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Russia Hoax Origins: Carter Page Flashback 1
Last night in discussing the first Danchenko interview I concluded by making a pitch for brushing up on the history of Carter Page’s involvement with the FBI (The Danchenko Interview: Why An EC And Not A 302?) My reasoning was that the Carter Page FISA is absolutely central to the big picture of the Russia Hoax as it emerged. Without that element in the mix most of the rest of the hoax would have been forgotten by now.
For that reason I’m republishing a three part post that appeared in March, 2020, at my original blog. What this amounts to is a commentary on the OIG FISA report to the extent that it deals with Page’s prior cooperation for the FBI. Much is made of Page’s historical cooperation with the CIA, but only rarely do we hear about Page’s significant cooperation with the FBI over a period of years immediately prior to his coming on board the Trump campaign. This is unfortunate, because it leads to a misleading perspective.
For those not familiar with the original blog, meaning in history, there is much more similar material that can be accessed through the search function.
Carter Page remains at the heart of the Russia Hoax--which is natural, given that the FBI's investigation of Page served as the vehicle for obtaining a FISA order that encompassed much of the Trump campaign. The OIG FISA report, or Horowitz Dossier, devotes several pages to tracing the origins of the investigation of Page that was initiated by the FBI's New York Field Office (NYFO). A closer look at this section of the report is worthwhile because I believe it will expose the weakness of the Russia Hoax generally, including the probability that the rationalizations offered by the FBI exhibit bad faith. At the same time we will also see that those rationalizations do pose difficulties for the Durham investigation.
In what follows, I have inserted the full text of the OIG report’s treatment of the origination of the FBI’s Carter Page investigation. Redactions are indicated by asterisks: "***" and the footnotes from the report are included, but are placed at the end of the text excerpt. I have inserted my own comments in a "quote" format. There are also further relevant selections from the report appended which I have labeled as an Appendix. As for identifying the page numbering, I have adopted a format that presents first the page number as it appears in the text, followed by a slash and a number that represents the page number in a PDF viewer--which may be easier to use for anyone looking at the original.
Page 61/94 and following.
C. The Pre-Existing FBI New York Field Office Counterintelligence Investigation of Carter Page
The OGC [Office of General Counsel] Unit Chief told us that of all the individuals associated with the Trump campaign best positioned to have received the alleged offer of assistance from Russia, Carter Page "quickly rose to the top" of the list because of his past connections to Russian officials and the FBI's previous contacts with Page. As reflected in the FISA applications described in Chapters Five and Seven, as well as in other FBI documents, NYFO had an interest in Carter Page for several years before August 2016 and had interviewed him on multiple occasions because of his relationships with individuals the FBI knew to be Russian intelligence officers.
The NYFO first came in contact with Page in 2009. They developed a formally documented relationship with Page that continued until March, 2016. This is standard Counterintelligence (CI) practice--the FBI seeks persons who are in contact with foreign officials and uses their relationships with those officials to monitor the activities of the officials as well as to attempt to learn of any vulnerabilities that might make those officials susceptible to 'recruitment' by the FBI. In that sense persons like Page are a Godsend to the FBI. The identities of such individuals comes to the attention of the FBI on a regular basis through FISAs that routinely target the foreign officials--just as Michael Flynn's contacts with the Russian ambassador were. There is normally no need to use FISAs to target Americans, because their contacts with (in this case) Russian officials are routinely acquired through FISAs directed against the Russians.
The OGC Unit Chief's observations actually refer to the preceding pages, which are documented in the Appendix: 51/84 - 59/92. There Horowitz documents that top FBI officials maintain that they opened the Crossfire Hurricane investigation based solely on the report from a Friendly Foreign Government (FFG) official that George Papadopoulos had told the FFG that 'the Russians' had offered to help the Trump campaign. The opening EC therefore listed no actual subjects, and the FBI then began searching for a likely person within the Trump campaign who would have been contacted by 'the Russians'. Thus, the OGC Unit Chief claims that Carter Page rose to the top of that list of possible Russian contacts, due to his long history of known contacts with Russian officials. Thus, while Crossfire Hurricane was opened based on information passed on from Papadopoulos, the focus shifted almost immediately to Carter Page.
It all sounds plausible enough and even fully justified when presented like that. But there's a real problem with that narrative from a CI perspective. The flurry of activity at FBIHQ surrounding the opening of Crossfire Hurricane occurred at the end of July, 2016. As we will see, months before that the NYFO knew that the Russians regarded Page as 'an idiot'. Further, the FBI also regarded Page as 'an idiot' because Page told the FBI that he had told Russian officials that he was 'Male-1' named in the prosecution against a Russian official in New York. In other words, Page had told the Russians that he was cooperating with the FBI. The Russians would have had that information months before Papadopoulos ever spoke with the FFG. Therefore the question arises: Why would the Russians turn to Carter Page as their contact with the Trump campaign when they would have every reason to expect Page to turn around and inform the FBI of what they supposedly hoped to do: Help Trump and harm Hillary. Viewed from that perspective, the FBI's explanation for its focus on Carter Page becomes very implausible. It would rest on the assumption that Russian intelligence officials are quite stupid.
An FBI counterintelligence agent in NYFO (NYFO CI Agent) with extensive experience in Russian matters told the OIG that Carter Page had been on NYFO's radar since 2009, when he had contact with a known Russian intelligence officer (Intelligence Officer 1). According to the EC documenting NYFO's June 2009 interview with Page, Page told NYFO agents that he knew and kept in regular contact with Intelligence Officer 1 and provided him with a copy of a non-public annual report from an American company. The EC stated that Page "immediately advised [the agents] that due to his work and overseas experiences, he has been questioned by and provides information to representatives of [another U.S. government agency] on an ongoing basis." The EC also noted that agents did not ask Page any questions about his dealings with the other U.S. government agency during the interviews. 
We see from this and what follows that Page was entirely honest with the FBI. Indeed, Page must have an excellent memory to go with his honesty because, despite being extensively interrogated by the FBI without the benefit of legal advice, Page was never indicted for making false statements.
Note that nothing in Page's contacts with 'the Russians' was either illegal or a threat to the national security of the United States. Not only is it not illegal for US citizens to speak with Russian intelligence officers, the FBI routinely encourages citizens who might have a plausible pretext for initiating such contact to do so. We can assume that at no time from 2009 until 2016 did the FBI demand that Page break off contact with any Russians with whom he was in touch--indeed, the FBI's routine FISA coverage undoubtedly apprised the FBI of most if not all of such contacts. To have done so, in any event, would have enraged the officials of 'another US government agency', i.e., the CIA, who were also using Page's services as an asset.
Nor was the fact that Page provided the Russian intelligence officer with "a non-public annual report from an American company" illegal. Again, we have no reason to suppose that the FBI told Page, 'Hey, knock that off!' Of course the FBI would realize that 'the Russians' would hope that this could lead Page to provide them with sensitive information, but Page had no security clearance so the likelihood of that was remote.
Finally, Page was completely up front with the FBI in informing them that he was--and had been for years--a CIA asset. In all this, there was nothing remotely nefarious about Page's activities.
NYFO CI agents believed that Carter Page was "passed" from Intelligence Officer 1 to a successor Russian intelligence officer (Intelligence Officer 2) in 2013 and that Page would continue to be introduced to other Russian intelligence officers in the future.  In June 2013, NYFO CI agents interviewed Carter Page about these contacts. Page acknowledged meeting Intelligence Officer 2 following an introduction earlier in 2013. When agents intimated to Carter Page during the interview that Intelligence Officer 2 may be a Russian intelligence officer, specifically, an "SVR" officer, Page told them he believed in "openness" and because he did not have access to classified information, his acquaintance with Intelligence Officer 2 was a "positive" for him. In August 2013, NYFO CI agents again interviewed Page regarding his contacts with Intelligence Officer 2. Page acknowledged meeting with Intelligence Officer 2 since his June 2013 FBI interview.
Two points arise here. The first is simply further confirmation that Page was completely candid with the FBI--more candid, in fact, than Andrew McCabe was with OIG investigators. The second point is that the FBI was clearly monitoring the Russian officials with whom Page was in contact--when the report coyly states that "NYFO CI agents believed" what it really means is "NYFO CI agents knew"--trust me on that. Since the Russians do not appear to have made any effort to hide their contacts with Page--and the Russians would therefore assume that the FBI was aware of those contacts--we can safely assume that the Russians did not consider Page to be an important or sensitive contact. Certainly not the kind of contact with whom they could initiate an undercover operation in collusion with the Trump campaign.
In January 2015, three Russian intelligence officers, including Intelligence Officer 2, were charged in a sealed complaint, and subsequently indicted, in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) for conspiring to act in the United States as unregistered agents of the Russian Federation.  The indictment referenced Intelligence Officer 2's attempts to recruit "Male-1" [Page] as an asset for gathering intelligence on behalf of Russia.
Again, two points. The indictment for conspiring to act as unregistered agents of Russia--nickel dime stuff. As for the reference to Russian attempts to recruit Page to gather intelligence, note this: It's perfectly legal for Russians to gather 'intelligence' in the US, and it's also legal for US citizens to provide Russians with 'intelligence.' Recall that "non-public annual report from an American company". That was 'intelligence.' You can count on it that if the the Russians had attempted to direct Page to obtain classified materials, we would have heard about that in the indictment.
On March 2, 2016, the NYFO CI Agent and SDNY Assistant United States Attorneys interviewed Carter Page in preparation for the trial of one of the indicted Russian intelligence officers. During the interview, Page stated that he knew he was the person referred to as Male-1 in the indictment and further said that he had identified himself as Male-1 to a Russian Minister and various Russian officials at a United Nations event in "the spirit of openness." The NYFO CI Agent told us she returned to her office after the interview and discussed with her supervisor opening a counterintelligence case on Page based on his statement to Russian officials that he believed he was Male-1 in the indictment and his continued contact with Russian intelligence officers.
Excuse me? Why would the FBI open a CI case against a US citizen for any of that? No US citizen is required to be an asset of the FBI. If Page had broken a law by informing the Russians that he was cooperating with the FBI against 'the Russians,' fine--prosecute Page. But they didn't, because as annoyed as I'm sure the FBI was with Page, he was acting within his rights. Also note--there is no claim made by the FBI that Page had disregarded any instruction in doing what he had done. Moreover, the Russians had read the complaint in the case--it wouldn't have taken rocket science to figure out who Male-1 was. The FBI should have assumed that the Russians already knew and that Page was blown as an asset. He had served his purpose, and the case wasn't jeopardized in any way by the Russians learning for absolute sure that Page had cooperated with the FBI.
As for opening a CI investigation on Page for "his continued contact with Russian intelligence officers", I'm at a complete loss as to what that would accomplish. Since the Russians already knew Page couldn't be trusted by them, that he was--as far as they were concerned--a loyal American, they would hardly try to use him for any sensitive intelligence purpose. I can only assume that the NYFO CI Agent was simply really annoyed with Page. Maybe she had been berated by the prosecutor for failing to control Page. Some things you need to just laugh off.
The FBI's NYFO CI squad supervisor (NYFO CI Supervisor) told us she believed she should have opened a counterintelligence case on Carter Page prior to March 2, 2016 based on his continued contacts with Russian intelligence officers; however, she said the squad was preparing for a big trial, and they did not focus on Page until he was interviewed again on March 2. She told us that after the March 2 interview, she called CD's [Counterintelligence Division] Counterespionage Section at FBI Headquarters to determine whether Page had any security clearances and to ask for guidance as to what type of investigation to open on Page.  On April 1, 2016, the NYFO CI Supervisor received an email from the Counterespionage Section advising her to open a *** investigation on Page. The NYFO CI Supervisor said that *** . In addition, according to FBI records, the relevant CD section at FBI Headquarters, in consultation with OGC, determined at that time that the Page investigation opened by NYFO was not a SIM [Sensitive Investigative Matter], but also noted, "should his status change, the appropriate case modification would be made." The NYFO CI Supervisor told us that based on what was documented in the file and what was known at that time, the NYFO Carter Page investigation was not a SIM.
What nonsense! The NYFO "should have opened a counterintelligence case on Carter Page prior to March 2, 2016 based on his continued contacts with Russian intelligence officers"? If the NYFO really cared about concealing Page's cooperation from the Russians, the last thing they would have done would have been to tell Page to break off his regular contacts with Russians! That would have immediately raised Russian suspicions. Clearly the FBI is being quite disingenous here. Note, too, that the NYFO had apparently never checked to see whether Page had any security clearances before. Does that sound like the FBI was in any way concerned about Page as a threat to the national security of the US? What it sounds like is the NYFO was looking for some way to screw Page around for being a knucklehead. Question: On March 2, 2016, was Peter Strzok still head of the Counterespionage Section?
Although Carter Page was announced as a foreign policy advisor for the Trump campaign prior to NYFO receiving this guidance from FBI Headquarters, the NYFO CI Supervisor and CI Agent both told the OIG that this announcement did not influence their decision to open a case on Page and that their concerns about Page, particularly his disclosure to the Russians about his role in the indictment, pre-dated the announcement. However, the NYFO CI Supervisor said that the announcement required noting his new position in the case file should his new position require he obtain a security clearance.
On April 6, 2016, NYFO opened a counterintelligence *** investigation on Carter Page under a code name the FBI assigned to him (NYFO investigation) based on his contacts with Russian intelligence officers and his statement to Russian officials that he was "Male-1" in the SDNY indictment. Based on our review of documents in the NYFO case file, as well as our interview of the NYFO CI Agent, there was limited investigative activity in the NYFO investigation between April 6 and the Crossfire Hurricane team's opening of its investigation of Page on August 10. The NYFO CI Agent told the OIG that the steps she took in the first few months of the case were to observe whether any other intelligence officers contacted Page and to prepare national security letters seeking Carter Page's cell phone number(s) and residence information. The NYFO CI agent said that she did not use any CHSs to target Page during the NYFO investigation. The NYFO investigation was transferred to the Crossfire Hurricane team on August 10 and became part of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.
To me, opening a code name case on Page is quite suspicious. Why a code name? What was so sensitive about a CI case on Page that was obviously not going anywhere--unless the FBI caught Page in a counterfactual statement. Which they never did. Because it seems clear that that was the whole point of the very limited investigative activity undertaken against Page by the FBI--to try to find that he had had Russian contacts that they hadn't picked up on their Russian FISA and reinterview him, hoping that he'd misspeak and they good indict him for "lying to the FBI." How frustrating it must be for people like that to deal with a scrupulously honest man. However, the suspicion must arise that this degree of focus on Page did in fact have to do with Page's connection to the Trump campaign, because we know that Comey ran over to DoJ to tell Loretta Lynch as soon it was learned that Page had joined the Trump campaign. And we know that the NYFO had been in touch with FBIHQ about Page before then. The timing is suspicious.
180 On or about August 17, 2016, the Crossfire Hurricane team received a memorandum from the other U.S. government agency detailing its prior relationship with Carter Page, including that Page had been approved as an operational contact for the other agency from 2008 to 2013 and information that Page had provided to the other agency concerning Page's prior contacts with certain Russian intelligence officers. We found no evidence that, after receiving the August 17 Memorandum, the Crossfire Hurricane team requested additional information from the other agency prior to submission of the first FISA application in order to deconflict on issues that we believe were relevant to the FISA application. According to the U.S. government agency, "operational contact," as that term is used in the August 17 Memorandum, provides "Contact Approval," which allows the agency to contact and discuss sensitive information with a U.S. person and to collect information from that person via "passive debriefing," or debriefing a person of information that is within the knowledge of an individual and has been acquired through the normal course of that individual's activities. According to the U.S. government agency, a "Contact Approval" does not allow for operational use of a U.S. person or tasking of that person.
That's a very acute observation. The FBI should have followed up with the CIA, but they were obviously totally focused on getting the Carter Page FISA and didn't want any inconvenient facts to get in the way.
181 CI agents refer to this as "slot succession," whereby a departing intelligence officer "passes" his or her contacts to an incoming intelligence officer.
182 Intelligence Officer 3 pled guilty in March 2016. The remaining two indicted Russian intelligence officers were no longer in the United States.
183 CI agents in NYFO told us that the databases containing security clearance information were located at FBI Headquarters. When a subject possesses a security clearance, the FBI opens an espionage investigation; if the subject does not possess a security clearance, the FBI typically opens a counterintelligence investigation.
51/84 - 52/85
On July 26, 2016, 4 days after Wikileaks publicly released hacked emails from the DNC, the FFG official spoke with a U.S. government (USG) official in the European city [London] about an "urgent matter" that required an in-person meeting. At this meeting, the FFG official informed the USG official of the meeting with Papadopoulos. The FFG official also provided *** information from *** FFG officials following the May 2016 meeting (hereinafter referred to as the FFG information). *** stated, in part, that Papadopoulos
"suggested the Trump team had received some kind of suggestion from Russia that it could assist this process with the anonymous release of information during the campaign that would be damaging to Mrs. Clinton (and President Obama). It was unclear whether he or the Russians were referring to material acquired publicly of [sic] through other means. It was also unclear how Mr. Trump's team reacted to the offer. We note the Trump team's reaction could, in the end, have little bearing of what Russia decides to do, with or without Mr. Trump's cooperation."
On July 31, 2016, the FBI opened a full counterintelligence investigation under the code name Crossfire Hurricane "to determine whether individual(s) associated with the Trump campaign are witting of and/or coordinating activities with the Government of Russia." As the predicating information did not indicate a specific individual, the opening EC did not include a specific subject or subjects.
The opening EC describing the predication for Crossfire Hurricane relied exclusively on Papadopoulos's statements to the FFG *** in the FFG information.
On August 1, 2016, Strzok and a supervisory special agent (SSA 1) [Joe Pientka] traveled to the European city [London] to interview the FFG officials who met with Papadopoulos in May 2016. 177 According to Strzok and SSA 1, during the interview they learned that Papadopoulos did not say that he had direct contact with the Russians; that while his statement did not include him, it did not exclude him either; and that Papadopoulos stated the Russians told "us." Strzok and SSA 1 also said they learned that Papadopoulos did not specify any other individual who received the Russian suggestion. Strzok, the Intel Section Chief, the Supervisory Intelligence Analyst (Supervisory Intel Analyst)[Brian Auten], and Case Agent 2 told the OIG that, based on this information, the initial investigative objective of Crossfire Hurricane was to determine which individuals associated with the Trump campaign may have been in a position to have received the alleged offer of assistance from Russia.