Judicial Watch announced a federal court has ordered the FBI to disclose additional details about FBI and other officials “cc-ed” on the memo used to justify launching the “Crossfire Hurricane” spy operation against President Trump and his 2016 presidential campaign. Judge Carl J. Nichols has given the FBI until June 16, 2022 to respond. The order comes in a September 2019 FOIA lawsuit Judicial Watch filed after the FBI failed to respond to a request for the memo, known as an “Electronic Communication” or “EC.” (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:19-cv-02743)).
In May 2020, Judicial Watch obtained a redacted version of the previously secret memo, authored by former FBI agent Peter Strzok. The Biden Justice Department argued that there is no significant public interest in disclosing the names of officials “cc-ed” on the memo.
Judicial Watch filed a motion countering that claim and arguing that the public had a significant interest in knowing who at the FBI had knowledge of the memo and presumably approved the investigation.
The court held a hearing on the dispute in September 2021, and on May 2, 2022 issued a minute order requiring the FBI to file
a supplemental memorandum of up to 5 pages, supported by affidavit or declaration, explaining the positions and seniority held by any persons whose names are redacted from the “CC:” section of the document.
“The Biden administration is still covering up who was involved in the Obama administration’s unprecedented and illicit spying on Donald J. Trump,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “This court decision is another step forward in accountability for the worst government corruption scandal in American history.”
In support of its position, Judicial Watch provided the Court with two declarations by Kevin Brock, former assistant director of the Directorate of Intelligence and former FBI principal deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center. Brock testified that it is not standard procedure to have an EC drafted, approved, and sent to and from a single agent and that doing so violates FBI oversight protocols:
In the EC document here, the “From” line indicates the EC – and authorization to begin an investigation as required under FBI policy – is from a part of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division. The contact listed is Peter Strzok. The EC was drafted by Peter Strzok. The EC was approved by Peter Strzok. On the face of the document produced, it appears the EC that initiated a criminal FARA investigation of unidentified members of the Trump presidential campaign was created by Peter Strzok, approved by Peter Strzok, and sent from Peter Strzok to Peter Strzok. This is not usual procedure.
FBI policy prohibits an agent from initiating and approving his or her own case. Such action violates FBI oversight protocols put in place to protect the American people from an FBI agent acting unilaterally.
In fact, the EC does not identify any individual by name as a target of the investigation. It does not articulate any factors that address the elements of FARA as required by routine FBI policy and procedure and the Attorney General Guidelines and, therefore, does not contain sufficient justification for initiating an investigation into USPERs [U.S. persons].
Based upon my experience, no reasonable and experienced FBI counterintelligence squad supervisor in the field would have approved the EC at issue here – as released – which opened the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.
The unredacted information released in the EC document here offers no legitimate predication justifying the investigation of USPERs involved in a presidential campaign or subsequent FISA intercept of a U.S. citizen.