Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz’s report revealed that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) process to secure a wiretap on former Donald Trump campaign official Carter Page — believed by some to be working with Russia — was riddled with errors. Now, former FBI counterintelligence agent Scott Olson claims that any person with a “basic understanding of intelligence collection and counterintelligence operations” could have determined that Page was not an asset without a FISA warrant, Newsweek reports.
According to Olson, the Russians’ vetting process for intelligence agents is “rigorous,” with multiple steps and “layers of approvals” that center around three primary factors — reliability, confidentiality, and access. Olson noted that Page would not be viewed by Russians as dependable and able to accept orders and carry them out “precisely and without fail.” The former FBI agent also suggested that the “most basic of investigations” would have revealed to agents that Page did not have access to useful intelligence related to the Trump campaign.
“No competent intelligence agency would move Page past the initial evaluation stage of vetting. Certainly not the Russians. They might occasionally interview him to see if he had anything useful to say, but they would not do anything more.”
Olson claimed that in his 21 years as a counterintelligence agent at the FBI, he never heard of FISA applications similar to the ones targeting Page that were obtained based on “alleged contact with an intelligence agency.” Given the intrusive nature of FISA, Olson stated that it’s considered to be the last option in an investigation.
— Eddie Zipperer (@EddieZipperer) December 15, 2019
“Regardless of the purpose of an investigation, by the time the application goes forward, the FBI already has significant evidence of malfeasance,” Olson wrote, adding that the other possibility is that “all other investigative avenues have been exhausted” and there is no alternative to complete the inquiry.
“Neither circumstance applies here,” he added.
Olson claimed that the only reason he believes the unorthodox protocol of the Page wiretap took place was that someone with “authority” over former FBI Director James Comey ordered a FISA on the Trump campaign and Page was seen by Comey as a “disposable” means of doing so.
Regardless of what sparked the FISA, the application process revealed in the IG report has been criticized by many. George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley called the report “damning” for the FBI, noting the many instances of misconduct and the lack of probable cause for the wiretap of Page, which was nevertheless secured.