies about discussing open investigations in the run-up to an election has been evident for days. The first leak came over the weekend, when unnamed sources told the Wall Street Journal about a bitter power struggle between agents in the FBI’s New York office who have been probing the Clinton Foundation and career prosecutors in Washington charged with deciding whether to bring a case.
According to the Journal, the FBI investigators believed they had enough evidence to merit an aggressive investigation, using subpoenas and other powerful tools, into whether donors to the Clinton Foundation had received preferential treatment from Hillary Clinton’s State Department. Prosecutors in Washington, backed by some senior officials at the FBI, refused to greenlight the probe.
to as recently as December 14 in Vanity Fair
Rudy Giuliani and James Kallstrom, a former boss of the F.B.I.’s New York field office, claimed that revelations damaging to Clinton would soon be unveiled, and that New York F.B.I. agents were angry at Comey for concealing the truth. Conservative websites, particularly True Pundit, claimed to have sources inside the New York office. “It is going to be ironic if it turns out there was a leaker in the New York office helping Trump,” said Asha Rangappa, a former F.B.I. counterintelligence agent in New York. “Mueller will find that person, and then all the hoo-ha that’s being made about Strzok is going to be nothing.” 
and we know the inspector general was made aware of it by the ranking members of the relevant House committees:

Excepts from a letter from Jerrold Nadler of the House Judiciary Committee and Elijah Cummings of the Committee on Government Oversight to DAG Rod Rosenstein, asking for information they seemed to believe was being withheld from Democrats, 11 December 2017. The letter was forwarded to Inspector General Horowitz, via Politico.

That was 11 months after the review began, but the OIG report notes that Congressional Democrats were definitely among those who asked for it,
The OIG initiated this review on January 12, 2017, in response to requests from numerous Chairmen and Ranking Members of Congressional oversight committees, various organizations, and members of the public to investigate various decisions made in the Midyear investigation.
and leaks were specifically among the issues they were tasked with looking at
Allegations that Department and FBI employees improperly disclosed non-public information
The OIG recognized the importance of that leakiness in accounting for the central issue of the whole thing,  Comey's July and October decisions
Several FBI officials told us that their concerns about potential leaks were a factor that influenced them in the discussions about the possibility of sending a notification letter to Congress on October 28, 2016, regarding the FBI’s discovery of Clinton-related emails on the Weiner laptop. As then FBI General Counsel Baker starkly characterized that decision to us, “[I]f we don't put out a letter, somebody is going to leak it.”
But they couldn't seem to find anything out about it, because it was just too hard! There were too many suspects, and then there was so darn much leaking!
Our ability to identify individuals who have improperly disclosed non-public information is often hampered by two significant factors. First, we frequently find that the universe of Department and FBI employees who had access to sensitive information that has been leaked is substantial, often involving dozens, and in some instances, more than 100 people. We recognize that this is a challenging issue, because keeping information too closely held can harm an investigation and the supervision of it. Nevertheless, we think the Department and the FBI need to consider whether there is a better way to appropriately control the dissemination of sensitive information.
Second, although FBI policy strictly limits the employees who are authorized to speak to the media, we found that this policy appeared to be widely ignored during the period we reviewed. We identified numerous FBI employees, at all levels of the organization and with no official reason to be in contact with the media, who were nevertheless in frequent contact with reporters. The large number of FBI employees who were in contact with journalists during this time period impacted our ability to identify the sources of leaks. For example, during the periods we reviewed, we identified dozens of FBI employees that had contact with members of the media. Attached to this report as Attachments G and H are link charts that reflects the volume of communications that we identified between FBI employees and media representatives in April/May and October 2016.
I find myself imagining this is completely plausible, though you'd think it would be relatively easier if you knew some particular subset of FBI leaks was emerging from one particular office; maybe they don't want to talk about the specific question of how the rogues in the New York office was able to spook Comey into making his calamitous errors because their failure to find out is too embarrassing.

On the other hand, to stop here on a positive note (I have some other things I want to say about the report, but I'll post this first), it looks as if the extraordinary leaking from inside the FBI that was plaguing the Bureau in the second half of 2016 has really more or less stopped, and we're always hearing praise of the Mueller investigation in particular for its very good control over agents' mouths. There's leaking, to be sure, but it's coming from targets and subjects of the investigation, including the president, and their attorneys, and of course from Republican members of Congress. Which is a problem, as they are able to elaborate a counternarrative before Mueller's narrative is out, other than in the form of court filings, but try not to worry too much about that.

The fun thought is that those very bad FBI agents of "Trumpland" in 2016 might have calmed down, or been rendered ineffective, or at least moderated their misbehavior, partly as a consequence of Trump's own actions: he could have so enraged the Bureau as a collectivity with his insults and idiocy that none of them are willing to back him up any more, just out of pure unit cohesion.

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