Gabe Kaminsky & Jerry Dunleavy
Wednesday, NOVEMBER 30, 2022
The FBI has received a series of written questions from a top Republican over the bureau’s handling of “secret informants” on the heels of “bogus information” being obtained from sources and in the wake of a bombshell report on the program’s underlying problems, the Washington Examiner has learned.
The FBI’s Confidential Human Source program has been marred by “red flags” for years, and informants such as British ex-spy Christopher Steele, the author of the discredited dossier claiming that former President Donald Trump colluded with Russia, have funneled the FBI false information while receiving taxpayer dollars. Steele’s main dossier source, Russian analyst Igor Danchenko, was also revealed to have been on the FBI’s payroll from 2017 to 2020.
Now, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) is demanding information and documents from the bureau in connection to its informant program, claiming it has “systemic deficiencies,” according to a Wednesday letter sent to FBI Director Christopher Wray that was obtained by the Washington Examiner.
“The FBI’s processes and procedures have proven to be partisan-driven and untrustworthy in recent years,” Jordan, who is expected to lead the House Judiciary Committee in 2023, told the Washington Examiner. “This is the latest example of systematic corruption happening at the highest levels of the FBI, and the American people deserve full transparency.”
The DOJ’s inspector general published a 2019 report that revealed “numerous issues” with the CHS program’s informant vetting process — including the fact that it ran afoul of 2006 attorney general guidelines by not properly managing its long-term informants. The report made 16 recommendations to the Justice Department and the FBI so they could improve the CHS program, which it noted must correct itself to ensure “integrity and reliability.”
Between fiscal 2012 and fiscal 2018, sources received $42 million total on average each year from the FBI, according to the 2019 report. Federal informants have even been authorized by the FBI to commit crimes on the dime of taxpayers, and public records dated between 2011 and 2014 show authorization for more than 22,800 incidents, according to Freedom of Information Act records obtained by multiple outlets.
“The FBI has had a poor track record in recent years of relying on CHS’s in high-profile, sensitive investigative matters whose information later proves to be misleading, made-up, or otherwise unreliable,” Jordan told Wray in the letter.
It is unclear exactly how many informants are in the CHS program. But questions about the character of those in that program have continued to be raised by Republicans following the revelation that both Steele and Danchenko were paid through the CHS program.
Special counsel John Durham’s two unsuccessful criminal trials this year, one against Danchenko and the other aimed at former Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann, revealed new details about the FBI’s flawed use of paid informants.
Danchenko was on the FBI’s payroll from March 2017 to October 2020 before he was charged in November 2021 with five counts of making false statements to the bureau about his sourcing for the dossier, though he was found not guilty in October.
FBI supervisory intelligence analyst Brian Auten told the court that neither Steele nor Danchenko ever provided evidence corroborating the key claims of the anti-Trump dossier, yet Danchenko was nevertheless granted an immunity deal and then became a paid FBI informant for years. A member of the FBI’s Human Intelligence Validation Unit suspected Danchenko may have been linked to Russian intelligence and had urged Helson to take a series of steps to look into possible problems with Danchenko, but the FBI agent took little action to do so.
New details about Steele were also revealed during the Durham trial, including Auten’s testimony that Steele was offered up to $1 million in October 2016 if he could back up his dossier’s claims, which the FBI analyst said he could not. Steele had also been a longtime FBI informant, though the FBI dumped him as a confidential source in November 2016 after he admitted he was a source for an October 2016 Trump-Russia article.
Jordan is asking the FBI for information on its “policies and procedures” in connection to sensitive investigative matters involving public officials, candidates, and news outlets. He is also asking the bureau for a “detailed accounting” of the $42 million that was paid to participants in the CHS program, as well as asking for information on how many informants have been active for over five, 10, and 15 years.
The Ohio Republican also asked the FBI to explain how it opens and closes its confidential human sources and told Wray to explain how the bureau uses paid informants in FISA warrants.
In addition, the congressman is seeking documents and communications in connection to “the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation” of Danchenko and an update on how it has changed course to implement the 16 recommendations made by the inspector general in 2019.
Notably, Danchenko’s acquittal last month came after Democratic cybersecurity lawyer Michael Sussmann was also found not guilty in May. The Clinton-allied attorney had been charged after reportedly concealing his two clients, Neustar chief technology officer Rodney Joffe and Clinton’s 2016 campaign, from FBI General Counsel James Baker when he pushed debunked allegations of a secret line of communication between the Trump Organization and Russia’s Alfa-Bank during a September 2016 meeting.
The judge in the Sussmann trial limited some of the evidence that Durham was able to present, including the fact that Joffe had been “terminated as a source for cause” in 2021 amid the special counsel investigation. Joffe had been a paid bureau informant in 2016.
The FBI did not respond to the Washington Examiner’s request for comment.
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