FBI Delays Release of Communications With Firm That Examined DNC Servers

Bureau relied on the firm for information about the DNC's hacked servers

John Podesta / Getty Images
April 28, 2018

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has pushed back the estimated completion date of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for documents pertaining to its communications with the security firm that examined the Democratic National Committee's hacked servers to October.

The Washington Free Beacon submitted the FOIA request in July 2017 with the FBI seeking all communication between the bureau and CrowdStrike, Inc., the California-based cyber security firm that examined the DNC's servers following the infiltration that led to the release of John Podesta's emails. The FBI said in December the documents should be available by March.

The FBI, which was never granted access to the DNC's servers for inspection, instead relied on the third-party firm that was brought in by the DNC for information regarding the compromised network who concluded that Russia was behind the hack.

The FBI previously awarded an unrelated $150,000 contract to CrowdStrike in July 2015. Details and communications between the firm and the bureau regarding that past contract were requested as part of the FOIA.

The request additionally sought all communications spanning from April 1, 2016—one month before the firm was brought in by the DNC to analyze the servers—and July 7, 2017, the day the FOIA request was submitted to the FBI.

After inquiring about the estimated completion date for the documents in early December, an FBI public information officer said requests are divided into two processing tracks: Simple, which are under 50 pages of potentially responsive documents, and complex, which are more than 50 pages of potentially responsive documents. Complex requests are further divided into medium, large, and extra-large sub-tracks based upon the request size.

Simple track requests are averaging approximately 80 days from the date of receipt for processing, the officer said. Requests in the large complex processing track are averaging 774 days for processing.

The Free Beacon request falls into the complex medium processing track and was given an estimated completion date of March 2018.

However, the documents were not made available in March. The Free Beacon again reached out to the records office.

A public information officer later left a message saying the estimated completion date is now October, seven months after the initial completion date.

"Our prior estimated date of completion was based on the best data we had at the time and represented the median processing time for the size of the track that request was being processed in," another officer said after inquiring about why the date had been pushed back to October. "Please remember that the FBI receives a voluminous amount of requests on a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual basis."

As part of the initial FOIA request, the Free Beacon also sought an expedited delivery of the documents noting its "widespread and exceptional media interest," but was denied.

The DNC previously claimed that the FBI had never asked for access to its servers. However, former FBI Director James Comey testified that the bureau had sought access to the servers numerous times.

"Ultimately, what was agreed to is the private company would share with us what they saw," Comey said last year in reference to CrowdStrike.

CrowdStrike was first paid by the DNC on May 5, 2016 and was given more than $400,000 up to the end of the year, filings show. In early 2017, the firm was paid an additional $121,000 for its services.