Two former colleagues of ex-CIA Director John Brennan have contradicted his claim that the unverified "Steele Dossier" was not part of the US Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) on Russian interference in the 2016 election, reports Paul Sperry of RealClear Investigations.
Central to the controversy is a statement by recently retired National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers, who stated in a classified letter to Congress that the anti-Trump memos which made up the dossier did factor in to the IC assessment - which was reinforced in a CNN interview by James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence who said that the assessment was based on "some of the substantive content of the dossier," and that the IC was "able to corroborate" certain dossier allegations.
In a March 5, 2018, letter to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, Adm. Rogers informed the committee that a two-page summary of the dossier — described as “the Christopher Steele information” — was “added” as an “appendix to the ICA draft,” and that consideration of that appendix was “part of the overall ICA review/approval process.”
His skepticism of the dossier may explain why the NSA parted company with other intelligence agencies and cast doubt on one of its crucial conclusions: that Vladimir Putin personally ordered a cyberattack on Hillary Clinton’s campaign to help Donald Trump win the White House. -RealClear Investigations
What's more, Brennan was feeding some of the dossier material to President Obama and passing it off as credible, reports Sperry.
“Brennan put some of the dossier material into the PDB [presidential daily briefing] for Obama and described it as coming from a ‘credible source,’ which is how they viewed Steele,” said the source familiar with the House investigation. "But they never corroborated his sources.” -RCI
I'll just leave this here 🇺🇸— Undercover Huber (@JohnWHuber) May 15, 2018
3/5/18: Retiring NSA Director Mike Rogers sends classified letter to HPSCI Chair @DevinNunes: https://t.co/bVqEifcStv
4/19/18: @DevinNunes reveals publicly the DJT-Russia investigation wasn't started with "official" intel: https://t.co/xn8R0ctsKB pic.twitter.com/0ymBlGhg2a
(Of note, some suspect Rogers warned Trump that he was being spied on shortly after the 2016 US election. You can read that analysis here.)
Brennan testified in May 2017 to the House Intelligence Committee that the Steele Dossier was "not in any way used as the basis for the intelligence community's assessment" of Russia's involvement in the 2016 election - a claim he has repeated several times, including a February appearance on Meet the Press.
Rogers said during testimony that while he was convinced that Russia wanted to harm Clinton politically, he wasn't of the opinion that they wanted to help Trump, as his CIA and FBI counterparts claimed. The assessment "didn't have the same level of sourcing and the same level of multiple sources," Rogers said.
The dossier, which is made up of 16 opposition research-style memos on Trump underwritten by the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s own campaign, is based mostly on uncorroborated third-hand sources. Still, the ICA has been viewed by much of the Washington establishment as the unimpeachable consensus of the U.S. intelligence community. Its conclusions that “Vladimir Putin ordered” the hacking and leaking of Clinton campaign emails “to help Trump’s chances of victory” have driven the “Russia collusion” narrative and subsequent investigations besieging the Trump presidency. -RCI
That said, the ICA did not in fact reflect the Intelligence Community's concensus.
Clapper broke with tradition and decided not to put the assessment out to all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies for review. Instead, he limited input to a couple dozen chosen analysts from just three agencies — the CIA, NSA and FBI. Agencies with relevant expertise on Russia, such as the Department of Homeland Security, Defense Intelligence Agency and the State Department’s intelligence bureau, were excluded from the process. -RCI
On other words, the assessment of Russia's interference was shielded from government experts who might be able to poke holes in the (literal) conspiracy theory. The House Intelligence Committee found that the ICA did not appropriately describe the "quality and credibility of underlying sources," and that it was "not independent of political considerations."
Furthermore, the report is missing any dissenting views whatsoever, as would normally be included.
"Traditionally, controversial intelligence community assessments like this include dissenting views and the views of an outside review group,” said Fred Fleitz, who Real Clear Investigations reports worked as a CIA analyst for 19 years and helped draft national intelligence estimates at Langley. "It also should have been thoroughly vetted with all relevant IC agencies,” he added. "Why were DHS and DIA excluded?”
Fleitz suggests that the Obama administration limited the number of players involved in the analysis to skew the results. He believes the process was “manipulated” to reach a “predetermined political conclusion” that the incoming Republican president was compromised by the Russians.
“I’ve never viewed the ICA as credible,” the CIA veteran added.
A source close to the House investigation said Brennan himself selected the CIA and FBI analysts who worked on the ICA, and that they included former FBI counterespionage chief Peter Strzok.
“Strzok was the intermediary between Brennan and [former FBI Director James] Comey, and he was one of the authors of the ICA,” according to the source. -RCI
Strzok, of course, was reassigned to another department within the FBI after anti-Trump and pro-Clinton text messages were uncovered by DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz. Strzok remains under investigation by the IG, while his FBI "lovebird" Lisa Page resigned (was fired) in early May.
Strzok spearheaded the FBI's early investigation into Russian collusion with the Trump campaign in 2016 - until former FBI Director James Comey was fired, and his infamous "memos" suggesting obstruction kicked off special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.
Brennan swears the dossier was not used "in any way" as a basis for the ICA - explaining that he only "heard snippets" from the press in the summer of 2016.
“Brennan’s claims are impossible to believe,” Fleitz asserted.
"Brennan was pushing the Trump collusion line in mid-2016 and claimed to start the FBI collusion investigation in August 2016,” he said. “It's impossible to believe Brennan was pushing for this investigation without having read the dossier.”