Whistleblowers, Republican congressional members, and some former intelligence officials cite mounting concern that the White House may not release the House Intelligence Committee’s FISA abuse memo as the FBI pushed against plans to make it public based on false allegations that the memo contains information that would harm U.S. national security, sources tell this reporter.
The memo alleges severe abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by employees of the FBI and Department of Justice but FBI Director Christopher Wray Wednesday warned against the release of the memo issuing a public statement from the FBI that the bureau has “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
The four-page memo is currently under review by the White House National Security Council, as well as with the Director of National Intelligence, according to U.S. officials familiar with the review process. One U.S. official said they were concerned the review is being “slow-rolled in an effort to get President Trump to change his mind about releasing the memo.”
The FISA memo is expected to be released by Friday and the White House isn’t expected to object. On Tuesday, that affirmation was clear when President Trump was caught on his mic after his State of the Union address told a Republican lawmaker that “100 percent” the memo would be released to the public.
On Monday, the House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines to make the classified memo public and as long as the president doesn’t object after five days of review the memo can legally be released.
U.S. Intelligence agencies, however, are now joining the FBI and pushing back against the memo’s release, former intelligence officials told this reporter. Those intelligence officials are concerned that the memo will reveal details of how the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is used in monitoring communications of foreign people overseas, said one former U.S. intelligence official.
Another U.S. official familiar with the memo and its contents disputed those concerns.
“There are no Intelligence Community equities involved in the memo and nothing in the memo or the attached documents violates any national security-related processes,” the U.S. official stated. “This memo does not deal with any international issues, only domestic issues.”
“The FISA memo is expected to be released by Friday and the White House isn’t expected to object”
Republican congressional members who have already reviewed the memo say its public release is essential to accurately convey to the American people the extent of FISA abuse during the 2016 presidential election. Many members described the memo as “shocking” but Democrats, who suggest they have their own memo, pushed back on the FISA abuse memo initiated by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-CA, and other ranking Republican members of the committee.
Rep. Ron DeSantis, a Florida Republican, and member of the House Oversight Committee, reviewed the FISA memo after it was made available to House members last week. He wants the memo to be made public and questioned the FBI and DOJs pushback.
“The FBI was afforded the opportunity to review the memo on Sunday and could not identify a single factual inaccuracy,” said DeSantis. “Accordingly, I find the Bureau’s statement to be a bit strange. Why not identify inaccuracies when you had the chance?”
Nunes issued a statement Wednesday in response to the FBI saying, “having stonewalled Congress’ demands for information for nearly a year, it’s no surprise to see the FBI and DOJ issue spurious objections to allowing the American people to see information related to surveillance abuses at these agencies.”
“The FBI is intimately familiar with ‘material omissions’ with respect to their presentations to both Congress and the courts, and they are welcome to make public, to the greatest extent possible, all the information they have on these abuses,” Nunes stated. “Regardless, it’s clear that top officials used unverified information in a court document to fuel a counter-intelligence investigation during an American political campaign. Once the truth gets out, we can begin taking steps to ensure our intelligence agencies and courts are never misused like this again.”
Another congressional official, familiar with the contents of the memo, said it was the FBI and DOJ, which refused to disclose or provide documentation requested by the House Intelligence Committee since early last summer. The congressional official said, “it was only when the committee warned of contempt of Congress did Department of Justice Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to turn over the necessary documents used in the committees’ review of the alleged FISA abuses by the FBI and DOJ.”
DOJ officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
“They are sparing no expense at trying to stop this memo from being released,” the congressional official said. “You have the Democrats, media and the deep state trying to stop the memo from going public and if they can’t they are preemptively trying to discredit it.”
The congressional official added that the memo was written so “there wouldn’t be any national security damage. First, they say that the memo’s release would be a national security concern and then the FBI says it’s the ‘omission of materials’ that doesn’t accurately explain what’s going on. But they didn’t want the committee to have any of the documents anyways. The committee had to fight tooth and nail for them. This is what it looks like when the deep state squeals.”
On Wednesday the FBI stated its objections the memo’s release, which has already been viewed in a secure area on Capitol Hill by more than 200 members of the House.
“The FBI takes seriously its obligations to the FISA Court and its compliance with procedures overseen by career professionals in the Department of Justice and the FBI,” said FBI officials in a statement. “We are committed to working with the appropriate oversight entities to ensure the continuing integrity of the FISA process.”
“With regard to the House Intelligence Committee’s memorandum, the FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it. As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy,” the FBI stated.