“A month before the 2016 presidential election, the FBI met Christopher Steele in Rome and apparently unlawfully shared with the foreign opposition researcher some of the bureau’s most closely held secrets, according to unpublicized disclosures in the recent Justice Department Inspector General report on abuses of federal surveillance powers.
What’s more, Steele, the former British spy who compiled the “dossier” of conspiracy theories for the Hillary Clinton campaign, was promised $15,000 to attend the briefing by FBI agents eager to maintain his cooperation in their Trump-Russia collusion investigation codenamed Crossfire Hurricane.
That investigation was so closely guarded that only a handful of top officials and agents at the FBI were allowed to know about it.
The report by Inspector General Michael Horowitz details how a team of FBI agents in early October 2016 shared with Steele extensive classified materials, just weeks before the bureau cut off ties with him for leaking his own research to the media. The secrets included foreign intelligence information still considered so sensitive that the IG’s report refers to it even now only as coming from a “Friendly Foreign Government.” In fact, this is a reference to Australia. That country’s ambassador to Britain sent the United States a tip about loose talk by junior Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos. The FBI has described that as the predicate for its Trump-Russia investigation.
The IG report also discloses that FBI agents knew Steele worked for Glenn Simpson, whose opposition research firm Fusion GPS was paying Steele to dig up dirt on Trump for the Clinton campaign, and that Steele informed the FBI that the “candidate” – Clinton herself – knew about Steele’s work. Steele did not keep to himself the classified material he had learned from the FBI. Shortly after the Rome meeting, Steele briefed Simpson on what the FBI had disclosed to him.
The FBI’s disclosures to Steele — described on pages 114-115 and in footnote 513, and supported on pages 386-390 and footnotes 252 and 513, deep in Horowitz’s report – were violations of laws governing the handling of classified material, according to the Inspector General and experts in national security law who spoke with RealClearInvestigations.
(…) In a meeting that lasted nearly three hours, according to the IG report, “Case Agent 2” gave Steele a “general overview” of Crossfire Hurricane as well as more granular details of the cases being developed against Page, Papadopoulos, Manafort, and Flynn. All of that information – especially a “Friendly Foreign Government’s” communication with Washington – is classified, the IG report states. This alarmed Gaeta, who deemed it “peculiar” to give Steele an overview of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, let alone “providing names of persons related to the investigation.” The Supervisory Intel Analyst was also alarmed, according to the IG report, and “notified his supervisor about his concern” once back in Washington.
It didn’t take long for those secrets to get passed on to Simpson. “Crime in Progress,” Simpson’s recent book about the Trump-Russia affair, co-authored with Fusion co-founder Peter Fritsch, relates that “Steele briefed him on what had happened at the meeting” in Rome, including the FBI’s disclosure that it was investigating Papadopoulos.
In footnote 513, the IG report states investigators “examined whether the FBI disclosed classified information to Steele.” The Inspector General “determined that Case Agent 2 did so when he discussed information with Steele that the FBI received from the FFG, and that he did not have prior authorization to make the disclosure.”
This is no small matter. “Sharing classified information with anyone not authorized to receive it is a crime,” says Sean Bigley, an attorney specializing in national security law. “But sharing classified information with a non-U.S. citizen not authorized to receive it is also the very definition of harm to national security.” (Read much more: RealClearInvestigations, 2/14/2020) (Archive)