The FBI Puffed Up Christopher Steele's Credibility to Launder Information From a Source Known to Be Unreliable

I’m just wading my way through this dumpster fire of a DOJ IG report as are my colleagues.

One of the things we’ve been most interested to find out was the degree to which the Steele Dossier was used by the FBI to get a FISA warrant on Carter Page. The answer is: Quite a bit. But the real interesting part is how the FBI went about laundering the source material in Steele’s Dossier to give it a credibility that it did not deserve.


To start with, we know that Steele was not involved in the collection of any of the material because he could not travel inside of Russia or areas where the Russians might be tempted to snap him up (increasingly, London fits that category of places). So we’ve always known he relied upon intermediaries who he paid and who, in turn, paid other sources. This collection process has caused many of us to view the Steele Dossier as much more an FSB disinformation operation than and intelligence gathering one by Steele. The IG report shows it is worse than we imagined.

This is how the report describes the development of the report:

Steele himself was not the originating source of any of the factual information in his reporting. Steele instead relied on a Primary Sub-source for information, who used his/her network of sub-sources to gather information that was then passed to Steele. See page v.

So Steele essentially subcontracted the job to a “sub-source.” That person then used their own network to gather information. My guess is that it would not be out of bounds to look at Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska as being Steele’s Primary Sub-source given the long-standing business relationship between them and the willingness of Kremlin insiders to talk to Steele’s on-the-ground person. If true, this makes the odds of the Steele Dossier being a Russian operation at nearly 100%.


Undeterred, the FBI pressed ahead with using the Steele Dossier:

However, absent corroboration for the factual assertions in the election reporting, it was particularly important for the FISA applications to articulate the FBI’s knowledge of Steele’s background and its assessment of his reliability. On these points, the applications advised the court that Steele was believed to be a reliable source for three reasons: his professional background; his history of work as an FBI CHS [note: Confidential Human Source] since 2013; and his prior non-election reporting, which the FBI described as “corroborated and used in criminal proceedings.” As discussed below, the representations about Steele’s prior reporting were overstated and had not been approved by Steele’s handling agent, as required by the Woods Procedures. See page viii.

So even though Steele didn’t actually develop the material, Steele’s overstated resume was used to give it credence.

And now the kicker:

Omitted information relevant to the reliability of Person 1, a key Steele sub-source (who was attributed with providing the information in Report 95 and some of the information in Reports 80 and 102 relied upon in the application), namely that (1) Steele himself told members of the Crossfire Hurricane team that Person 1 was a “boaster” and an “egoist” and “may engage in some embellishment” and [redacted]. This, of course, was Source E as Sergei Millian was called. See page ix.


What we have here is a report that was critical to justifying the investigation of President Trump’s campaign and to getting the FISA warrant on Carter Page being sold based on an inflated description of Christopher Steele plus hiding that he, personally, had nothing to do with developing the information in the dossier.


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