The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) memo on FISA abuse was, as expected, released today. No matter how you slice it, this is an incredibly troubling memo. No one can read this memo and say it doesn’t matter. Either its true, and we have momentous scandal unfolding, or its not true, and the Republicans have fabricated incredible lies to cover up for Mr. Trump, or some combination thereof. You can (and should) read the memo yourself, and I’m not going today to offer any analysis of the specific allegations. But here are some thoughts to get the discussion going. I’m not an expert, but I should note that I previously worked with the HPSCI while in Legislative Liaison in the Air Force, and was cleared for the type of information that would have been behind this. So I’m somewhat familiar with the security protocols that would be involved.
- Democrats have been howling for weeks over the release of this information, for the most part saying it is incredibly damaging to national security as it will compromise sources and methods. After reading the memo, I find no basis for this. I would like to see what portion of the memo does so–after all, at this point, if such a release has been done, pointing out which section does so is not likely to cause any further risk. As it is, I consider this line of defense as simply muddying the waters. And for the Democrats to protest their concern over the risk to national security, when they had no such concern over Mrs. Clinton’s illegal handling of highly classified emails on a home-brewed server, seems disingenuous.
- As the amplitude of the criticisms increased prior to the release, I could only think of the Air Force adage that you don’t take flack until you are near the target.
- Further, I keep hearing Former Majority Leader Dick Armey’s quote, “Democrats are always doing what they are accusing Republicans of doing”. Was there a political party that engaged with the Russians to try to defeat their political opponent? Which party was that again?
- While the national security risk is implausible, it could of course be true that the HPSCI memo omits many pertinent facts and selectively bends facts to paint an untrue picture. We can’t know this without seeing more information. The Democratic response will no doubt be declassified in time, and we should see more.
- This strikes me as big–I suspect we are going to see this result in far more information being released and potentially major political drama. The stakes are high, and the Democrats are even now doubling down.
- If Nunes’ facts are true, I think he has been exceptionally shrewd. Unlike what we’ve seen everywhere else, he kept the memo under wraps with no leaks. He apparently followed all protocols for the release, and the long process only increased the anticipation. And when it came out, it is explosive. If its not true, it will be highly damaging to the Republicans and Mr. Trump.
- Finally, it is with sadness that all of us watch this show. I was privileged to work in Congress in earlier times, and took both CW Jane Harman and CM Silvestre Reyes (Ranking Minority members) and other members of the HPSCI on congressional trips. They all took their national security responsibilities seriously. Further, I could detect almost no daylight between Republicans and Democrats during my time (2002-2004). But we’re now in a different world–Adam Schiff is not a Jane Harman.
It is premature to make a judgment about the veracity of a story. Even now the counters are emerging, even among conservatives. Let’s remember the wisdom of Proverbs:
The first to plead his case seems right, Until another comes and examines him
Hold on to this story, I don’t think its going away.