Insanity Abounds

So, just this week, we had a hearing in Congress in which the FBI director admitted that someone -- probably on Team Obama -- had committed a serious felony by leaking FISA warrant information.

Democrats: 'You're trying to change the subject!'
Republicans: 'This is a serious crime!'

Today, the head of House Intelligence revealed FISA warrant information to the press.

Democrats: 'This is a serious crime!'
Republicans: 'You're trying to change the subject!'

Do any of you in Washington care about national security at all?

UPDATE: I wonder how much of this turns on 'need to know.' The President has whatever security clearance he needs, ex officio, but he doesn't necessarily need to know everything. Normally there's nothing he wouldn't 'need to know,' but a collection effort targeting him and his companions for possible action might qualify. Now the Congress might really 'need to know' that, because they have legitimate oversight purposes.

The press has neither the clearance nor the need to know. Does the citizenry need to know? Most wouldn't have the clearance, so it's an irrelevant question. Until it isn't, because the formal structures begin to fail and there's no hope but a recourse to the People.


Tom said...

I've made the point before that, for the right, America's enemies are foreign, but for the left America's enemies are domestic (i.e., the right is the enemy).

Over the last 16 years, the right has figured out how the left sees them and has slowly changed. The right increasingly sees the left as real enemies, just as the left has seen them for so long.

I think the rise of the alt-right is in part one result of this change, and maybe Nunes' actions here are as well. Maybe both left and right now see each other as more dangerous than any foreign enemy.

Someone called our current circumstances a "cold civil war." That seems right, at the moment.

Cassandra said...

It's not clear to me that Nunes revealed classified information, though. I may well be wrong about this, but what did he reveal?

That somewhere, there was a FISA warrant on some unknown party, and the fruits of that surveillance were widely distributed without masking the identity of US citizens whose names/communications were incidentally collected whilst listening to this unknown foreign subject?

Is this really a breach of classified info?

raven said...

I lost any faith in our security apparatus when Aldrich Ames avoided the gallows.

Grim said...

There's definitely a breach of classified information in there, Cass. If you were an aggressive prosecutor, you could identify two:

1) The improper unmasking, which is a felony;

2) Nunes' further dissemination into the public of the existence of the warrants (as well as some information that would be useful to targets of the surveillance in identifying and avoiding our methods of collection). Since the public is not authorized to receive that information, it's a crime to push it out. The lawful venue was his committee.

But we're apparently at the point that the law is going to be violated by both sides, and the FBI gets to decide whom it will pursue. FBI as Kingmaker strikes me as a worrisome development, regardless of the undoubted patriotism and dedication of individual agents. It's quite alarming that we've come to this pass.

Cassandra said...

I guess I'm confused. I agree that disclosing that there was a FISA warrant issued to watch Person X is a breach.

Disclosing that there was a FISA warrant issued against persons unknown, though... did anyone imagine no FISA warrants have been issued against anyone?

I honestly don't know the rules here. In 2014, for instance, companies were allowed to publish the number of FISA orders they responded to (but only in rounded "bins"):

They were also allowed to publish the volume of user names, email addys, or URLs they were asked about pursuant to such orders.

I agree that disclosure of specific FISA warrants is illegal, but that doesn't seem like what happened here. All that was disclosed is that multiple FISA warrants were issued against multiple unknown persons (is that a surprise to anyone?) and that some of those folks talked to Trump campaign 'associates' (whatever THAT means!).

I find all the double talk and vague allusions irritating. If merely saying that (unspecified) FISA warrants exist is illegal, than isn't it even MORE illegal for, say, Obama admin officials to assert that they requested NO FISA warrants against a named person? That statement arguably conveys far more specific information that what Nunes did!

Again, I"m far from an expert and may have this all wrong. I'm just puzzling out the logic.

Grim said...

I said that I thought an aggressive prosecutor might try it, to be sure, not that it's an open-and-shut case.

Still, note the difference with the Clapper claim that there were no warrants. Nunes would have warned all foreign agents who had been in contact with Trump team personnel that they might well be subject to a FISA warrant, which could cause them to take countermeasures that would disrupt ongoing intelligence operations.

Clapper, by contrast, would have instilled a sense of confidence in foreign agents. That would make collection easier, potentially.

Typically one gives what is sometimes called the Glomar response, "I can neither confirm nor deny..." The name comes from the Glomar Explorer operation, which really was a CIA op as it turns out, but the mode prevents either lying or disclosing a dangerous truth.

Ymar Sakar said...

There's all kinds of stuff special project teams don't tell the US President, nor do they tell Congress.

The black ops funding is even invisible, and Congress cannot be told because they have no "need to know". Their clearance isn't high enough. Only Eisenhower ever got a clue, from recent US timelines. Perhaps his "military industrial" line on public tv, was the clue. The patriotic military industrial complex was never the problem. It was the secret ones.

Or as moderns call it, the Deep State. It's deeper than people actually know.

Ymar Sakar said...

Trust in mankind, Trust in your Government, and Trust in your Leaders. After all US money has printed that in "Government We Trust", after all. Oh wait... never mind.