The following is an excerpt of an article from The Hill. You can read the full post by clicking here.
In July 2017, the Department of Justice Inspector General (IG) began an investigation into whether former FBI Director James Comey had improperly handled and shared government memos, including some containing classified information.
In a report issued last week, the IG revealed its investigation found Comey guilty of multiple violations, and referred him for possible prosecution. The Justice Department declined to prosecute Comey.
After the IG report was issued, Comey declared exoneration and asked for apologies via Twitter:
However, almost the entirety of the IG report consists of harsh criticism and denouncements of Comey’s violations of Justice Department, Intelligence Community and FBI policies, an Executive Order, and his FBI Employment Agreement.
So what did Comey really do wrong, according to the IG?
1. Outside of the FBI office, including at his home, Comey improperly used his personal safe and personal devices— including his laptop and printer– to create, revise, store and transmit memos about his conversations with President Trump.
2. These memos are government documents that belong to the public and require special handling. Some contained classified information. Comey improperly treated them as if they were personal memos.
3. Comey used his personal devices even though the FBI had outfitted his home with a secure, controlled access room— a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility)– designed for such purposes. The SCIF at Comey’s home contained a secure printer and a safe.
When asked why he failed to use the SCIF the FBI had installed in his home, Comey told the IG he “wasn’t thinking about [the memos]…[belonging to the] Government—[he] thought…this is for me” so he used his “personal unclass system.” Comey also described the SCIF as a “sweat box” and a “very, very small” windowless closet in his basement where it “was always about 110 degrees.”
The IG said Comey never told anyone he considered his memos about President Trump to be his personal property rather than government documents until the IG questioned him about the violations.
The IG found Comey’s argument that the memos were “personal records” to be “not reasonable” given statements he had made to the IG and others recognizing they were work-related, and given the “clarity of relevant provisions of law, policies, and Comey’s Employment Agreement.”
4. Despite knowing at the time that at least one memo contained classified information, Comey did not appropriately mark it with classification banners, portion markings, or a classification authority block. This violated an Executive Order as well as policies of the Intelligence Community, Justice Department and FBI.
5. When President Trump fired Comey on May 9, 2017, Comey failed to follow requirements to surrender the FBI documents stored in his personal home safe and did not tell the FBI about them.
We found it particularly concerning that Comey did not tell anyone from the FBI that he had retained copies of the Memos in his personal safe at home, even when his Chief of Staff, the FBI’s Associate Deputy Director, and three [Supervisory Special Agents] came to Comey’s house on May 12, 2017, to inventory and remove all FBI property.Dept. of Justice Inspector General report, Aug. 2019
6. The IG found Comey committed multiple violations by releasing the government memos to third parties without required authorizations.
After he was fired, Comey improperly transmitted 12 copies of the memos to his personal attorneys (four memos to each of three lawyers).
7. Comey also gave a copy of one memo to his friend, Columbia law school professor Daniel Richman, with instructions for Richman to leak the information to the New York Times in order to achieve Comey’s stated, personal, political goal: appointment of a special counsel to investigate Trump-Russia collusion and obstruction of justice allegations.
8. After Comey was fired, FBI officials handling his departure obtained copies of the memos from FBI offices where Comey had distributed and stored them. These FBI officials did not know Comey retained some copies in his home safe. They also did not know he had leaked to the New York times, or given copies to his personal attorneys.
On June 7, 2017, the FBI gave Comey copies of all the memos to review before he testified about them to Congress. During this review, Comey saw markings indicating the FBI had classified additional material in one of his memos. However, Comey failed to alert the FBI that he had given copies of it to his personal attorneys.
9. On June 8, 2017, the FBI learned that Comey had shared with the New York Times– through an intermediary– the contents of one memo when he admitted it in Congressional testimony.
Comey told the IG he believed his leak to the New York Times would “change the game” by creating “extraordinary pressure on the leadership of the Department of Justice, which [Comey did] not trust,” to appoint a Special Counsel.
The IG found that Comey’s leak to the New York Times “made public sensitive investigative information related to an ongoing FBI investigation.”
Members of Comey’s senior leadership team used the adjectives “surprised,” “stunned,” “shocked,” and “disappointment” to describe their reactions to learning that Comey acted on his own to provide the contents of Memo 4, through Richman, to a reporter. The unauthorized disclosure of this information—information that Comey knew only by virtue of his position as FBI Director—violated the terms of his FBI Employment Agreement and the FBI’s Prepublication Review Policy.Dept. of Justice Inspector General report, Aug. 2019
10. Comey was not fully forthright in his Congressional testimony on June 8, 2017. Although he admitted the New York Times leak, he omitted that he had also transmitted 12 additional copies to his personal attorneys without the required authorization. The FBI only learned this information when officials talked to Richman.
“By not safeguarding sensitive information obtained during the course of his FBI employment, and by using it to create public pressure for official action, Comey set a dangerous example for the over 35,000 current FBI employees—and the many thousands more former FBI employees—who similarly have access to or knowledge of non-public information.”Dept. of Justice Inspector General report, Aug. 2019
What is Comey’s response?
Comey told the IG he was compelled to take the actions he took “if I love this country…and I love the Department of Justice, and I love the FBI.”
Comey also said he believed that he was “uniquely situated” to leak the information to the New York Times as a private citizen, but that he chose to do this through an intermediary— Richman— because he did not want to respond to follow up questions from reporters.
The IG concluded that if current or former FBI employees were to follow Comey’s example and disclose sensitive information in service of their own strongly held personal convictions, the FBI would be unable to dispatch its law enforcement duties.
Comey had several other lawful options available to him to advocate for the appointment of a Special Counsel, which he told us was his goal in making the disclosure. What was not permitted was the unauthorized disclosure of sensitive investigative information, obtained during the course of FBI employment, in order to achieve a personally desired outcome.Dept. of Justice Inspector General report, Aug. 2019
Read the IG report by clicking the link below:
Fight improper government surveillance. Support Attkisson v. DOJ and FBI over the government computer intrusions of Attkisson’s work while she was a CBS News investigative correspondent. Visit the Attkisson Fourth Amendment Litigation Fund. Click here.