Christopher Steele SUBPOENAED, Federal Judge Orders Federal Judge Orders FBI to Search for all Documents relating to Russia Dossier.
We are grateful for judges unafraid to tell the Deep State and its powerful agencies to reveal their secrets, especially when bureaucrats are digging in their heels.
In the latest example, U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper ordered the FBI to conduct a search within 60 days for records of communications with former British spy and dossier author Christopher Steele post-dating Steele’s service as an FBIFBI confidential source.
In ordering the supplemental search, Judge Cooper held:
The potential for illuminating the FBI’s activities is not too difficult to discern. Communications post-dating Steele’s time as an informant might reveal a great deal about why the FBI developed him as a CHS [confidential human source], his performance as a CHS, and why the FBI opted to terminate its relationship with him. Those records might either bolster or weaken Steele’s credibility as a source. That information, in turn, could provide a basis on which to evaluate the FBI’s performance of its law-enforcement duties, including its judgment in selecting and relying on confidential sources, especially in connection with such a politically sensitive subject. Of course, the records Judicial Watch speculates about might not even exist—and even if they do, they may not reveal anything significant about the FBI’s operations. But that they might do so makes them a matter of potential public interest.
The court ruling came in our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for records of communications and payments between the FBI, Christopher Steele and his private firm, Orbis Business Intelligence (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice) (No. 1:17-cv-00916)).
The court initially ruled in favor of a DOJ “Glomar” response to our March 8, 2017, FOIA request stating that it could “neither confirm nor deny the existence of records responsive to [Judicial Watch’s] request.” On March 26, 2018, subsequent to the declassification of records revealing Steele’s role as an FBI informant and his firing by the FBI in November 2016, the court reopened the case at our request. The FBI, however, continued refusing to search for records post-dating Steele’s dismissal, contending that any records discovered would be exempt from disclosure on privacy grounds.
In his ruling, Judge Cooper held that, on balance, any privacy interests Steele may have in keeping the documents secret are outweighed by the public’s interest in disclosure:
Steele’s privacy interests are far different from those courts usually consider under Exemption 7(C), where disclosure would make public for the first time an individual’s affiliation with law enforcement, whether as agent, cooperator, or target … The balance therefore tilts in favor of disclosure. Accordingly, the Court will order the FBI to conduct a search for records post-dating Steele’s service as a confidential source.
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