Identity of FBI Informant Leaked to Media

fbi informant

This post was originally published on The Washington Examiner.

The identify of an FBI informant has been leaked to at least two media outlets, even as the Justice Department refuses to disclose that information to Congress, but these newsrooms are refraining from publishing this individual’s name out of concern for national security and the safety of this person and his or her sources.

Still, the level of description about the informant provided in these reports has prompted rampant speculation of who the source may be, all this amid Republican furor this week about a possible effort to spy on President Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Two reports published Friday evening, one by the New York Times and the other by the Washington Post, describe the informant as a American academic who teaches in the United Kingdom and met with up to three members of the Trump campaign. These include campaign advisers Carter Page, who was surveilled by the government, and George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI and agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

The FBI reportedly launched its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election after it got word that Papadopoulos learned that the Russians obtained thousands of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails months before WikiLeaks published them.

The reports from the Times and the Post come after Trump seized on unverified reports this week, and rallying cries by his allies, about the possibility of a spy “for political purposes.”

“Reports are there was indeed at least one FBI representative implanted, for political purposes, into my campaign for president,” Trump tweeted Friday. “It took place very early on, and long before the phony Russia Hoax became a ‘hot’ Fake News story. If true — all time biggest political scandal.”

However, there is no public evidence that the informant behaved improperly when obtaining information on members of the Trump campaign, or that the inquiry had political motivations.

Although the Times and the Post are so far withholding the identity of the informant, conservative journalists were quick to note on Twitter that the description of the individual matches that of prior reporting.

One particular report they have singled out dates back to March from the conservative Daily Caller, which described how Stefan Halper, a U.S. professor from Cambridge University who served in three Republican administration and also had ties to the CIA, met with Page and Papadopoulos.

Papadopoulos and Page attended several meetings with Halper, and while Papadopoulos considers the meeting with the professor suspicious in retrospect, Page did not pick up on anything suspicious.

“At the time, I never found his actions suspicious,” Page told NBC News. “He never offered me one cent. Just 2 foreign policy scholars having some discussions. That’s about all that I took it as.”

In recent weeks, Republicans in Congress have tried to zero in on possible misbehavior at the Justice Department.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., subpoenaed the Justice Department for documents concerning an American who was a confidential intelligence source for Mueller’s investigation. The subpoena came after the agency did not reply to a letter asking for details on Mueller’s probe.

But the DOJ did not provide the documents, informing Nunes that providing the information would threaten the life of the source and jeopardize national security. Instead he got a briefing with government officials last week, along with Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., the chairman of the House Oversight Committee. Though they said they had a “productive” meeting and looked forward to future discussions, Nunes did not respond to an invitation from the DOJ to “answer questions he posed last week” in a follow-up meeting Friday, an agency spokesperson told the Washington Examiner.

Meanwhile, Democrats are pushing back, and Nunes and others are clamoring for the disclosure of identifying information about the informant.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., argued revealing the identity of a covert FBI source could jeopardize Mueller’s investigation and warned that it could even be illegal.

“It would be at best irresponsible, and at worst potentially illegal, for members of Congress to use their positions to learn the identity of an FBI source for the purpose of undermining the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in our election,” the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee said in a statement Friday. “Anyone who is entrusted with our nation’s highest secrets should act with the gravity and seriousness of purpose that knowledge deserves.”

“The first thing any new member of the Intelligence Committee learns is the critical importance of protecting sources and methods,” he added. “Publicly outing a source risks not only their life, but the lives of every American, because when sources are burned it makes it that much harder for every part of the intelligence community to gather intelligence on those who wish to do us harm.”

This post was originally published on The Washington Examiner.