FBI changes story, finally admits it has thousands of pages of documents about Seth Rich

After three years of claiming that it could not find any records about murdered Democratic National Committee employee Seth Rich, the FBI admitted today that it has thousands of pages of information about him, further admitting that it has custody of his laptop.

So what changed between then and now? Here’s an excerpt from the email that I received this morning from an attorney representing the FBI against my client, Brian Huddleston, in Huddleston v. FBI, Case No. 4:20-CV-00447 (E.D. Tex.):

FBI has completed the initial search identifying approximately 50 cross-reference serials, with attachments totaling over 20,000 pages, in which Seth Rich is mentioned.  FBI has also located leads that indicate additional potential records that require further searching.  At this time, FBI anticipates processing  only the pages where Seth Rich is mentioned, along with perhaps another page or two in each situation to provide context.  The issue right now with this batch of documents is the amount of labor required to ingest all of the material so that the responsive pages will, first, be in a page format, secondly, can be identified from among the thousands of non-responsive pages, and finally, be processed. 

FBI is also currently working on getting the files from Seth Rich’s personal laptop into a format to be reviewed.   As you can imagine, there are thousands of files of many types.  The goal right now is to describe, generally, the types of files/personal information contained in this computer.  Furthermore, the FBI will continue to evaluate the responsiveness of these files under the FOIA.

In summary,  FBI has made significant progress in the search, but there is still much work that lies ahead, including (1) ) processing the approximately 50 cross-references (with thousands of pages to ingest and sort through), 2) undertaking some level of review of the personal laptop, and 3) completing all remaining searches.

Unfortunately, these efforts are hampered by FBI FOIA office’s reduction to a 50% staffing posture due to Covid.

In light of the status of this search and the work left to be done, we propose an additional 3 months to complete the tasks described above.  At that time, we will propose a production schedule and briefing schedule.

I would like to provide this status update to the Court with the proposed schedule.  Please let me know if you would like to file something jointly with the Court, or if you  would prefer that I file this and you can respond accordingly.

In his 2018 declaration, Mr. Hardy also testified that the Metropolitan Police Department in D.C. was solely responsible for investigating Mr. Rich’s murder. So why does the FBI have Mr. Rich’s laptop rather than MPD? And after fighting tooth and nail to hide this information for so long, why is the FBI coming clean now? [Continued on p.2]

Intelligence chief won’t release documents about spying on U.S. journalists

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, now headed by former Texas Congressman John Ratcliffe, will not release documents about spying on U.S. journalists, according to a letter dated yesterday. In its response to a Freedom of Information Act request, ODNI claimed that it could not even admit or deny that the records exist because they would be classified.

In government-speak, that means, “The records exist, but we are not going to search for them because we really don’t want to release them.”

This should not surprise any followers of former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson, who filed a federal lawsuit alleging that government operatives hacked into her computers and electronic devices. In speeches, articles, and books, she has decried the relative passivity of U.S. journalists and media executives in the face of government hacking and spying on former Fox reporter James Rosen, herself, and others.

As a former journalist, I share Ms. Attkisson’s exasperation with the media’s reaction (or non-reaction) to government surveillance, although I am not surprised by it. If Richard Nixon had the means to intercept journalists’ communications in the 1970s, and journalists found out that he had done it, reporters and media execs would have been rioting in the streets. But if the Blessed Savior Obama was intercepting journalists’ phone calls and hacking their computers… well, he must have had a good reason.

Buffoons like CNN’s Jim Acosta are lauded for “bravery” for railing against President Trump on camera, but when the same media hacks learn that their Blessed Savior Obama used an Orwellian surveillance system against journalists, they bow their heads and say nothing.

It really is disgusting, almost like a rape fantasy for establishment journalists. I can imagine any number of hacks at CNN, MSNBC, or the New York Times who would be flattered if the Obama regime deemed them worthy of an intrusion.

Again, none of that surprises me. What does surprise me is Mr. Ratcliffe’s stonewalling. It is illegal for the CIA to conduct operations against U.S. citizens on U.S. soil. (Of course, that didn’t stop John Brennan from spying on the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee). Likewise, it is a crime for domestic agencies like the FBI to hack into journalists’ computers without a warrant.

For those reasons alone, ODNI cannot hide behind the veil of classification. Section 1.7 of Executive Order 13526 prohibits the use of classification for purposes of concealing government wrongdoing. And can anyone tell me with a straight face that ODNI is not trying to conceal government wrongdoing? [Continued on p. 2]

Updated FOIA requests, lawsuit for Seth Rich records, and quiet departure of FBI’s FOIA chief

I haven’t blogged much lately, in part due to a medical problem (not COVID, thankfully) that slowed me down considerably, but here’s a brief update:

  • On Monday, I filed an updated Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for records about Seth Rich, the Awan family, and government surveillance of journalists.
  • Re: Seth Rich, keep an eye on the National Security Division of the Justice Department. As you can see from the federal complaint, the NSD ignored a FOIA request that I filed back in 2018 for records about Seth Rich. And look at Paragraph 16, plus Exhibit 8. I think NSD is playing a bigger role in the “Russian hacking” narrative than most of us understood. By sending Seth Rich records there, it’s easier to keep things classified. So why would a “street robbery” investigation need to be classified?
  • In the Huddleston FOIA case, the government’s response is due on August 10, 2020. Mark your calendar. By that date, the FBI will have to explain what it has done to locate and produce records about Seth Rich. And this time around, the FBI doesn’t have the luxury of denying that the records exist.
  • Inspired by Sundance’s July 17, 2020 post at TheConservativeTreehouse.com, this afternoon I filed a FOIA request for information about the undisclosed government contractors who were allowed to search the NSA database during the Obama regime. As explained by Sundance, it appears that the regime was indeed engaged in political surveillance, as some of the illegally-retrieved information ended up in the hands of Christopher Steele.
  • I also filed a more detailed FOIA request for information about government spying on journalists like Sharyl Attkisson and James Rosen during the Obama regime. As Ms. Attkisson has often noted, most journalists and journalism execs seem to shrug this off. Would they be so indifferent if Trump was doing the spying rather than Dear Leader Obama?

One more thing: A couple of weeks ago I noticed that the FBI’s FOIA letters were no longer signed by Section Chief David M. Hardy, but by Acting Section Chief Michael G. Seidel. What happened to Mr. Hardy? You may recall that Mr. Hardy filed a sworn declaration in 2018 claiming that the FBI searched its files and located no records about Seth Rich.

In September of 2019, however, Judicial Watch obtained an email string about Seth Rich in response to a FOIA request for communications between FBI lovebirds Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, and in March of 2020 former U.S. Attorney Deborah Sines testified that the FBI had investigated Seth Rich’s laptop and his online accounts. In other words, Mr. Hardy’s testimony was false.

I repeatedly asked U.S. Attorney John Durham and DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz to investigate whether Mr. Hardy lied under oath, and in an April 22, 2020 letter Mr. Horowitz wrote that he referred my complaint to the FBI’s Inspection Division. Was Mr. Hardy forced out? I don’t know, but if you have any inside information, please send it my way.

New FOIA lawsuit seeks FBI records about Seth Rich

This morning I filed a federal lawsuit in Sherman, Texas to force the FBI to release records about murdered Democratic National Committee employee Seth Rich. My friend and client Brian Huddleston filed a Freedom of Information Act request on April 4, 2020, and as usual the FBI ignored it, prompting the lawsuit.

As my regular readers know, I filed my own FOIA case two years ago in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, but that case has not been very productive. Suffice it to say that the judge in Brooklyn has shown a very strong interest in protecting the interests of the FBI.

n Friday, various media organizations reported that FBI General Counsel Dana Boente was forced to retire, and I hope that means the FBI’s cover-up regarding Seth Rich will soon come to an end… but I’m not holding my breath. If you want to help force the issue, please consider signing my White House petition [note: the hyperlink is not working, so you may need to cut and paste] to compel the release of records about Seth Rich. [continued on next page]

FBI doubles down on Seth Rich cover-up

When you get caught with your pants down, just deny the obvious. That appears to be the strategy of the FBI, according to a letter I received from this afternoon from the Justice Department.

The letter from Asst. U.S. Attorney Kathleen Mahoney maintains — despite clear documentary proof to the contrary — that the FBI conducted a “reasonable search” for records about Seth Rich, the murdered Democratic National Committee employee who (rather than Russian hackers) is alleged to have leaked DNC emails to Wikileaks.

Since your humble correspondent still works a day job (with lots of deadlines), I’ll let you read the letter addressed to Magistrate Judge Lois Bloom and analyze it for yourself. Just click here for the letter, and click here for the exhibits to the letter.

Incidentally, I asked Judicial Watch to provide a declaration authenticating that it received the emails cited above in response to a FOIA request to the FBI, and Judicial Watch refused. What is that about? I needed the declaration so I could submit the emails as evidence in court (although Ms. Mahoney’s letter obviates that need).

In my experience, Judicial Watch likes to hog the spotlight (specifically the Fox News studio cameras) and often does not play well with others. That’s unfortunate, because those of us seeking the truth should be working together. And it’s not like I’m a threat to JW’s multi-million dollar fundraising operation.

We now have unequivocal proof that the FBI is hiding records about Seth Rich

The FBI is hiding documents about murdered Democratic National Committee employee Seth Rich, according to emails released last week, so this morning I requested a criminal investigation into the cover-up.

As most people outside of solitary confinement know, the whole “Russian collusion” investigation began with the premise that Russia hacked the DNC, but considerable evidence suggests that the DNC emails were downloaded by someone inside the DNC — liike Mr. Rich — and then provided to Wikileaks.

Rather than re-invent the wheel, I’ve copied and pasted my letter to U.S. Attorney John Durham, U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue, and Inspector General Michael Horowitz:

Mr. Durham, Mr. Donoghue and Mr. Horowitz:

I wish to file a criminal complaint regarding false statements made by FBI Section Chief David M. Hardy in two affidavits [click here and here] filed in the FOIA case identified above [i.e., Ty Clevenger v. U.S. Department of Justice, et al., Civil Action No. 18-CV-01568]. I requested FBI records pertaining to Seth Rich, who allegedly was the source of Democratic National Committee emails published by Wikileaks in 2016 (rather than Russian hackers). In the affidavits (attached to the email version of this letter), Mr. Hardy testified that his office conducted a reasonable search, and it found no responsive records.

New evidence proves otherwise, and it appears that Mr. Hardy has perpetrated a fraud on the court. Judicial Watch recently published documents that it obtained in response to a FOIA request for communications between former FBI agent Peter Strzok and former FBI attorney Lisa Page (https://www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/JW-v-DOJ-Strzok-Page-Prod-16-00154.pdf), and I would direct your attention to pages 123-125. In those pages, you will find a heavily-redacted email discussion regarding Mr. Rich.  Note that the header on those emails is “Seth Rich.”

I defy Mr. Hardy to provide an innocent explanation for his office’s failure to produce these emails, and I suspect the misconduct reaches far beyond my specific FOIA request. Several facts are worth noting:

* Mr. Hardy touts the reasonableness of relying on the FBI’s Central Records System (“CRS”), but note that CRS does not search the FBI email system. That sort of half-baked, designed-to-fail search methodology would never be tolerated in litigation among private parties, yet it appears to be standard operating procedure at the FBI. And note that when I asked the FBI to search its email systems, it arbitrarily refused.

* Mr. Hardy’s staff purportedly searched for “Seth Conrad Rich” but failed to search for “Seth Rich,” another tactic designed to exclude responsive records.

* According to Mr. Hardy’s affidavit, the only records indexed by CRS are those that are manually designated by FBI personnel. Undoubtedly, FBI personnel know that they can immunize their email communications from FOIA requests simply by omitting the subject matter from the CRS, because Mr. Hardy will subsequently declare (1) that a CRS search is sufficient and (2) there is no need to conduct an email search.

I have previously written to Mr. Durham regarding evidence that the FBI was hiding information about Mr. Rich, and I have attached a December 13, 2019 order issued in Butowsky v. Folkenflik, Case No. 4:18-cv-00442-ALM-CMC (E.D. Tex.). Please see pages 23-29 in particular. Finally, I have attached an October 8, 2019 reply in the FOIA case, and it notes a previous occasion wherein Mr. Hardy provided inaccurate information to a court.

It appears that FBI personnel are deliberately hiding records about Seth Rich and deliberately deceiving the court about the reasonableness of their searches for those records. Worse, this sort of bad-faith non-compliance appears to be the norm.

I request that your respective offices investigate to determine whether responsive information has been withheld intentionally, and whether Mr. Hardy knowingly submitted false affidavits to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Thank you for your consideration.

/s/ Ty Clevenger

CORRECTION: According to Mr. Hardy’s affidavit, a search for “Seth Conrad Rich” would have turned up records for “Seth Rich.”

Bank on it: the FBI is hiding records about Seth Rich

For two years, I’ve blogged about allegations that Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich — not the Russians — was responsible for providing embarrassing DNC emails to Wikileaks. I think we’re finally getting close to the end zone.

Last week, I provided the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn with clear evidence that FBI officials were hiding records about Mr. Rich, who was murdered in Washington, D.C. in the summer of 2016. Two days after I filed the motion, Judge Lois Bloom ordered the FBI to respond. The FBI filed a response this afternoon, and it only makes the government look worse.

Before I get to that, let me provide a little background. In my original motion filed on October 8, 2019, I included a transcript from Michael Isikoff’s interview of Deborah Sines, the former federal prosecutor assigned to the Rich case. According to Mr. Isikoff and Ms. Hines, the FBI did investigate Mr. Rich’s computer after his death.

That’s huge, because in response to my Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the FBI has maintained all along that it conducted a “reasonable” search for records about Mr. Rich and it found nothing. The FBI has also maintained that it was never involved in the investigation of Mr. Rich’s death.

The latter part may be technically true, but I didn’t ask for records about a murder investigation. I asked for all records about Seth Rich, which would include all FBI investigations pertaining to Mr. Rich, e.g., records indicating whether he was the source of Democratic National Committee emails published by Wikileaks. [continued on p.2]

Correction: Ellen Ratner only relayed information about Seth Rich, according to Butowsky

Several readers identified a contradiction between a lawsuit that I drafted on behalf of Ed Butowsky versus what he said in an interview. The mistake is mine

Ellen Ratner only relayed information from Julian Assange about Seth Rich, but she said nothing about his brother, Aaron, according to Mr. Butowsky. Paragraph 45 of the First Amended Complaint in Edward Butowsy v. Michael Gottlieb, et al. mistakenly says she relayed information about both.

Mr. Butowsky said he knew nothing about Aaron’s alleged involvement until he had a phone conversation with Joel Rich, father of Seth and Aaron.

Wikileaks supporters pointed out that the error could lead readers to believe that Julian Assange had identified a living source, as opposed to one who had been murdered. To date, neither Wikileaks nor Mr. Assange have identified any of their living sources without permission from those sources.

That’s why we asked Aaron Rich more than a year ago to authorize Wikileaks to reveal whether he was involved in leaking emails from the Democratic National Committee. Thus far, he and his lawyers have refused to do so.

Transcript suggests Obama White House pressured intelligence agencies to blame Russia

Newly released documents from the FBI suggest that the Obama White House pushed intelligence agencies to publicly blame the Russians for email leaks from the Democratic National Committee to Wikileaks.

This afternoon I received an undated (and heavily redacted) transcript of an interview of James Rybicki, former chief of staff to former FBI Director James Comey, that includes this excerpt: “So we understand that at some point in October of 2016, there was, I guess, a desire by the White House to make some kind of statement about Russia’s…” and then the next page is omitted.

The comment is made by an unidentified prosecutor from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel or “OSC,” not to be confused with the office of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller (the OSC is a permanent office that investigates Hatch Act violations, and Mr. Comey was under investigation for trying to influence the 2016 Presidential election).

The context of the statement makes it all the more interesting, because the OSC prosecutors were noting that the FBI publicized its reactivation of the Clinton email investigation shortly before the 2016 election, and they were wondering why the FBI did not counterbalance that by publicizing the “Russian collusion” investigation into Donald Trump. In that setting, one of the prosecutors then commented that the White House wanted some kind of statement made about Russia. [Continued on page 2].

DNC and CrowdStrike refuse to provide records about alleged Russian email hack

Last night, attorneys for the Democratic National Committee and CrowdStrike formally objected to subpoenas from Ed Butowsky, refusing to provide any records about whether DNC emails were leaked internally or hacked by Russians. The FBI also missed a deadline yesterday for providing records about Seth Rich.

Surprise, surprise. Three years after the purported Russian attack on DNC servers, and nobody outside the DNC or its contractors has seen those servers. Why not?

Frankly, I expected the DNC and CrowdStrike to balk, and I’ll be filing motions to compel in the next few weeks.

You will recall that Roger Stone forced federal prosecutors to admit in late May that neither the FBI nor Special Counsel Robert Mueller had investigated the DNC servers that allegedly were hacked by Russians. Instead, Mueller and the FBI relied exclusively on a redacted report from CrowdStrike.

To my knowledge, the U.S. Department of Justice had never before handed off a computer crime investigation to a third-party contractor hired by the alleged victim. Instead, the FBI (or some other law enforcement agency) had always investigated those crimes. Obviously, the DNC doesn’t want any independent investigation of its claims that Russian hackers — as opposed to a DNC employee like Seth Rich — were responsible for transferring DNC emails to Wikileaks.

Here’s another subject to ponder. More than a year ago, the DNC filed a kamakaze lawsuit alleging that the Trump campaign and the Russian government had conspired to hack its servers, apparently in hopes that the lawsuit would keep the Russian collusion hoax alive through the 2018 elections. At the time, President Trump welcomed the lawsuit, saying it would finally allow for an independent inspection of the DNC’s servers.

Why hasn’t that happened yet? The Trump campaign and some of the other defendants are represented by major law firms (as you would expect), and those firms have dutifully filed motions to dismiss, but it seems that none of those firms have demanded discovery, e.g., an opportunity to inspect the servers. Why not? And why didn’t some of the Congressional committee chairmen subpoena the servers when the House was under GOP control? Why isn’t Sen. Lindsey Graham doing it now?

I’ve long observed that Republican lawyers (and Republicans generally) tend to be very cautious and even a little passive, whereas their Democratic counterparts tend to be hyper-aggressive. Maybe some of the defendants in DNC v. Russian Federation need to light a fire under their lawyers. If somebody had demanded access to the DNC servers back in 2018, the Russian collusion hoax might have collapsed a lot earlier, and Nancy Pelosi might not be Speaker of the House.


You can read the DNC’s and Crowdstrike’s objections to the Butowsky v. Folkenflik subpoenas by clicking here and here. You can read their objections to the Butowsky v. Gottlieb subpoenas by clicking here and here.