A stunning statement from Circa.com uncovered on Friday that the FBI under director Comey “Unlawfully shared raw intelligence about US Citizens with unauthorized third parties and violated other constitutional privacy protections, according to newly declassified government documents.” That’s a bombshell charge – Comey informed Congress earlier in May that the FBI only used warrantless info that was “legally gathered, carefully overseen and examined” – but the details are possibly more damning.
According to Circa, one ruling from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) “list[ed] hundreds of violations of the FBI’s privacy-protecting minimization rules that occurred on Comey’s watch.” That included giving intelligence data to third parties who weren’t cleared to see it, among them “a private entity that did not have the legal right to see the intelligence.” The FBI claims that the number of violations is small by percentage of all data operations.
Trump acolytes will undoubtedly suggest that this is precisely what happened with Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, who was caught up in surveillance of Russian third parties, unmasked by the Obama administration, and then revealed to the press by someone in the know. They will suggest that we now know that the FBI was often exceeding its mandate by searching data without a warrant that they should not have, and by occasionally allowing that information to flow outside of established channels.
In reality, the business of national security is sloppy. Mistakes will undoubtedly be made. The question is twofold: what sort of mistakes were made with regard to leaking the identity of Flynn to the press? And more generally, were the systems in place for restricting the free flow of classified information about American citizens sufficient?
Officials at FBI headquarters instructed its New York field office to continue its corruption investigation into the Clinton Foundation following the election of Republican candidate Donald Trump, according to a former senior law enforcement official.
The instructions ordered agents to “go forward” with their ongoing inquiry into the Clinton Foundation which is focusing on issues of corruption and money laundering, according to the source.
“There were no instructions to shut it down, to discontinue or to stand down on the investigation, but to continue its work,” the former official told the Daily Caller News Foundation in an interview.
He said he received this information about a week ago and that the order originated from the bureau’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. well after the November 8 election. He did not know who at FBI Headquarters issued the order.
The same source broke the news to TheDCNF that the FBI was conducting a multi-city probe of the foundation in as many as five cities: New York, Little Rock, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Miami. The source did not know the status of the bureau’s work in the four other cities.
After the election, President-elect Donald Trump indicated that prosecuting rival Hillary Clinton or her foundation would not be a priority.
In an interview with the New York Times on November 21, he said, “I don’t want to hurt the Clintons, I really don’t.”
But he didn’t rule out a continuing probe of the foundation, saying, “we’ll have people that do things,” on the foundation, which the Times wrote was, “perhaps a reference to the F.B.I. or Republicans who might continue to press for prosecutions in the email or foundation cases.”
It’s rare for a president to stop an FBI investigation. Halting an ongoing probe by the FBI, which is an independent law enforcement agency, can be fraught with many political risks for presidents and can expose them to charges of interfering or politicizing law enforcement activities.
The Clinton Foundation originally started in Little Rock, Arkansas as the main nonprofit entity to build and maintain the presidential library for former President Bill Clinton.
As its activities exploded in the United States and overseas, its operations migrated to New York City.
In 2015, the foundation reported it had 528 full-time employees, most of them working in offices located on Wall Street. It’s net assets in 2015 were $347 million according to its Form 990 tax filing with the Internal Revenue Service.
The charity moved in 2011 from Harlem to Wall Street where they shared offices with the investment giant Goldman Sachs, according to WikiLeaks.
The move to Wall Street doubled the foundation’s rent, from $1.8 million to $4 million, according to the charity’s Form 990.
The spark for the FBI investigation appeared to be secret recordings of suspects in Los Angeles involved in money laundering activities who mentioned the Clinton Foundation. The disclosure triggered an investigation in that city beginning last February, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Other FBI bureaus also opened probes of the foundation in other cities.
On numerous occasions bureau agents also conferred with Peter Schweizer, who chronicled the money flows into the charity from influential and wealthy people and foreign governments and wrote about it in his book titled, “Clinton Cash.”
FBI Director James Comey has been criticized by both Democrats and Republicans for his decisions on probing Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server for government business. He ended an investigation in July of this year of her email but then resurrected it just 10 days before the election when her emails showed up in a laptop owned by former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner.
Weiner, who is married to Clinton aide Huma Abedin, is reportedly being investigated on child pornography grounds when he allegedly “sexted” with underage girls.
Senior Justice Department officials reportedly were openly skeptical of the Clinton Foundation case and repeatedly tried to shut down the bureau’s probe. But the department was not able to shut down the FBI activities.
After facing a storm of bipartisan criticism for his cryptic message about “emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation” of Hillary Clinton, the FBI is attempting to accelerate its examination of hundreds of thousands of emails that may or may not implicate Mrs. Clinton for the improper handling of classified material. Comey’s letter to Congress to “supplement” his previous testimony has upended the presidential election, bringing complaints from both sides of the aisle and rejoicing from Trump supporters.
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), wrote to Comey, “While I disagree with those who suggest you should have kept the FBI’s discovery secret until after the election, I agree that your disclosure did not go far enough.” Grassley continued, “Without additional context, your disclosure is not fair to Congress, the American people, or Secretary Clinton.” Grassley called for a response to congressional queries on the emails by Friday, November 4.
CNN reported that former Attorney General Eric Holder said, “Good men make mistakes. In this instance, he [Comey] has committed a serious error with potentially severe implications.” Holder said that Comey’s letter “violated long-standing Justice Department policies and tradition” that prevent officials from commenting on ongoing investigations and politically sensitive matters for 60 days prior to an election. “I fear he has unintentionally and negatively affected public trust in both the Justice Department and the FBI,” Holder added.
Former Bush Administration Attorney General Alberto Gonzales agreed. “If you delay the announcement, hopefully it’s not going to jeopardize an investigation, it’s not going to jeopardize the pursuit of justice, and voters will have the opportunity to vote on Election Day without information that may in fact be incomplete or untrue,” Gonzales said on CNN.
In the wake of Comey’s letter, it seemed that the FBI was feeling little urgency in the investigation. The Washington Post reported that agents investigating the Wiener case knew of the emails several weeks ago, even though Comey said he only learned of them on Thursday, the day before his letter to Congress. ABC News reported that it was not until Sunday night, three days after Comey learned of the emails, that the FBI finally received a warrant to begin reviewing their contents.
Now that the review is underway, the Los Angeles Times reports that the Justice Department has promised to “dedicate all necessary resources and take appropriate steps as expeditiously as possible.” The investigators are using a computer program to flag emails that require individual review. The number of emails pertinent to the investigation is likely to be a small fraction of the estimated 650,000 emails. Even with expedited handling it is unlikely that the review will be completed before the election.
In the end, there may be nothing new to be found in the pile of emails. In a letter to FBI employees, Comey wrote, “We don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations, but here I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed.” He continued, “Given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression. In trying to strike that balance, in a brief letter and in the middle of an election season, there is significant risk of being misunderstood.”
It seems that Comey has definitely been misunderstood and has created a misleading and confusing situation for both the voters and the candidates only a week and a half prior to the election. Ronald Hosko, a former senior FBI official, told the LA Times, “I don’t envision a circumstance where this changes dramatically [for Clinton],” but many, including Donald Trump, have received a different impression. Regardless of the content of the emails, the mere announcement of the review can impact the election.
After vague and contradictory statements about the email investigation over the past several months, the FBI owes voters a full and rapid explanation of its findings and the contents of the emails. Voters should not be forced to choose a president based on incomplete and misleading information.
BOMBSHELL LEAK: A top State Department official allegedly “pressured” the FBI to downgrade the classification of one of Hillary Clinton’s emails as part of a “quid pro quo,” according to documents released by the bureau on Monday.
The accusation of such an arrangement came from an interview the FBI conducted with an official in its records management division. Notes from the interview were released as part of the FBI’s public posting of documents related to its now-closed investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server.
In the interview, the unnamed official says that Patrick Kennedy, undersecretary of state for management, tried in late June or early July of last year to get the FBI to change a classified email to unclassified, in exchange for the State Department allowing the FBI to place agents in more countries.
The conversation allegedly occurred as the FBI and State were engaging in an interagency review of Clinton’s emails as they were being prepared for public release. Ultimately, FBI Director James Comey said just over 100 emails retrieved from Clinton’s server were deemed classified after the fact, although the Democratic nominee contends she never knowingly sent or received classified emails.
In an exchange that included redacted names, the interview notes state that “[REDACTED] received a call from [REDACTED] of the International Operations Division (IOD) of the FBI, who ‘pressured’ him to change the classified email to unclassified. [REDACTED] indicated he had been contacted by PATRICK KENNEDY, Undersecretary of State, who had asked his assistance in altering the email’s classification in exchange for a ‘quid pro quo.’”
The notes go on to say, “[REDACTED] advised that, in exchange for marking the email unclassified, STATE would reciprocate by allowing the FBI to place more Agents in countries where they are presently forbidden.”
An unnamed official alleges that Kennedy followed up this request by asking during a private meeting whether the FBI could “see their way to marking the email unclassified?”
SOURCE FOX NEWS – The decision to let Hillary Clinton off the hook for mishandling classified information has roiled the FBI and Department of Justice, with one person closely involved in the year-long probe telling FoxNews.com that career agents and attorneys on the case unanimously believed the Democratic presidential nominee should have been charged.
The source, who spoke to FoxNews.com on the condition of anonymity, said FBI Director James Comey’s dramatic July 5 announcement that he would not recommend to the Attorney General’s office that the former secretary of state be charged left members of the investigative team dismayed and disgusted. More than 100 FBI agents and analysts worked around the clock with six attorneys from the DOJ’s National Security Division, Counter Espionage Section, to investigate the case.
“No trial level attorney agreed, no agent working the case agreed, with the decision not to prosecute — it was a top-down decision,” said the source, whose identity and role in the case has been verified by FoxNews.com.
A high-ranking FBI official told Fox News that while it might not have been a unanimous decision, “It was unanimous that we all wanted her [Clinton’s] security clearance yanked.”
“It is safe to say the vast majority felt she should be prosecuted,” the senior FBI official told Fox News. “We were floored while listening to the FBI briefing because Comey laid it all out, and then said ‘but we are doing nothing,’ which made no sense to us.”
The FBI declined to comment directly, but instead referred Fox News to multiple public statements Comey has made in which he has thrown water on the idea that politics played a role in the agency’s decision not to recommend charges.
“I know there were many opinions expressed by people who were not part of the investigation – including people in government – but none of that mattered to us,” Comey said July 5 in announcing the FBI’s decision on the Clinton emails. “Opinions are irrelevant, and they were all uninformed by insight into our investigation, because we did the investigation the right way. Only facts matter, and the FBI found them here in an entirely apolitical and professional way.”
Andrew Napolitano, former judge and senior judicial analyst for Fox News Channel, said many law enforcement agents involved with the Clinton email investigation have similar beliefs.
“It is well known that the FBI agents on the ground, the human beings who did the investigative work, had built an extremely strong case against Hillary Clinton and were furious when the case did not move forward,” said Napolitano. “They believe the decision not to prosecute came from The White House.”
The claim also is backed up by a report in the New York Post this week, which quotes a number of veteran FBI agents saying FBI Director James Comey “has permanently damaged the bureau’s reputation for uncompromising investigations with his cowardly whitewash of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information using an unauthorized private email server.”
“The FBI has politicized itself, and its reputation will suffer for a long time. I hold Director Comey responsible,” Dennis V. Hughes, the first chief of the FBI’s computer investigations unit, told the Post. Retired FBI agent Michael M. Biasello added to the report, saying, “Comey has singlehandedly ruined the reputation of the organization.”
Especially angering the team, which painstakingly pieced together deleted emails and interviewed witnesses to prove that sensitive information was left unprotected, was the fact that Comey based his decision on a conclusion that a recommendation to charge would not be followed by DOJ prosecutors, even though the bureau’s role was merely to advise, Fox News was told.
“Basically, James Comey hijacked the DOJ’s role by saying ‘no reasonable prosecutor would bring this case,’” the Fox News source said. “The FBI does not decide who to prosecute and when, that is the sole province of a prosecutor — that never happens.
“I know zero prosecutors in the DOJ’s National Security Division who would not have taken the case to a grand jury,” the source added. “One was never even convened.”
Napolitano agreed, saying the FBI investigation was hampered from the beginning, because there was no grand jury, and no search warrants or subpoenas issued.
“The FBI could not seize anything related to the investigation, only request things. As an example, in order to get the laptop, they had to agree to grant immunity,” Napolitano said.
In early 2015, it was revealed that Clinton had used a private email server in her Chappaqua, N.Y., home to conduct government business while serving from 2009-2013. The emails on the private server included thousands of messages that would later be marked classified by the State Department retroactively. Federal law makes it a crime for a government employee to possess classified information in an unsecure manner, and the relevant statute does not require a finding of intent.
Although Comey found that Clinton was “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information,” he said “no charges are appropriate in this case.”
Well before Comey’s announcement, which came days after Bill Clinton met in secret with Comey’s boss, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, there were signs the investigation would go nowhere, the source told FoxNews.com. One was the fact that the FBI forced its agents and analysts involved in the case to sign non-disclosure agreements.
“This is unheard of, because of the stifling nature it has on the investigative process,” the source said.
Another oddity was the five so-called immunity agreements granted to Clinton’s State Department aides and IT experts.
Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s former chief of staff, along with two other State Department staffers, John Bentel and Heather Samuelson, were afforded immunity agreements, as was Bryan Pagliano, Clinton’s former IT aide, and Paul Combetta, an employee at Platte River networks, the firm hired to manage her server after she left the State Department.
As Fox News has reported, Combetta utilized the computer program “Bleachbit” to destroy Clinton’s records, despite an order from Congress to preserve them, and Samuelson also destroyed Clinton’s emails. Pagliano established the system that illegally transferred classified and top secret information to Clinton’s private server. Mills disclosed classified information to the Clinton’s family foundation in the process, breaking federal laws.
None should have been granted immunity if no charges were being brought, the source said.
“[Immunity] is issued because you know someone possesses evidence you need to charge the target, and you almost always know what it is they possess,” the source said. “That’s why you give immunity.”
Mills and Samuelson also received immunity for what was found on their computers, which were then destroyed as a part of negotiations with the FBI.
“Mills and Samuelson receiving immunity with the agreement their laptops would be destroyed by the FBI afterwards is, in itself, illegal,” the source said. “We know those laptops contained classified information. That’s also illegal, and they got a pass.”
Mills’ dual role as Clinton’s attorney and a witness in her own right should never have been tolerated either.
“Mills was allowed to sit in on the interview of Clinton as her lawyer. That’s absurd. Someone who is supposedly cooperating against the target of an investigation [being] permitted to sit by the target as counsel violates any semblance of ethical responsibility,” the source said.
“Every agent and attorney I have spoken to is embarrassed and has lost total respect for James Comey and Loretta Lynch,” the source said. “The bar for DOJ is whether the evidence supports a case for charges — it did here. It should have been taken to the grand jury.”