Former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe may have increased the legal jeopardy facing him and four other top federal law enforcement officials by telling Congress in December 2017 that no surveillance warrants could be sought without using the undocumented Steele dossier.
The reason is simple: The procedural rules governing surveillance warrant requests to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court, federal officials are barred from knowingly using undocumented evidence.
But thanks to the court's "Woods Rule," that's exactly what was done by McCabe, as well as by his former boss, then-FBI Director James Comey, former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, former Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente and present Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
They did so by signing FISA surveillance warrant requests based on the Steele dossier, the opposition research compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele of allegations about President Donald Trump's links to Russian government and business figures who supposedly helped him win the White House in 2016.
The Steele dossier was indirectly paid for by the Democratic National Committee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign committee via a Washington, D.C. law firm. Comey told Congress in 2016 that the dossier was "salacious and unverified."
The FISA court was told of neither the dossier's undocumented basis nor who paid for its production, a potentially serious violation of the Woods Procedures. Former CBS News Investigative Journalist explains:
Woods Procedures were named for Michael Woods, the FBI official who drafted the rules as head of the Office of General Counsel's National Security Law Unit. They were instituted in April 2001 to 'ensure accuracy with regard to ... the facts supporting probable cause' after recurring instances, presumably inadvertent, in which the FBI had presented inaccurate information to the FISA court.
Prior to Woods Procedures, '[i]ncorrect information was repeated in subsequent and related FISA packages,' the FBI told Congress in August 2003. 'By signing and swearing to the declaration, the headquarters agent is attesting to knowledge of what is contained in the declaration.'"
Attkinsson also points out that the FBI imposed beginning in 2003 a rigid and complicated internal review process to subject FISA surveillance applications to an extremely rigorous assessment to ensure evidence presented to the court was solidly documented and credible.
The Robert Mueller who was director of the FBI in 2003 is the same Robert Mueller who is now the Special Counsel whose investigation is relying in part upon the "salacious" and "unverified" Steele dossier used to gain approval to spy on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page in the Russia collusion investigation.
Senior editor Mark Tapscott can be reached at . Follow him on .