House Oversight Head Still Concerned Surveillance He Approves Of Is Being Used Against His Party
from the eyerolling-intensifies dept
House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes is at it again. After years of unwavering support for NSA surveillance programs — a one-man booster club operating from inside an oversight committee — Nunes is now starting to find things he doesn’t like about NSA surveillance.
It escalated a few months ago when he was “shocked” to learn NSA surveillance grabs communications between world governments and may have been used to listen in on short-lived National Security Advisor Mike Flynn’s conversations with Russian officials.
Nunes’ hypocrisy continued when he demanded answers about surveillance activities under Executive Order 12333 — again in relation to possible surveillance of public officials he liked and supported. Nunes should already have known most of the answers to these questions. After all, he heads a surveillance oversight committee. But he didn’t because he’s spent most of his tenure with the oversight committee arguing there should be less oversight of Section 702/Executive Order 12333 surveillance programs.
Nunes still won’t let it go. He’s fired off yet another letter demanding answers about surveillance, this time to new Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. This time, he’s looking to pin surveillance of Trump appointees on the outgoing president — as if nothing of the sort continues today.
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee is accusing top political aides of President Obama of making hundreds of requests during the 2016 presidential race to unmask the names of Americans in intelligence reports, including Trump transition officials.
Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), in a letter to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, said the requests were made without specific justifications on why the information was needed.
“We have found evidence that current and former government officials had easy access to U.S. person information and that it is possible that they used this information to achieve partisan political purposes, including the selective, anonymous leaking of such information,” Nunes wrote in the letter to Coats.
Nunes claims documents show “hundreds” of unmaskings were performed by Obama aides, giving the former president (and others) access to unminimized intel acquired by the NSA. Whether or not this was justified in every case, the unmasking of officials engaged in conversations with foreign officials is something that happens quite frequently, as this step is needed to provide context for the gathered intel.
The fact that a great number of people in the White House can request unmasking is still a concern, as is the loosening of restrictions on dissemination of unminimized intel Obama put into place right before he left office. The problem here is Nunes is on the wrong side of whatever history’s being made here. His NIMBY attitude is particularly grating after years of arguing for greater surveillance powers and less oversight.
If there’s any good that will come of this, it might be the belated recognition that these powers are dangerous if abused — and that if you don’t want your political opponents to have them, maybe you’d better do more to limit them while you still have control of the White House.