A federal court is refusing to unseal the government documents that allowed the FBI to raid the home of an alleged recognized whistleblower last November. Judge Beth P. Gesner, the U.S. District Court of Maryland’s chief magistrate judge, “also sealed her justification for keeping the documents secret in a single-page Dec. 20 order,” The Daily Caller reported. Gesner is a Clinton appointee.
The whistleblower, Dennis Nathan Cain, delivered documents pertaining to the Clinton Foundation and Uranium One to the Department of Justice inspector general last summer. IG Michael Horowitz then instructed a top aide to personally hand-deliver the documents to the House and Senate intelligence committees, according to Cain’s attorney.
On Nov. 15, federal Magistrate Judge Stephanie Gallagher authorized the raid on Cain’s Union Bridge, Maryland, home and sealed the government documents justifying it.
A special agent from the FBI’s Baltimore division, who led the raid on November 19, charged that Cain possessed stolen federal property and demanded entry to his private residence, Cain’s lawyer, Michael Socarras, told the DCNF afterward.
Socarras said that even though the “frightened and intimidated” whistleblower quickly produced the documents, the agents continued to ransack the home for the next six hours.
“The bureau raided my client to seize what he legally gave Congress about the Clinton Foundation and Uranium One,” Socarras said, accusing the FBI of having “outrageous disregard” for whistleblower protections.
The Daily Caller News Foundation asked Gallagher on Nov. 29 to unseal the documents, noting that Cain’s attorney has said his client, a former employee of an FBI contractor, is a recognized whistleblower. The documents should be released in light of “an urgent public interest” surrounding the case, TheDCNF wrote.
Attorneys and experts who defend government whistleblowers told TheDCNF the court should disclose whether prosecutors told Gallagher that Cain was a protected whistleblower under the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act.
The documents reportedly show that federal officials failed to investigate potential criminal activity regarding the Clinton Foundation and Rosatom, the Russian company that purchased Uranium One.
Cain, a cybersecurity expert who reportedly discovered the information while working for an FBI contractor, was let go from his contracting job at ASM Research earlier this month:
Update: 3mos after the raid, I have been let go. Very disappointing, considering 2 letters of accommodation in the last year for exceptional work, and have not been charged with anything. Please 🙏 4 us. I did the right thing by blowing the whistle. God has a purpose in all this.
— Nate Cain ⭐⭐⭐🙏👪🇺🇸 (@cain_nate) January 20, 2019
Cain has not yet been charged with any crime, but the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia has assigned a prosecutor in the case, according to Cain’s criminal defense lawyer, Nina Ginsberg.
Maryland U.S. Attorney Robert Hur opposed TheDCNF’s initial request to unseal the documents. In a Dec. 6 letter, Hur told the court doing so “would seriously jeopardize the integrity of the ongoing investigation.”
His letter, which was also sent to TheDCNF, said nothing about the merits of the government’s case or why the raid was warranted. His specific arguments remain under seal.
TheDCNF subsequently told Gallagher in a Dec. 12 letter: “We wish to narrow our request to obtain any documents presented by the government that informed the judge of Mr. Cain’s status as a whistleblower.”
“It seems the Justice Department should be able to address [TheDCNF’s] more narrowly tailored request without compromising the investigation,” the director for investigations at the nonpartisan government watchdog group the Project on Government Oversight, Nick Schwellenbach, told TheDCNF. “Revealing whether the court was informed of his protected disclosures, on its own, doesn’t seem to compromise anything.”
And Mark Zaid, an attorney who has defended government whistleblowers in national security cases, told TheDCNF: “It would be interesting to know if the judge was aware this person had invoked whistleblower status.”
Kel McClanahan, an attorney who represents government whistleblowers and is the executive director of National Security Counselors, told TheDCNF: “Should the judge have considered that he was a whistleblower and they were looking for whistleblower stuff? Yes.”
McClanahan noted that hiding information from a magistrate is a serious offense.
“Hiding the ball can be considered sanctionable conduct because there’s duty to what’s called ‘candor to the court,’” he told the DCNF.
Senator Charles Grassley sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray on November 30 requesting information about the FBI raid, including whether the FBI was “aware at the time of the raid that Mr. Cain had made what appeared to be lawful disclosures to the Inspector General.”
“If so, was the FBI aware that these disclosures were passed to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, per the [whistleblower act]?” Grassley, a longtime champion of whistleblower rights, added.
The senator requested a reply no later than Dec.12, but the FBI has not yet responded, according his office.
Cain’s sister-in-law started a GoFundMe for the whistleblower, saying that his family lost their medical insurance when he lost his job. She said the family has “also incurred additional expenses for things like heightened security for him and his family.”
This article was updated to include specifics about Cain’s former employer.