Report on Matters Related to Intelligence Activities and Investigations Arising Out of the 2016 Presidential Campaigns
Based on the review of Crossfire Hurricane and related intelligence activities, we conclude that the Department and the FBI failed to uphold their important mission of strict fidelity to the law in connection with certain events and activities described in this report. As noted, former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith committed a criminal offense by fabricating language in an email that was material to the FBI obtaining a FISA surveillance order. In other instances, FBI personnel working on that same FISA application displayed, at best, a cavalier attitude towards accuracy and completeness. FBI personnel also repeatedly disregarded important requirements when they continued to seek renewals ofthat FISA surveillance while acknowledging - both then and in hindsight - that they did not genuinely believe there was probable cause to believe that the target was knowingly engaged in clandestine intelligence activities on behalf of a foreign power, or knowingly helping another person in such activities. And certain personnel disregarded significant exculpatory information that should have prompted investigative restraint and re-examination.
Our investigation also revealed that senior FBI personnel displayed a serious lack of analytical rigor towards the information that they received, especially information received from politically affiliated persons and entities. This information in part triggered and sustained Crossfire Hurricane and contributed to the subsequent need for Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation. In particular, there was significant reliance on investigative leads provided or funded (directly or indirectly) by Trump’s political opponents. The Department did not adequately examine or question these materials and the motivations of those providing them, even when at about the same time the Director of the FBI and others learned of significant and potentially contrary intelligence.
In light of the foregoing, there is a continuing need for the FBI and the Department to recognize that lack of analytical rigor, apparent confirmation bias, and an over-willingness to rely on information from individuals connected to political opponents caused investigators to fail to adequately consider alternative hypotheses and to act without appropriate objectivity or restraint in pursuing allegations of collusion or conspiracy between a U.S. political campaign and a foreign power. Although recognizing that in hindsight much is clearer, much of this also seems to have been clear at the time. We therefore believe it is important to examine past conduct to identify shortcomings and improve how the government carries out its most sensitive functions. Section V discusses some of these issues more fully.
This report does not recommend any wholesale changes in the guidelines and policies that the Department and the FBI now have in place to ensure proper conduct and accountability in how counterintelligence activities are carried out. Rather, it is intended to accurately describe the matters that fell under our review and to assist the Attorney General in determining how the Department and the FBI can do a better, more credible job in fulfilling its responsibilities, and in analyzing and responding to politically charged allegations in the future. Ultimately, of course, meeting those responsibilities comes down to the integrity of the people who take an oath to follow the guidelines and policies currently in place, guidelines that date from the time of Attorney General Levi and that are designed to ensure the rule of law is upheld. As such, the answer is not the creation of new rules but a renewed fidelity to the old. The promulgation of additional rules and regulations to be learned in yet more training sessions would likely prove to be a fruitless exercise if the FBI’s guiding principles of “Fidelity, Bravery and Integrity” are not engrained in the hearts and minds of those sworn to meet the FBI’s mission of “Protect[ing] the American People and Uphold[ing] the Constitution of the United States.”