A former FBI Deputy Assistant Director violated the law when he or she provided information to the media that had been sealed in federal court and violated FBI policy by providing sensitive information to the media and accepting a gift from a member of the media.
The DAD (not pictured above) was investigated by the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General and found to have violated the law and FBI policy, but the DOJ ultimately declined to prosecute. The OIG released a letter on May 29 detailing the findings of its investigation but failed to name the individual or explain why prosecution was declined, fueling speculation.
The OIG letter explained that the investigation was initiated “upon the receipt of information” from the FBI alleging a “then FBI Deputy Assistant Director” violated Bureau policy by communicating with the press. The OIG confirmed the allegations:
The OIG investigation concluded that the DAD engaged in misconduct when the DAD: (1) disclosed to the media the existence of information that had been filed under seal in federal court, in violation of 18 USC § 401, Contempt of Court; (2) provided without authorization FBI law enforcement sensitive information to reporters on multiple occasions; and (3) had dozens of official contacts with the media without authorization, in violation of FBI policy.
The OIG also found that the DAD engaged in misconduct when the DAD accepted a ticket, valued at approximately $225, to attend a media-sponsored dinner, as a gift from a member of the media, in violation of federal regulations and FBI policy.
Despite these findings, “prosecution of the DAD was declined.” The OIG concluded that it had completed its investigation and provided the report “to the FBI for appropriate action.”
As noted in the letter, the incident was referenced in a report released last June about the FBI’s conduct prior to the 2016 election. In that report, the OIG found “numerous FBI employees, at all levels of the organization and with no official reason to be in contact with the media, who were nevertheless in frequent contact with reporters.”
The OIG at that time “identified social interactions between FBI employees and journalists that were, at a minimum, inconsistent with FBI policy and Department ethics rules.” The OIG also identified numerous instances of FBI agents accepting gifts from reporters, including tickets to sporting events, golf outings, after work drinks and meals, and as guests at “nonpublic social events.”
The letter sent Wednesday is about just one individual at the FBI who remains unnamed. Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) believes that individual may be Peter Strzok, an agent who worked on the special counsel’s investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and who had an affair with a fellow agent during which the two exchanged text messages disparaging then-candidate Donald Trump and suggesting an “insurance policy” if he were to get elected.
In a letter from Collins to DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, Collins asks several questions left unanswered by the OIG letter sent last week including why prosecution was declined and whether the DAD referenced in the letter is Strzok.
As evidence that the individual in question was Strzok, Collins notes:
For example, the 2018 Report noted, “Peter Strzok is an experienced counterintelligence agent who was promoted to Deputy Assistant Director (DAD) of the Espionage Section in September 2016.” The 2018 Report also said, “[m]ost troubling, on October 29, 2016, Strzok forwarded from his FBI account to his personal email account an email about the proposed search warrant the Midyear team was seeking on the Weiner laptop. This email included a draft of the search warrant affidavit, which contained information from the Weiner investigation that appears to have been under seal at the time in the Southern District of New York . . .”
According to Figure 3.1 of the 2018 Report, no other Deputy Assistant Director was in the FBI Chain of Command for the Midyear investigation, the main subject of the 2018 Report.
While this certainly isn’t conclusive, the fact that the OIG highlighted one individual leaker when it had identified a “large number” of FBI leakers may lead one to believe this particular leaker is somehow more important.