A series of questions was asked by a top Republican about the FBI’s handling of secret informants. This comes on the heels “bogus” information being obtained from sources, and in the aftermath of a bombshell report regarding the program’s fundamental problems.
For years, the FBI’s Confidential Human Source program was marred by “red Flags”. British ex-spy Christopher Steele is the author of the discredit dossier that claimed former President Donald Trump colluded in Russia. He has funneled false information to the FBI while receiving taxpayer money. It was revealed that Steele’s main source of dossier information, Russian analyst Igor Danchenko from 2017 to 2020, was also on the FBI payroll.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R.OH) now wants information and documents from FBI regarding its informant program. According to a Wednesday correspondence to FBI Director Christopher Wray, which was obtained by The Washington Examiner, Jordan claimed that the program has “systemic defects.”
According to Jordan, Jordan is expected to head the House Judiciary Committee by 2023. “This is the latest example in systematic corruption at the FBI’s highest levels, and the American people should have full transparency.”
A 2019 report by the DOJ’s inspector General revealed “numerous problems” in the CHS program’s informant screening process. This included the fact that the program was not following 2006 attorney general guidelines and failing to properly manage its long-term informants. 16 recommendations were made to the FBI and Justice Department in order to improve the CHS program. It noted that the CHS program must be improved to ensure its “integrity, reliability”
According to the 2019 report, sources received an average of $42 million each year from FBI between fiscal 2012 and 2018. According to Freedom of Information Act records, multiple outlets have found records that show authorization for over 22,800 incidents between 2011 and 2014.
Jordan wrote to Wray that “the FBI has had an unfortunate track record in recent years in relying upon CHS’s for high-profile, sensitive investigation matters whose later information later proves misleading, made up or otherwise unreliable.”
It is not clear how many informants there are in the CHS program. Republicans have raised questions about the character and integrity of those involved in the CHS program after it was revealed that Steele as well as Danchenko were paid through that program.
John Durham, special counsel, was unsuccessful in two criminal trials against Danchenko, while the other was against Michael Sussmann. This revealed more details about the flawed use of paid informants by the FBI.
Danchenko worked for the FBI from March 2017 to Oct 2020. He was then charged with five counts of false statements to bureau regarding his source for the dossier. However, he was not found guilty in October.
Brian Auten, an FBI intelligence analyst supervisor, told the court that neither Steele or Danchenko had ever presented evidence supporting the key claims in the anti-Trump dossier. However Danchenko was still granted immunity and became a paid FBI informant over many years. One member of the FBI’s Human Intelligence Validation Unit suspects Danchenko was connected to Russian intelligence. He urged Helson for a series to investigate possible problems with Danchenko but he did not take any action.
New information about Steele was also revealed at the Durham trial. Auten testified that Steele was offered $1 million in October 2016 if his dossier could be supported. The FBI analyst stated that he couldn’t. Steele was also a long-standing FBI informant. However, the FBI removed him from its confidential source list in November 2016, after he confessed to being a source for a Trump-Russia article.
Jordan has asked the FBI to provide information about its “policies, procedures” regarding sensitive investigations involving candidates and public officials. Jordan is also asking for details on the $42 million paid to CHS participants. He also wants information about how many informants are active over the past five, 10 and 15 years.
Ohio Republican asked FBI to explain how it opens or closes confidential human sources. Wray was also asked by Wray how the FBI uses paid informants to execute FISA warrants.
The congressman also wants documents and communications related to the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation of Danchenko, as well as an update on the company’s progress in implementing the 16 recommendations by the inspector general in 2019.
Notably, Danchenko was acquitted last month after Democratic cybersecurity lawyer Michael Sussmann also was found not guilty in May. After allegedly concealing his clients, Neustar chief tech officer Rodney Joffe, and Clinton’s 2016 campaign from FBI General Counsel James Baker, the Clinton-allied attorney was charged. He pushed for debunked allegations about a secret line between Russia’s Alfa-Bank and Trump Organization during a September 2016 meeting.
Some evidence Durham could present was limited by the judge at the Sussmann trial. This included the fact that Joffe was “terminated for cause” in 2021 during the special counsel investigation. Joffe was a 2016 bureau informant.