With the public release of a Justice Department watchdog report on alleged Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act abuses forthcoming, witnesses are said to be nervous about the final product.
People interviewed about the FBI’s actions during the Russia investigation are concerned the report will portray their words inaccurately and feel as though they are being put in a defenseless position because of “unusual restrictions,” according to the Washington Post.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz has invited witnesses and their lawyers to review relevant portions of a draft report, allowing them the opportunity to offer input and objections.
The Washington Post report cited sources who said the comments can only be conveyed verbally, not in writing as is the norm, leaving witnesses without the ability to develop a paper trail should they want to contest anything they view as inaccurate or misleading in the final report.
But Stephanie Logan, a spokesperson for the inspector general’s office, said they are “clarifying” to witnesses that they have the opportunity to comment in writing.
“As part of our factual accuracy review, and consistent with our usual practice, we are providing witnesses with the opportunity to review portions of the report that relate to them,” Logan told the Washington Examinerin a statement. “Also consistent with our practice, we undertake every effort to ensure witnesses can provide their comments and we are clarifying to them that they will be able to provide written comments, consistent with rules to protect classified information.”
The Washington Post report also said witnesses were being asked to view these sections of the document, which is marked “Top Secret,” in a secure area, must sign nondisclosure agreements, and have been told they are not allowed to remove any notes they make about the report.
The long-awaited report is eagerly anticipated by President Trump’s GOP allies, who assert Horowitz’s findings will show top Justice Department and FBI officials misled the FISA court by using an unverified dossier compiled by British ex-spy Christopher Steele to obtain warrants to electronically monitor onetime Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Democrats, as well as current and former FBI officials, dismissed allegations of wrongdoing and have raised concerns that information about U.S. intelligence gathering could be weaponized to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller.
The investigation was completed in September. Horowitz provided an update to Congress on Oct. 24, saying a classification review by the DOJ and the FBI was “nearing completion” and he expected it to “be released publicly with few redactions.” With reports putting a public release at about Thanksgiving, Attorney General William Barr told reporters on Wednesday that it was his understanding the release of the report was “imminent.”
Horowitz’s findings could be useful for U.S. Attorney John Durham, who at the behest of Attorney General William Barr is scrutinizing the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation and examining the conduct of the Justice Department, the FBI, and the Intelligence Community. Last month, Durham shifted his administrative review to a criminal inquiry that gives his team the power to impanel a grand jury and hand down indictments.