Glenn Greenwald asks Washington Post national security reporter to admit he was wrong about FISA warrant


I’m not a huge fan of Twitter but I’ll give it this much, it occasionally offers a window on conversations which, in a previous era, would have taken place privately if at all. And some of those conversations can be plenty revealing. This exchange between Glenn Greenwald and Washington Post reporter Shane Harris is a case in point. In the wake of the release of the IG report, Greenwald asked Harris to retract his false claim (made in 2018) that the Steele dossier “was not used as the basis for a FISA warrant on Carter Page”:

You’ll be shocked to learn that professional journalist Harris refused:

Let’s walk through this, shall we? “The IG report confirms that the Steele memos did not trigger the investigation…” That’s true. It’s also not what Harris said in his 2018 tweet. He said the dossier wasn’t used as the basis for the FISA warrant. He’s moving the goalposts.

“…and were not the basis of the application for FISA surveillance on Page.” That’s true but it’s also very misleading. The IG report made clear that the FBI was interested in pursuing surveillance on Page but initially felt there was not sufficient basis to apply for a warrant. That only changed when the FBI received the Steele dossier. From the IG report:

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Shortly after opening the Carter Page investigation in August 2016, the Crossfire Hurricane team discussed the possible use of FISA-authorized electronic surveillance targeting Page, which is among the most sensitive and intrusive investigative techniques. As we describe in Chapter Five, the FBI ultimately did not seek a FISA order at that time because OGC, NSD’s Office of Intelligence (OI), or both determined that more information was needed to support probable cause that Page was an agent of a foreign power. However, immediately after the Crossfire Hurricane team received Steele’s election reporting on September 19, the team reinitiated their discussions with OI and their efforts to obtain FISA surveillance authority for Page, which they received from the FISC on October 21.

“A significant (and problematic) component of that application, yes.” Actually, that’s still underselling it. Here again is what the IG concluded, “We determined that the Crossfire Hurricane
team’s receipt of Steele’s election reporting on September 19, 2016 played a central and essential role in the FBI’s and Department’s decision to seek the FISA order.” So the Steele dossier wasn’t “a significant component” it was “central and essential.” Put another way, there wouldn’t have been a warrant without the dossier.

“But the sole basis? No.” Again, it’s true the dossier wasn’t the sole basis. The FISA application also relied on Page’s historical connection to the Russians. We now know that Page was working with the CIA regarding some of those contacts with the Russians but the FISA court never learned about that.

It’s truly impossible to read the IG report and still defend the statement “the dossier was not used as the basis for a FISA warrant on Carter Page,” but that’s what Shane Harris is doing. Greenwald replied saying, “the contempt in which the media is held, as dangerous as that is, is fully deserved because of the type of behavior you’re displaying now.” He added, “I don’t blame people for losing all faith and trust in our profession with things like this.”

Again, this exchange is pretty revealing about the sort of people the Washington Post hires as subject matter experts. To be clear, I’m not suggesting Harris doesn’t know his stuff, only that he clearly values maintaining a certain party line above sticking to the facts, even when the facts are crystal clear.

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