Is the FBI even doing counterintelligence cases anymore?
Paul Sperry at RealClearInvestigations has broken an interesting story about the nature of the FBI's August 4 raid on President Trump's residence in Mar-a-Lago, Florida: it's the same guys doing it now as the ones who cooked up the earlier string of Russia hoaxes.
The FBI division overseeing the investigation of former President Trump's handling of classified material at his Mar-a-Lago residence is also a focus of Special Counsel John Durham's investigation of the bureau's alleged abuses of power and political bias during its years-long Russiagate probe of Trump.
The FBI's nine-hour, 30-agent raid of the former president's Florida estate is part of a counterintelligence case run out of Washington — not Miami, as has been widely reported — according to FBI case documents and sources with knowledge of the matter. The bureau's counterintelligence division led the 2016-2017 Russia "collusion" investigation of Trump, codenamed "Crossfire Hurricane."
Although the former head of Crossfire Hurricane, Peter Strzok, was fired after the disclosure of his vitriolic anti-Trump tweets, several members of his team remain working in the counterintelligence unit, the sources say, even though they are under active investigation by both Durham and the bureau's disciplinary arm, the Office of Professional Responsibility. The FBI declined to respond to questions about any role they may be taking in the Mar-a-Lago case.
Seriously? The exact same guys? Thirty-five thousand employees at the bureau, and these same guys keep turning up? Sperry weaves together the details, and yes, it's the...exact same guys.
This rather gives the impression that there's some kind of Inspector Javert operation going on directed at President Trump, with a Wile E. Coyote effect. If they can't get him on one thing, they'll sit around their conference table at their glassy high-rise office, or wherever such things are plotted, and brainstorm out another plan to Get Trump. For a while there, the focus was on Trump as Russian agent, or Trump as muscler of blameless Ukraine. When those attempts fell through, they moved onto more mundane things, such as taxes, attempting to get him the secondary way the feds once bagged Al Capone. Now it's something even nearer and dearer to their hearts, which is handling of classified information, access to which is the inner sanctum they claim a sacred guardianship over.
Oh, please. It's obvious they are throwing everything they have at the wall and hoping something sticks. Is that how law enforcement is supposed to work? Find something, anything, to pin on a politically unpopular opponent, and go off in all directions?
It's obviously an abuse of power, which is why we are seeing polls such as this one, according to the Washington Examiner's Paul Bedard:
The Justice-backed FBI raid of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago winter resort home has increased the percentage of people who believe that President Joe Biden is using the G-men as his "personal Gestapo."
In the latest Rasmussen Reports survey, 53% of likely voters agreed that "there is a group of politicized thugs at the top of the FBI that are using the FBI as Joe Biden's personal Gestapo."
Asked the same question last December, the portion who agreed with that view was 46%.
It's obvious that there's some kind of vendetta going on. How probable is it that under random conditions, Trump would turn up as the topic of investigation on so many very different fronts? And these are big investigations, costing thousands, or millions, of dollars in manpower and investigative resources.
Sperry notes that FBI supervisory analyst Brian Auten, "a top bureau expert on Russia and nuclear warfare," is heavily involved in the current raid on Mar-a-Lago, even after he should be wiping the egg off his face for his involvement in the failed Crossfire Hurricane, falsified FISA warrants, and Hunter Biden laptop cover-up. Well, he's in on these Trump raids focused on the mishandling of classified information, too, a real jack of all trades. But he's supposed to be the top Russia and nuclear warfare expert. Does that topic no longer excite him?
Jay Bratt, at the Department of Justice, has been closely coordinating with Alan Kohler, the FBI's chief of counterintelligence and lieutenant to the departed Bill Priestap on this Mar-a-Lago operation after the previous Get-Trump-on-Russia maneuvers, all of which came up empty. Sperry notes that his sources tell him that Kohler was close to Stefan Halper, the U.K.-based entrapment artist who was believed to have been a government informant. Based on that, it sounds as though these guys all go way back. So as these shenanigans were going on, was anyone minding the store on real counterintelligence matters? It does not look like it.
Another two characters who are intensely involved in this revolving door of Get Trump effort are described by Sperry here:
In 2019, Kohler was promoted to special agent in charge of the counterintelligence division at the FBI's Washington field Office, where he worked alongside then-assistant agent-in-charge Timothy Thibault, who was reassigned by Wray just days prior to the Mar-a-Lago raid, after whistleblowers raised questions about political bias. They asserted that Thibault, who has taken aim at Trump and Republicans on social media, worked with Auten to falsely discredit evidence of alleged money laundering and other activities against Hunter Biden and prevent agents from investigating them.
The Washington field office's counterintelligence division is now run by Anthony Riedlinger, who previously worked at FBI headquarters as a section chief under Priestap. Some of the agents involved in the raid on Trump's home came from that Washington field office, according to the sources and FBI case documents.
This people all hold big serious jobs in the FBI as top counterintelligence officials, yet they are intensely engaged in playing handmaid to the Democrat party in accomplishing its political aim to Get Trump. It's tempting to call these efforts Wile E. Coyote efforts, but there's always the possibility that they will succeed in one of them after so much practice.
What comes to mind as this extravagant political vendetta carries on is not just the politicization of the bureau, but something else that's little disturbing: who the heck is doing the real counterintelligence cases at the FBI now that all the big guys there are preoccupied with pinning something, anything, on Trump?
What doesn't seem to be happening is that the nation's counterintelligence needs are being met.
The U.S., during the Trump administration, at the time when Putin-obsessed leftist Fiona Hill was running the Russia operations at the National Security Council, did expel some 60 Russian diplomats and state journalists around 2017 in response to a Russian poisoning incident on a dissident in London. Kicking out that many diplomats, many of whom likely were indeed spies, as well as closing a couple consulates, likely would have gotten rid of a spy problem in the short term, but more likely, it would have driven it underground, where such things are far harder to surveil.
Have there been any major counterintelligence cases in recent years? There was the case of the disgruntled CIA employee who gave away the CIA's hacking secrets and recently had an adverse court ruling, but that may not have had significant FBI involvement.
The FBI website lists its top counterintelligence successes by year — and in recent years, it reports...nothing.
Its last major case, which the FBI was hardly the central player in, was the arrest of DIA employee Ana Montes, who was convicted of spying for Cuba in 2002. There have been a few other cases, particularly those around people caught spying for China, as well as a major case in San Francisco around attacks on the power grid, but the bureau, despite its 35,000 employees, apparently couldn't find one to update the website, or else considered those cases "minor."
If all the big guys in counterintelligence are focused on yet another clownish bid to take down Trump, the question to ask now is, who's minding the counterintelligence store at the FBI? Do these people no longer find actual counterintelligence work interesting? Why so little output with such huge resources? And some actual counterintelligence successes would go a long way to restoring the FBI's reputation with the public, which now sees it as a politicized Gestapo.
It's about time these guys did break a major authentic counterintelligence case just to restore their credibility. But it appears they've let that slide by the wayside as they focus instead on useless and likely counterproductive, as well as illegal, political operations.
Someone in Congress, perhaps Sen. Ted Cruz, needs to start asking Director Christopher Wray why his agency isn't producing a whole lot, if anything, for the counterintelligence job it's paid for.
Image: Logo, Wikipedia.