You’ve seen the hashtag, you’ve followed the story, but what exactly is going on with House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes’ memo on potential surveillance abuses by the FBI?
The National Review’s Andrew C. McCarthy breaks down a lot of the process – and pitfalls – before the House Intelligence Committee voted to seek public disclosure of the memo.
…the problem: How do we convey important information without imperiling the sources and methods through which it was obtained?
Fortunately, this is far from a unique problem: It comes up all the time in court cases that involve intelligence matters, and Congress has prescribed a process for dealing with it in the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA). There are various remedies: Sometimes the classified information can be declassified and disclosed without causing danger; sometimes the classified information can be redacted without either jeopardizing sources or compromising our ability to grasp the significance of what is disclosed. When neither of those solutions is practical, the preferred disclosure method is to prepare a declassified summary that answers the relevant questions without risking exposure of critical intelligence secrets and sources.
Nunes took the initial step of releasing the memo to members of Congress to ensure that they had adequate opportunity to make suggestions of information to be included in a potential public release.
But what about the FBI and Justice Department not getting a peek at the memo, you ask?
McCarthy adds that the DOJ/FBI dismay is ironic:
These executive-branch agencies did not cooperatively comply with congressional investigators; they stonewalled for five months. To this day they are stonewalling: Just this weekend, they belatedly fessed up that the FBI had failed to preserve five months’ worth of text messages — something they had to have known for months.
And lastly, what about Robert Mueller?
The memo reportedly addresses an issue that is at least as significant as election meddling by Russia and suspected but unproven Trump-campaign collusion in it, namely: election meddling by the intelligence and law-enforcement arms of government and Clinton-campaign collusion in it.
For example, if the principal basis for the allegation that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia were shown to be the shoddy, unverified Steele dossier, this allegation would be discredited — and deservedly so.
After the House Intelligence committee approved the public disclosure of the Nunes memo, in accordance with House rules, the President has 5 calendar days to object to its release. If he does not object, the memo will be publicly released.
If he does object, the Intelligence committee will reconsider releasing the memo by reporting the matter to the full House of Representatives, hold a debate among all members of the House in secret session, and vote on public release of the memo.