In this case, RE Carter Page: It's possible that your lizard brain won't like our topic today.
So it goes in this veil of tears! That said, we plan to continue with our rumination concerning the things you were told, along the way, concerning Carter Page.
We can't give you the full story concerning Carter Page. That said, it never seemed especially likely to us that he was part of some major intrigue. Beyond that, we often noted the way our favorite stars were spinning the facts about Page—for example, by playing brain-dead semantic games about his "meetings" with Russkie officials and about the "documents" he was said to have handed over to Russkie spies.
For various fairly obvious reasons, it never seemed real likely to us that Page was involved in a plot. That said, the report by Inspector General Michael Horowitz outlined the grotesque misbehavior in which some FBI employees engaged as they pursued surveillance on Page.
We humans! As everyone has always known, we need to learn to avoid jumping to tribally pleasing conclusions. Because our favorite TV stars kept assuring us that Page was a spy, it might be worth examining some of what we were told about Page along the way.
Let's start with this colloquy at Slate about the inspector general's report. In this exchange, Emily Bazelon and David Plotz describe what the FBI did:
BAZELON (12/13/19): The particular fact about the Carter Page FISA application that just floored me was that he had been giving information to the CIA for years, and they just left that out. This is the part that a government lawyer actually falsified in an email and could be criminally charged for. But just think about that. This guy who our government is surveilling without his knowledge, or really hardly any check on that power, it turns out was an intelligence asset for another agency, and the FBI just hid that information from the FISA court. That’s really bad. We should care about fixing those problems, and we should do something about the level of secrecy in these FISA proceedings.Oof! Page had been a CIA informant for years (starting in 2008). According to the inspector general's report, the FBI was already aware of this fact at the time of their first application to the FISA court in October 2016 (see quote below).
PLOTZ: The fact that he was doing the CIA’s work was what allowed the FBI to gin up suspicion about him that justified the warrant. So it wasn’t just that they ignored it, it was that the actual work was the predicate for the warrant itself, which is outrageous. I’ve always assumed that the FBI has been playing fast and loose with FISA stuff, because even in legal proceedings where there two sides, the prosecutors are constantly engaged in chicanery. So when there’s only one side, and it’s secret and there’s no opponent? You knew that they were doing stuff that was shady.
The FBI already knew this, but they didn't include this information in their requests for surveillance of Page. Along the way, one Justice Department lawyer actually doctored a document in such a way that the FISA court was falsely told that Page wasn't a CIA source!
In the passage we've posted, Plotz says he isn't surprised by this conduct. He says that (some or many) prosecutors behave this way all the time.
This makes us think of the million times we saw former prosecutors tell us, on our favorite channels, that the FBI is just amazingly meticulous about the way they assemble their applications for a FISA warrant.
These former prosecutors have become TV stars in the years of The Chase. As time went along, we became increasingly unimpressed with their lock-them-up approach, in which they sift through our twenty million federal, state and local laws, looking for gimmicky ways to charge targeted persons with crimes.
In his report, Horowitz seems to say that FBI personnel did engage in deeply inappropriate conduct in their pursuit of Page. The last time we saw someone saying that, it was Devin Nunes!
How badly might the feds have behaved? At this point, we can't tell you that. For now, let's skip ahead to a front-page news report in the Washington Post.
The report appeared in April 2017. Starting with its opening paragraphs, here's part of what it said:
NAKASHIMA, BARRETT AND ENTOUS (4/11/17): The FBI obtained a secret court order in October 2016 to monitor the communications of a former adviser to presidential candidate Donald Trump, part of an investigation into possible links between Russia and the campaign, law enforcement and other U.S. officials said.Inevitably, there was Comey—"Comey the God"—delivering a homespun version of the company line about how meticulous the gumshoes are in compiling their FISA applications.
The FBI and the Justice Department obtained the warrant targeting Carter Page’s communications after convincing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge that there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia, according to the officials.
The judges who rule on Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests oversee the nation’s most sensitive national security cases, and their warrants are some of the most closely guarded secrets in the world of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence gathering. Any FISA application has to be approved at the highest levels of the Justice Department and the FBI.
Applications for FISA warrants, [James] Comey said, are often thicker than his wrists, and that thickness represents all the work Justice Department attorneys and FBI agents have to do to convince a judge that such surveillance is appropriate in an investigation.
The government’s application for the surveillance order targeting Page included a lengthy declaration that laid out investigators’ basis for believing that Page was an agent of the Russian government and knowingly engaged in clandestine intelligence activities on behalf of Moscow, officials said.
The applications are "often thicker than his wrists," the establishment god was reported to have said. This same company line rang out from MSNBC on a regular basis.
Even back in the fall of 2016, the FBI had known about Page's background with the CIA. Despite this fact, the Post was now reporting exciting facts:
Back in October 2016, there had been "probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of Russia," unnamed officials had now said. Also, the FBI had believed at that time "that Page knowingly engaged in clandestine intelligence activities on behalf of Moscow," according to these unnamed officials.
Who knows? The FBI may even have believed such things back in 2016. After all, a person can be a CIA source and a Russkie spy at the same time.
That said, the FBI was aware of the fuller story involving Page and the CIA. But these exciting statements now appeared in the Post without any mention of same.
That night, on The One True Liberal Channel, it was "former Rhodes scholar gone wild." An unnamed cable news TV star went on and on, then on and on, about these new revelations.
On April 3, this unnamed star had already declared that Page had been "successfully recruited" by Russkie spies back in 2013. On this new occasion, she continued to mix her slippery "successfully recruited" formulation with fleeting references to the established fact that Page had been declared an "unwitting" target of those Russkies spies at that time.
Our favorite star seemed to be trying to keep her blend of insinuations and fact within the realm of what can be defended as "technical accuracy." Eventually though, interviewing one of the Post reporters, our favorite star told us this:
MADDOW (4/11/17): In that  case, [Page] was described as essentially an unwitting target of those Russian spies. But what you guys are reporting tonight, I'll just quote here: “The government's application for the surveillance order targeting Page included a lengthy declaration that laid out the basis for believing he was an agent of the Russian government and that he knowingly engaged in clandestine intelligence activities on behalf of Moscow.”The unnamed star accurately quoted the Post's front-page report. The Post reporter then went into the song and dance about how meticulous those FISA applications are.
So that would say he was not someone being used unwittingly but, rather, he knew what he was doing and that he was deliberately acting as a Russian agent.
ENTOUS: Yes. So, as you know, I mean, the bar is relatively high for trying to get one of these FISA warrants. And it requires the investigators to–and the prosecutors to make a case of probable cause. And so, the officials we spoke to described some of the aspects of that case.
Viewers of this cable news TV show were frequently propagandized about Page's status as a fairly obvious Russkie spy. The major star to whom we've referred displayed a familiar human skill in the course of advancing these representations:
She was skilled at taking everything which made us doubt this conclusion and turning it into evidence that Page really was a Russkie spy! True believers have displayed this particular human skill down through the annals of time.
It never seemed very likely to us that Page was a Russkie spy. On cable, we liberals tended to get the more pleasing story.
Whatever the full story might turn out to be, Horowitz was a bit of a killjoy this week. On the brighter side, we won't likely be told about that on our favorite TV programs.
"Trust but verify," Reagan once said. We strongly agree with that famous old bromide, except for the part about "trust."
Killjoy speaks: From the inspector general's report (page viii):
INSPECTOR GENERAL'S REPORT: Based upon the information known to the FBI in October 2016, the first [FISA] application contained the following seven significant inaccuracies and omissions:Along the way, we liberals were told a more pleasing story—on cable news, then in the Post.
1. Omitted information the FBI had obtained from another U.S. government agency detailing its prior relationship with Page, including that Page had been approved as an "operational contact" for the other agency from 2008 to 2013, and that Page had provided information to the other agency concerning his prior cont acts with certain Russian intelligence officers, one of which overlapped with facts asserted in the FISA application...
We were offered the fruits of true belief. This made our nightly cable viewing simpler and much more fun.