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Newly Declassified Documents Show FBI, CIA Divide over Steele Dossier

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) sharply differed on whether to include information from the Steele dossier in their Intelligence Community Assessment about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election Fox News reported.  The disagreement was revealed after the Senate Intelligence Committee published a declassified report on Wednesday.

The CIA objected to the inclusion of information from the Steele dossier, a document produced by former British spy Christopher Steele, according to the Daily Caller.  Many claims made in the Steele dossier have since been disproved by investigators.  According to the newly released material, the CIA’s deputy director of analysis told a Senate investigating panel, ““We would have never included that report in a CIA-only assessment because the source was so indirect. And we made sure we indicated we didn’t use it in our analysis, and if it had been a CIA-only product we wouldn’t have included it at all.” 

 Former CIA Director John Brennan told the Senate committee that he had heard from a British government official warning that the Steele dossier had no official connection to the British government.  “He wanted to make sure that I understood and that others in the senior officialdom of the U.S. government understood that that officer, Steele, had been a former [redacted] but had no current relationship with [redacted] and that dossier was not put together in any way with [redacted] support,” Brennan said. “So he wanted to make sure there was a separation there.”

The FBI was insistent that information from the Steele dossier be included in the ICA.  The FBI had already used information from the Steele dossier on their application for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to spy on former Trump advisor Carter Page to investigate his ties, if any, to Russia.  The Steele dossier was used on three renewals of the FISA warrant.

According to testimony given to the Senate committee the FBI clearly put much more stock in the claims made in the Steele dossier than did the CIA.  Former FBI Director James Comey told the committee that he believed the Steele dossier information should be in the ICA, but claimed that he did not insist it should be given a major role in the report.  “I insisted that we bring it to the party, and I was agnostic as to whether it was footnoted in the document itself, put as an annex,” he said.

Comey continued to defend the FBI use of the Steele dossier in an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace in December 2019.  “They didn’t conclude the reporting from Steele was bunk, they concluded there were significant questions about the reliability of some of the sub-source reporting. That should have been included in the renewals,” he said.

A 2019 report by Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz was highly critical of the FBI for its continued reliance on the Steele dossier.  The Horowitz report identified significant numbers of errors and omissions in the Carter Page FISA warrant applications and enumerated many instances of poor judgement and unprofessionalism at the FBI during 2016 and early 2017.

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