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IG Report on Comey Obscures That Strzok, Page Behind Key Determinations

IG Report on Comey Obscures That Strzok, Page Behind Key Determinations
Former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey speaks to members of the media at the Rayburn House Office Building after testifying to the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees on Capitol Hill December 07, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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Friday, 13 September 2019 11:07 AM Current | Bio | Archive

The Department of Justice IG Report on former FBI Director James Comey’s media leaks is good, but it would have been much better had it more transparently revealed to the American people that Peter Strzok and Lisa Page were behind multiple references to “the FBI determined” throughout the IG Report.

The way the IG Report describes the June 2017 security classification determinations regarding seven memos written by Director Comey misleadingly suggests that there was a definitive, impartial finding that, “Fired FBI Director James B. Comey didn’t leak classified information to the press,” as described in the post-IG Report lead story in the Washington Times.

On close reading of the IG Report, however, it becomes clear that the main two FBI officials who determined that Comey “didn’t leak classified information to the press” were Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, under the supervision of Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe.

Here is the IG Report finding about media leaks (on page 2): “Of the Memos Comey shared with his attorneys, Memo 2 contained six words that the FBI determined in June 2017 to be classified at the ‘CONFIDENTIAL’ level; Memos 4 and 6 contained information that the FBI determined in June 2017 to be ‘For Official Use Only,’ but did not contain classified information . . . . Comey did not seek FBI authorization before providing the contents of Memo 4, through [Daniel] Richman, to a reporter. . . . We found no evidence that Comey or his attorneys released any of the classified information contained in any of the Memos to members of the media.”

Note well the expression “the FBI determined” used twice in the above quote (and elsewhere throughout the Report).

As one of the longest serving Senate-confirmed Inspector General of the Department of Defense (2002-05), I learned to avoid attributing animate features to inanimate objects. The expression “the FBI determined” is a classic example of what I would avoid. It is utilized at least nine times in key parts of the IG Report.

Here is how key portions of the IG Report (on pages 1 and 2) would read if you connect the dots between references to “the FBI determined” and the individuals who made those determinations:

“In June 2017, following Comey’s removal as FBI Director, [Peter Strzok and Lisa Page] reviewed the Memos to determine if any of the Memos contained classified information. [Peter Strzok and Lisa Page] determined that Memos 1 and 3 contained information classified at the “SECRET” level, and that Memos 2 and 7 contained small amounts of information classified at the ‘CONFIDENTIAL’ level. [Peter Strzok and Lisa Page] designated Memos 4, 5, and 6 as unclassified, ‘FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY.’. . .

“On May 14, 2017, Comey used his personal scanner and private email account to provide electronic copies of Memos 2, 4, 6, and 7 to one of his personal attorneys. . . . Of the Memos Comey shared with his attorneys, Memo 2 contained six words that [Peter Strzok and Lisa Page] determined in June 2017 to be classified at the 'CONFIDENTIAL' level, Memos 4 and 6 contained information that [Peter Strzok and Lisa Page] determined in June 2017 to be 'For Official Use Only,' but did not contain classified information; and Memo 7 was redacted by Comey before transmission, which obscured the information in Memo 7 that [Peter Strzok and Lisa Page] determined in June 2017 to be classified."

Lawyers use a Latin expression, “Res Ipse Loquitur,” which means the thing speaks for itself.

Once you substitute the names of the FBI officials behind the impersonal references to “the FBI determined,” the IG Report more transparently speaks for itself.

In this light, one has to question the accuracy of press assertions such as, “Fired FBI Director James B. Comey didn’t leak classified information to the press.” The more accurate way to characterize the IG Report would have been, “According to former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, fired FBI Director James B. Comey didn’t leak classified information to the press.”

Finally, to the IG’s credit, his Report explains (on page 43) that the “classification review for the Memos differed from the FBI’s normal process, which usually involves sending documents out to the agency whose equities are at issue, for their classification determination. . . . Instead, where the equities at issue belonged to the State Department, the FBI personnel involved in the classification review told us that they relied on their experiences in the Clinton e-mail case and their familiarity with what the State Department classified her e-mails, and used that to determine whether specific statements by the President about foreign leader were classified.”

All FBI determinations made by Peter Strzok or Lisa Page should be reconsidered by impartial FBI professionals through the “normal process.” How transparent would that be?

Joseph E. Schmitz served as a foreign policy and national security advisor to Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. The opinions expressed in this article are his personal opinions. Schmitz served as Inspector General of the Department of Defense from 2002-2005 and is now Chief Legal Officer of Pacem Solutions International. He graduated with distinction from the U.S. Naval Academy, earned his J.D. degree from Stanford Law School, and is author of "The Inspector General Handbook: Fraud, Waste, Abuse, and Other Constitutional ‘Enemies, Foreign and Domestic.’" Read more reports from Joseph E. Schmitz — Click Here Now.

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All FBI determinations made by Peter Strzok or Lisa Page should be reconsidered by impartial FBI professionals through the “normal process.” How transparent would that be?
comey, inspector general, strzok, page
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2019-07-13
Friday, 13 September 2019 11:07 AM
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