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Official Washington can't decide if the Nunes memo is a nothingburger or the end of times
If this wiretap is really business as usual and it's perfectly fine, why were they so worried about the memo revealing it?
On its face, the contents of the Nunes memo should concern every American - before we even get into the political spin.
What the memo alleges - and we've seen nothing to refute any of this from the FBI or anyone else - is that the FBI relied on a highly partisan, unverified dossier to justify wiretapping a member of the Trump presidential campaign. It also alleges that the FBI relied on the same unverified dossier to renew the wiretap warrant twice as it was expiring. And it further alleges that the FBI knew the dossier was a bought-and-paid-for piece of political propaganda, but didn't tell this to the FISA judge whose job it was to approve or deny the wiretap warrant.
There's more. The memo alleges that Christopher Steele's subsequent behavior got him ousted by the FBI. It also alleges that at least one piece of supposedly corroborating evidence the FBI gave the FISA court - a Yahoo news story about Carter Page's Russian activity - didn't corroborate anything because the story was fed to Yahoo by Steele with his dossier as the source material.
This all stinks to high heaven. The FBI had no business wiretapping Carter Page if this was all it had. And the FBI surely knew that the FISA court would refuse its requests without somethign to back it up, which is why the FBI pretended the Yahoo story was corroboration when it surely knew the Yahoo story's source was none other than Steele himself.
A Democratic administration just wiretapped a Republican presidential campaign after obtaining a warrant to do so on false pretenses. If official Washington doesn't see the problem with that, then official Washington is too far gone than anyone previously imagined.
But almost as mindblowingly absurd is the spin we're getting from the Beltway crowd, probably best summarized by this James Comey tweet:
That’s it? Dishonest and misleading memo wrecked the House intel committee, destroyed trust with Intelligence Community, damaged relationship with FISA court, and inexcusably exposed classified investigation of an American citizen. For what? DOJ & FBI must keep doing their jobs.— James Comey (@Comey) February 2, 2018
Now hang on just a second. I thought the DOJ and the FBI said that releasing this memo would be the height of irresponsibility because it would compromise national security. This is memo is a summary of the same information the DOJ and the FBI stonewalled for five months to avoid giving to congressional investigators. This is the same information they begged President Trump not to declassify because of their grave concerns.
Now it's released and the reaction is, "That's it?"
Which is it, Beltway? Did Devin Nunes just perpetrate the height of irresponsibility by revealing gravely important secrets? Or did he pump out a bunch of nothing? You can't have it both ways.
But here's why they're trying to:
The Nunes memo is devastating not because it gives away national security secrets, but because it reveals that the FBI was dishonest and partisan in its determination to wiretap Carter Page. Ever since the Steele dossier became known, some of us have wondered if it was used to justify the FISA warrant to wiretap Page. If it was, it would represent an unconscionable abuse of the law enforcement apparatus to spy on a private citizen for clearly political motives.
And look: I am a defender of federal surveillance authority as a counterterrorism measure. Rob and I often go round and round on this, with his more libertarian instincts (but I like him anyway) going up against my stronger law-and-order instincts. I want the FBI to have this tool at its disposal. If someone is plotting a terror attack and a wiretap is the way to find out what's happening and stop it, I'd rather see the FBI do the wiretap and nab the guy than worry about whose privacy might be violated in the process.
Lives are more important to me. And I have tended to argue that I don't believe federal law enforcement has any interest in abusing this power just to go after private citizens for its own purposes.
What they did to Carter Page clearly demonstrates that, at least in this case, they absolutely abused their power in just that manner. Every American should be concerned about the fact that this happened.
But instead, partisan Trump haters are informing us that this is no big deal. That's it? That's all they had? There's nothing more? That's been their standard response to the Nunes memo - that there is nothing to see here because this sort of thing goes on all the time and it's no big deal.
So let me see if I'm understanding this: It's perfectly normal for the FBI to go to the FISA court asking for a wiretap warrant based on salacious, unverified information from a highly suspect source, and not tell the court of all the reasons to doubt the source can be trusted? That's normal? That happens all the time?
If that's true, federal law enforcement is a lot more rogue and far less accountable than anyone realized. And yet their very defense of this behavior is to tell everyone it's no bid deal and we should all just accept it as normal.
It's not normal. It's not OK. You should have to come up with a lot more justification than that to wiretap someone, and you shouldn't be allowed to hide the reasons to doubt your information is reliable. Yet that's what the FBI did here. If that's really no big deal and it happens all the time, then the FBI needs to be torn down and built back up with people who respect the law and the need to enforce it honestly and responsibly.
Official Washington seems to think that just about anything it does is fine if it's in opposition to Donald Trump, and it's hoping its dismissive attitude toward these revelations will convince Americans to feel the same way. Everyone is acting like it's dumb to be upset about this. I don't want to be dumb!
When you're dumb is when you let people manipulate you that easily. The DOJ and the FBI are out of control. They don't answer to the president. They don't answer to the Attorney General. They don't answer to Congress. They don't even tell the truth when they go before the courts.
That. Is. Not. OK.
Dan writes Christian spiritual warfare novels and does all kinds of other weird things too. Follow all his activity by liking him on Facebook!