Spy vs. spy euphemism

In the invaluable investigative report “Spy vs. Spy Euphemism at the FBI” that was posted this morning at RealClearPolitics, the formidable Eric Felten explicates the testimony of knowledgeable FBI officials on the spying conducted by the FBI on the Trump campaign. Eric finds these officials deploying Clintonian techniques to obfuscate the FBI’s conduct. It is a marvel to behold and I urge readers to check it out in its entirety.

Here Eric attends to the previously unreported testimony of FBI principal deputy general counsel Trisha Anderson behind closed doors to a House committee:

Evidence that the FBI’s answers to such questions [i.e., whether the FBI spied on the Trump campaign for political purposes] are themselves political – aimed at protecting the bureau’s conduct during the Russia investigation – was provided in testimony Trisha Anderson gave last Aug. 31 to the House Judiciary Committee and the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight. Baker’s No. 2, the FBI’s Principal Deputy General Counsel, Anderson had since left the bureau to join the law firm Covington & Burling. The questioning was done behind closed doors. The transcript has not been released, but pieces of it have been reported on; a copy of the full transcript has been obtained by RealClearInvestigations.

The inevitable question eventually was asked by Kim: “Have you ever been a part of any DOJ or FBI investigation conducted for a political purpose?” Anderson’s answer was “No.” Kim went on: “Are you aware of the FBI ever placing spies in a U.S. political campaign during your time at the FBI?” “No,” Anderson said.

Notice, however, what Kim forgot with that second question: the words for political purposes. That oversight opened the door to detailed questions about FBI espionage once it was the Republicans’ turn again. Ryan Breitenbach, senior counsel for the Judiciary Committee majority, did the questioning. “You previously indicated in a prior round that there, to your knowledge, was never a spy that was placed on the Trump campaign or anywhere in the Trump orbit,” Breitenbach said. “What’s your definition of a spy? Let me make it easier. Does a spy, in your mind, include a human confidential source?”

“No,” said Anderson. So if the FBI employed a confidential human source to gather intel, that would not be spying, and FBI officials can claim under oath that the bureau hasn’t used spies.

Breitenbach became more specific: “Does a spy include an undercover FBI employee?” At this point he had Anderson at a loss: “I don’t know,” she answered.

If she didn’t know whether undercover FBI employees ever counted as spies, how is it she had been able to deny there were any? “I mean,” Breitenbach pressed, “you answered ‘no’ to the question was there ever a spy placed –”

“Right, so for two reasons.” Anderson had regained her footing—but in a way that revealed more than it concealed. “First,” she said, “the word ‘spy’ did not seem commensurate with what I understood had been done in this particular case,” as if a spy is not a spy if he doesn’t use his shoe-phone. “And the other thing was the verb, the use of the verb ‘place’ a spy or ‘place’ a source within a campaign,” Anderson said. “To my knowledge, the FBI did not place anybody within a campaign but, rather, relied upon its network of sources, some of whom already had campaign contacts, including the source” — that would be informant Stefan Halper — “that has been discussed in the media at some length beyond Christopher Steele.”

In her apparent effort to euphemize her way out of the possibility she had been caught in erroneous testimony, Anderson revealed that the FBI used not just a few confidential sources against the Trump campaign, but a “network of sources.” She merely objected to the verb: The network wasn’t “placed” in the campaign, Anderson insisted, because their sources “already had campaign contacts.”

RealClearInvestigations reached out to Anderson for comment, but she did not respond.

What we have here is failure to communicate…truthfully.

RELATED: See Tom Lifson’s American Thinker post “Trey Gowdy reveals ‘game changer’ FBI transcript exists.”