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FBI report says interrogator referred to classified intelligence report as ‘prima facie evidence of treason’

The top U.S. interrogator of Iranian prisoners in 2016 referred to a classified intelligence report provided by an Iranian captive and referred to the information as “prima facie evidence of treason,” according to an FBI report released on Tuesday.

But the Iran-Turkey-Iran trilateral telephone call that the FBI report said the report referenced could provide other evidence of espionage. The call took place on Jan. 20, 2016, just before President Obama’s first press conference and just hours before a classified National Security Council meeting, in which, according to the report, the intelligence report was discussed. The witness testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee about the conversation is an intelligence officer for Iran. The top U.S. interrogator of Iranian prisoners in 2016 referred to a classified intelligence report provided by an Iranian captive and referred to the information as “prima facie evidence of treason,” according to an FBI report released on Tuesday. But the Iran-Turkey-Iran trilateral telephone call that the FBI report said the report referenced could provide other evidence of espionage. The call took place on Jan. 20, 2016, just before President Obama’s first press conference and just hours before a classified National Security Council meeting, in which, according to the report, the intelligence report was discussed.

Jonathan Banks, an FBI translator assigned to the federal interrogation team in Iran, told the senator at the hearing on Tuesday that he shared information about the calls with the FBI interrogation team in the United States. He went so far as to refer to the call as “prima facie evidence of treason.”

Banks has apparently since been reprimanded and reassigned. He could not be reached for comment about his testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.

A spokesman for Sen. Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat who convened the hearing, said that Banks did not report the exchange on “specific details about source and methods,” as he was supposed to.

The exchange between Wyden and Banks comes during an unusually public tussle between the State Department and the FBI, which has sought to protect the source and methods used in its interrogation of Iran-connected captives.

In July, Wyden and Sen. Mark Warner, the Virginia Democrat, called for a briefing on the outcome of the interrogations. A State Department spokesman said at the time that the FBI delegation was unable to provide “detailed information” because of its classification process.

Wyden, who is also one of Trump’s top critics in Congress, has been pushing the FBI to declassify the classified evidence in what he said was an effort to provide Americans with “clarity” about efforts to ferret out alleged spies.

In 2015, the FBI transferred Banks after several media reports revealed that he had leaked information about his government experience to his old boss, FBI Director James Comey.

Even before his FBI posting, Banks had been in the news. He disclosed details of his undercover work to the family of his biological son, and when he left the bureau, he pleaded guilty to a felony charge of giving classified information to a former business associate. He told the judge that his inner demons led him to share confidential information.

In his testimony, Banks, who has been in hot water with federal law enforcement before, asserted that his former bosses at the FBI treated him well. He said he was working with Wyden and Warner to get the classified material declassified. “This is not the James Comey conspiracy theory,” he said.