The Justice Department's inspector general report contains few redactions, and intelligence veterans worry that could allow hostile spies to examine U.S. sources and methods for gathering secret information.
President Donald Trump gave Attorney General William Barr broad authority on declassifying information, and he apparently kept a light hand in blacking out portions of the 476-page report examining the origins of the Russia probe, reported Politico.
“Typically DOJ pushes back against efforts to declassify sensitive information,” said David Laufman, a former Justice Department official who's mentioned in the report and oversaw parts of the Crossfire Hurricane counterintelligence probe.
The Justice Department has final say over declassifying information in public reports, and intelligence veterans were surprised by how few Barr made.
“I would LOVE a roadmap like this from the Russians or Chinese,” said one former intelligence official.
That official was shocked to see a detailed description for how the Crossfire Hurricane investigators determined how they verified some of the intelligence they examined, as well as FBI interview notes summarizing conversations with sources -- which could risk long-running operations and their participants.
“Who wants to be a source if you can’t keep a secret?” said another former intelligence official. “It has a chilling effect and makes existing sources anxious about whether their identities will be maintained confidentially.”
One section of the report seems to confirm previous reporting about the identity of an individual cited in a dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, and the second former intelligence official said that should have stayed classified.
“If a journalist or a foreign intelligence service can identify a human being that way, then too much has been revealed,” that former official said.
“How we handle sources -- some of that is already public,” that former official added. “But the identity of sources and the specific procedures for vetting them are usually among the most carefully guarded information we have.”