By Ruby Van Dyk || Staff Writer
On February 2nd, House Republicans released a memo alleging FBI bias against President Trump. The credibility of the FBI, according to Representative Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, would be “shaken to its core” by the memo.
Heightened rhetoric by Duncan and other Republicans garnered attention and prompted speculation about what the memo contained. In response, the FBI voiced that they “have grave concerns about the omission of material fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
When the memo was finally released on the 2nd, it fell far short of the bold claims that Republicans had been making. The memo didn’t cast doubt on the special counsel’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russia ties, nor did it produce any earth shattering exposure of the Bureau.
The memo focused on the surveillance of Carter Paige, a former foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign. Paige had business ties with Russia as well with the Kremlin.
But, the key allegation within the memo is that the FBI did not get properly authorized to surveil Paige, and that the surveillance may have been politically motivated. In the summer of 2016, Paige traveled to Russia to meet with Russian officials. This, was troubling to the DOJ and FBI, so the FBI put together an application to request surveillance permission with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). The court approved the application.
The memo argues that the application for surveillance was biased, and that it relied on the Steele Dossier, a document written by former British spy Christopher Steele, who alleged conspiracy between Donald Trump and the Russian government during his 2016 presidential campaign.
Steele’s research was partially financed by the Clinton Campaign, which the Republican memo alleges is a significant problem.
The Republican charge of bias is problematic for several reasons. First, although the approval of the application may have relied on some of Steele’s findings, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the approval was illegitimate. Secondly, without having acce
ss to the other intelligence that the surveillance request was based on it is difficult to evaluate this claim. The writers of the memo could have easily chosen to only highlight the fact that Steele Dossier was involved, and excluded all other compelling intelligence.
At most, the memo exposes a possible violation of Carter Paige’s privacy, and the fact that it may be much too easy for the FBI to surveil people.
But this isn’t new information. In the last 33 years, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) has rejected only 11 out of over 33,900 requests from the government to surveil citizens. Is this a problem? Possibly. But this was known much prior to the release of the memo.
Most troubling and frightening is that Republicans seem to be trying to discredit and politicize the FBI.
While it is is crucial to hold the FBI to a high standard, this is not what the Republican party is doing. This memo was simply an effort to smear the reputation of the FBI, and in doing so weaken the investigation of a Republican President.
First-year Ruby Van Dyk is a Staff Writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.