Posted by Curt on 17 August, 2020 at 12:12 pm. 2 comments already!



James Comey said it in March of 2017. Robert Mueller said it in March of 2019. DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz said it again in December of 2019; and Sally Yates repeated it last week in her Senate Judiciary hearing testimony: “In 2016 the FBI initiated a Counterintelligence Investigation involving the Trump campaign.” These are honorable men and women with long careers serving their country; and yet while we await a full accounting from United States Attorney John Durham who is investigating the origins of Russian Collusion, the FBI investigation code-named Crossfire Hurricane (CH) and the ensuing Mueller Report was never a real “Counterintelligence Investigation.”

Counterintelligence or CI is a dark art of foreign policy – diplomacy by other means. Countries engage in intelligence collection in several ways, one of which is with an external security service like CIA in the U.S. and MI6 (or more formally the Secret Intelligence Service) in the U.K. These services dispatch officers (not agents, as is often misdescribed,) overseas to collect intelligence from assets or agents (used correctly in this vein) in a clandestine manner. The intelligence is sent back to a headquarters component where it is analyzed and put into reporting products for policy makers like the President, NSC, and the Secretaries of State and Defense here in the U.S. Adversaries, like the Russians, do the same thing.

Counterintelligence, as the name implies seeks to thwart the efforts of external intelligence agencies engaged in these intelligence operations. In the U.S., the FBI has the primary CI mission for identifying and obstructing foreign intelligence services seeking to collect against U.S. interests. Like foreign intelligence, CI is primarily for the use of policymakers, not policemen and prosecutors. Just like their siblings in foreign intelligence services, CI services produce CI products for policymakers to shape their decision making with foreign governments and leaders. With one notable exception, counterintelligence has nothing to do with criminal investigations.

That exception is espionage, which many practitioners will tell you represents the height of a counterintelligence failure. The FBI agent-turned-spy for Russia is the classic case of a counterintelligence failure because, for years, the FBI failed to stop the Russians from collecting intelligence against the U.S. by using one of their own FBI agents against them.  In a perfect world, the FBI would have seen the efforts to recruit Hanssen (or Hanssen would have self-reported he was potentially being recruited, which was unlikely since we know Hanssen volunteered to the Russians,) and the FBI would have turned him into a double agent against them and fed them false information through Hanssen. Instead, it was a massive counterintelligence failure and Hanssen was prosecuted for espionage.

With that as a backdrop, let’s examine how Crossfire Hurricane was never a real counterintelligence investigation. There are several dates to focus on so let’s start with the first of several known events: In 2013, the FBI used Carter Page as a source of information to help identify potential Russian Intelligence Officers who were eventually expelled. This is significant because while by all accounts Page is a quirky guy, he would have immediately been flagged by any competent foreign intelligence service as someone who helped his own counterintelligence service identify and expel their foreign intelligence officer. We now know from IG Michael Horwitz’s report, and the Durham indictment of FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith this week, that Page was considered a “contact” of the CIA.  He would never be trusted to become an asset or recruited agent of a foreign intelligence service who knew that first fact, like the Russians.

It was reported in July 2016 that the computer server(s) belonging to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) had been breached and several sensitive communications may have been compromised. The breaches likely happened in 2015 and April of 2016.  Later it would be alleged the Russian intelligence services were responsible for the breach, and the Muller team would go on to charge several Russian intelligence officers with crimes related to that breach.

The next suspicious event was a March 14, 2016 meeting between George Papadopoulos, who had recently been named a Trump campaign advisor, and Joseph Misfud in Rome.  Much remains unknown about Misfud today, but allegedly during this meeting, Misfud told Papadopoulos the Russians had derogatory information on then Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton. The Mueller Report claimed Mifsud had “contact with Russians,” but there is at least as much or more information in other reporting that he may have worked for western intelligence services. We will no doubt learn more from Durham, but it is safe to say Mifsud was not an intelligence officer of any country himself.

Then Papadopoulos had drinks in London with Alexander Downer, a senior Australian diplomat on in May of 2016.  At this meeting with Downer, Papadopoulos is alleged to have repeated the Misfud information about the Russians having “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Downer was also not an intelligence officer. Next on the timeline Christopher Steele, a former British foreign intelligence officer, called an FBI contact of his who was assigned to the U.S. embassy in Rome about information he had developed on candidate Trump. He said he had found it troubling, and that he wanted to pass it along to the Bureau. This meeting with the FBI occurred in London on July 5th 2016.

The last important event on this timeline was when FBI Deputy Assistant Director for Counterintelligence Peter Strzok traveled to London to follow up on the Downer-Papadopoulos meeting, and returned to FBIHQ. Then, on July 31, 2016, he authored an opening Electronic Communication (EC) titled “Crossfire Hurricane”, allegedly predicated on the Papadopoulos-Downer meeting. The FBI maintains, and there is no evidence to the contrary, that despite a lot happening in London during this timeframe, the Steele information provided to the Rome-based FBI agent in London, was unknown to Strzok and his team until several months later. This information would later become known as the Steele Dossier and is the topic of a future article.

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