Oh, Sure, Suddenly Now The House Intelligence Boss Is Concerned About Surveillance... Of Mike Flynn

from the high-court,-low-court dept

We've written a few times about Rep. Devin Nunes, who heads the House Intelligence Committee. He's been a long-time vocal supporter of NSA surveillance. He insisted that there was no need for reform after the Snowden leaks and he actively misled the public and other members of Congress to shoot down an amendment that would have stopped so-called backdoor searches of "incidentally collected" information on Americans. Nunes falsely claimed that by blocking backdoor searches of the 702 database, it would have blocked things such as tracking whether or not the Orlando nightclub shooter had overseas contacts (it would not have done that at all).

So it's fairly hilarious to see that Nunes' first reaction to the news of National Security Advisor Mike Flynn's resignation was to demand answers on why Flynn's calls with Russian officials were recorded.

“I expect for the FBI to tell me what is going on, and they better have a good answer,” said Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which is conducting a review of Russian activities to influence the election. “The big problem I see here is that you have an American citizen who had his phone calls recorded.”

Uh, dude, you approved this kind of thing (loudly and proudly), and not only that, but you actively blocked suggested amendments that would have blocked the using of this information to dig into information on US persons. Maybe it's time to rethink that one, huh? Of course, (former assistant Attorney General) David Kris (who knows this stuff probably better than anyone else) has made it clear that Flynn's calls with a Russian official wouldn't need to be "minimized" (i.e., have his identity excluded) because "a U.S. person’s name can be used when it is necessary to understand the foreign intelligence information in the report."

Of course, there's lots of irony to go around here. Timothy Edgar -- who was the director of privacy and civil liberties for the White House National Security staff under Obama (and also did privacy/civil liberties work in the Bush administration) has noted that the leaking of the contents of his phone calls actually means that Flynn's own civil rights have been violated and even suggests he gives the ACLU a call (oh, and another layer of irony: Edgar has been warning about how Flynn and others in the Trump administration might trample on civil liberties... and yet here, he's arguing that Flynn's civil liberties have been violated.)

Along those lines, Glenn Greenwald notes that the leaking of actual content from intercepted communications is a really serious crime, but one that should be seen as totally justified here, as it was clearly a form of whistleblowing (even as he admits that the motives of the leakers likely weren't pure, but were possibly for revenge against Flynn, who many in the intelligence world disliked).

It is a big deal to actually leak the contents of an intercepted communication (most leaks and whistleblowing tend to be about programs, not the actual intercepted communications). Of course, this should raise other questions about why the NSA and FBI are surveilling so many people -- and will the content of those other calls be used for political vendettas rather than true whistleblowing? Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that someone like Devin Nunes is going to care about all that. In typical "high court/low court" fashion, he's only concerned that someone on his team was hurt by such surveillance, not that such surveillance regularly occurs.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2017 @ 11:01am

    Deepstate says what

    So where are these transcripts so the public can judge for themselves? Why are we hearing about this through anonymous sources and not a public investigation?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      sorrykb (profile), 15 Feb 2017 @ 12:11pm

      Re: Deepstate says what

      We won't know until we get a public investigation, which we won't get unless Republicans in Congress allow it to happen.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Jeremy2020 (profile), 15 Feb 2017 @ 1:38pm

      Re: Deepstate says what

      roflol, *public* investigation. They'll do a private investigation because it's "classified" then extort the wonder and glory of Flynn after their "thorough" investigation.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2017 @ 11:04am

    Let's also note that Flynn's an idiot

    Calling the Russians five times IN ONE DAY when he had to know those calls would be noticed and monitored was incredibly stupid.

    But this isn't the end of it. Flynn is just the little fish.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    sorrykb (profile), 15 Feb 2017 @ 11:07am

    Of course, there's lots of irony to go around here. Timothy Edgar -- who was the director of privacy and civil liberties for the White House National Security staff under Obama (and also did privacy/civil liberties work in the Bush administration) has noted that the leaking of the contents of his phone calls actually means that Flynn's own civil rights have been violated and even suggests he gives the ACLU a call (oh, and another layer of irony: Edgar has been warning about how Flynn and others in the Trump administration might trample on civil liberties... and yet here, he's arguing that Flynn's civil liberties have been violated.)

    I wouldn't necessarily call that irony. On the face of it, it looks like... absence of hypocrisy. Principle, even.

    On second thought, maybe that is ironic.

    I'm so confused. This is exhausting.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      hij (profile), 15 Feb 2017 @ 11:16am

      Re: tribal affiliations

      There is no need to go to deep into the analysis on this one. It is about any sort of principle but about tribal affiliations. Partisans only see two kinds of people, us and them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2017 @ 2:04pm

        Re: Re: tribal affiliations

        Thank you sir. That is a sound analysis.

        Conversations are what is needed and a strong will to withstand the partisanship. Unfortunately such moderates are called (RINO/DINO) and would not survive a primary... You reap what you sow, I guess!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2017 @ 11:11am

    why Flynn's calls with Russian officials were recorded

    Because the Intelligence committee has supported the gather it all philosophy. Either you limit the Intelligence services to targeted surveillance, or you let them collect it all, which includes data on politicians. Filtering out a few select people will never happen, as the data will be gathered before the people involved are identified.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2017 @ 11:16am

    I've read that it was the Russian Ambassador's calls that were monitored, not Flynn's - Flynn called *him*, hence the intercept. IOW, Flynn's calls weren't being monitored until he made calls to someone being monitored.

    In any case, the point *now* is Flynn's mess isn't to do with how or why but that it happened at all and what was discussed. Wheedling about anything else by rather vested parties is a distraction tactic.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2017 @ 11:24am

    Flynn should be fired -- for terminal stupidity

    As Morning Joe pointed out, Flynn has probably
    already read numerous transcripts of similar
    calls previously captured by the NSA.

    Regardless of politics, do we really want someone
    so stupid in charge of U.S. national security?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2017 @ 11:28am

    High court

    In typical "high court/low court" fashion, he's only concerned that someone on his team was hurt by such surveillance, not that such surveillance regularly occurs.

    So far, the "regular" people haven't had much success challenging mass surveillance in court. It'd be funny if this ended up being the case to end it. Unlike most plaintiffs so far, he clearly has standing: he knows he was surveilled and we know it had a negative effect on him.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2017 @ 11:34am

    Wait a minute...

    Didn't this shit happen to Dianne Feinstein as well?

    Last I checked the Repukes did not bitch much about it then... are they all bent because it happened to one of theirs now?

    I hope more of this shit happens!

    The 1st Amendment applies here... I don't give a flying fuck what agency you work for in the US, you have a 1st Amendment right to the press. The very idea that you no longer have this right as an employee of the government is about the most telling fucking thing.

    Sure, you CAN be fired, but it would be unconstitutional to criminally charge anyone for leaking to the press.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    coward (anon), 15 Feb 2017 @ 12:07pm

    Republicans

    If there is one thing you can depend on Republicans being, it is hypocritical. Everything is good as long as the outcome is in their favor, but evil when one of theirs is on the receiving end.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2017 @ 12:32pm

      Re: Republicans

      A small correction, you can rely on all politicians being hypocritical, whatever party or country they belong to. To limit you accusations to one party is to play the partisan game that gives us the cesspool that is modern politics.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2017 @ 1:11pm

        Re: Re: Republicans

        While there are definitely dissonances specific to each party, you are correct, hypocrisy is absolutely 'strategy du jour' for both parties.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          M, 15 Feb 2017 @ 1:21pm

          Re: Re: Re: Republicans

          Wait, they have a strategy?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Uriel-238 (profile), 15 Feb 2017 @ 2:58pm

            truthfulness as a strategy

            It is possible to have brutal honesty as a strategy, if your own failings are quotidian and relatable. It's a good one since the public learns to believe you.

            The problem is when you're actually engaged in criminal activity (insider trading, say), or have a habit that your party won't forgive. (Commonly, lechery or sexual perversion.)

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Wendy Cockcroft, 16 Feb 2017 @ 6:26am

              Re: truthfulness as a strategy

              *...or had a habit that your party won't forgive. (Commonly, lechery or sexual perversion.)

              FIFY

              The new norm is "It doesn't matter what our guy does, and besides, you're exaggerating, fake news! etc."

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2017 @ 12:35pm

    Subjecting the advocates for sweeping surveillance to the same just like the rest of the populace is probably the only way to get through their thick skulls it's not ok. Once they find themselves on the "wrong end" of the lens, they usually change their tune. I'm immediately reminded of the outrage by the "elite" when it was discovered just how badly the FBI had violated the law when J. Edgar's files were made public. We haven't learned a damned thing as a nation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 15 Feb 2017 @ 5:51pm

      Re:

      Unfortunately even when they 'change their tune' the response generally isn't 'This is bad and should be stopped' it' 'This wasn't meant to apply to us, we need to change the law so that the law specifically doesn't apply to the nobility'.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 15 Feb 2017 @ 8:06pm

        Law doesn't apply to nobility.

        That was one of the whole points of this country, and was also made a point of post-revolution France. As per the Napoleonic Code the law applies to everyone.

        Any form of selective enforcement, including prosecutorial discretion is a failure of justice, and therefore a failure of state.

        And this is the outcome. People who believe the law doesn't apply to them behave as though it is true. Even to the point of atrocity.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 15 Feb 2017 @ 12:36pm

    And the Worms Ate into Their Brains

    Along those lines, Glenn Greenwald notes that the leaking of actual content from intercepted communications is a really serious crime, but one that should be seen as totally justified here, as it was clearly a form of whistleblowing (even as he admits that the motives of the leakers likely weren't pure, but were possibly for revenge against Flynn, who many in the intelligence world disliked).

    Did Greenwald have access to the leaked intercepts of Flynn's conversations with the Russian ambassador?

    If not how does he/you know the leaks were totally justified here?

    What was so unpalatable about the content of Flynn's conversations with the Russian ambassador that required him to resign as NSA?

    In all fairness to Mike Flynn the full unadulterated transcripts of his conversations with the Russian ambassador need to be released to the public.

    Once upon a time when a member of a new incoming presidential administration spoke with the ambassador of a foreign nation it was defined as diplomacy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2017 @ 1:03pm

      Re: And the Worms Ate into Their Brains

      Greenwald objects to the fact that Flynn lied to VP about discussing sanctions. which led to Trump demanding his resignation.

      The legality of the content of the calls is a separate issue with no public evidence to argue with.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      SteveMB (profile), 16 Feb 2017 @ 8:19am

      Re: And the Worms Ate into Their Brains

      > Did Greenwald have access to the leaked intercepts

      Since "leaked" means "exposed, revealed, made public", I'm guessing that the answer is "yes".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TruthHurts (profile), 15 Feb 2017 @ 12:54pm

    Veterans against Trump and his cronies...

    We do not appreciate the mockery you are making of the Constitution.

    Cease and desist before enough Veterans and active military have to do what they swore to do when they joined.

    Upholding the Constitution is the #1 priority of all branches of the military, against enemies foreign **AND DOMESTIC**.

    Following orders within the chain of command comes a far second after this.

    When I joined, this was the oath I swore.

    I, My Name, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed ...

    I may no longer be physically able to come kick your ass out of office, but you can't say that about the rest of the people still doing active military service.

    How many military personnel are currently deployed? When they come back, will they have to come and kick your ass out of the office that you are making a mockery of?

    How about you actually start following and defending the Constitution that *YOU* swore to uphold.

    Get rid of your cronies that you appointed to office, and put people in that actually care about the Constitution first, the human beings that make up our citizens and visitors second and last.

    Corporations, which aren't *PEOPLE* (when has a company been drafted, or been sent to prison), can fend for themselves.

    The constituents which voted you into office need your protection, not your abuse.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2017 @ 1:16pm

      Re: Veterans against Trump and his cronies...

      smack smack smack... pop pop pop right of those chops.

      yea... if you have not already been moved to action then I have a bumper sticker you can buy. I has the phrase...

      "I will believe it when I see it" in bold Comic Sans.

      Soldiers are just like the police... reliably doing just exactly what they are fucking told!

      Did you like Bush by chance? The one that spit on our honorable fallen with the DHS, TSA, and Patriot Act right along with congress and an apathetic citizenry scared to shit of people in little head diapers?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jeremy2020 (profile), 15 Feb 2017 @ 1:43pm

    The "solution" to this won't be...less surveillance, but it will be we need a way for certain people to bypass surveillance because "national security"!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2017 @ 3:44pm

    I am an Independent, when you D's and R's are done rolling in the gutter let me know, and don't forget, the world is watching child.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 15 Feb 2017 @ 5:54pm

      Re:

      An independent? Balderdash, everyone knows there's only two tribes to belong to, if you aren't a member of one you must be a member of the other. The very idea that there might be more than two tribes is complete madness, clearly you just don't want to admit to belonging to one of the real tribes.

      /poe

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2017 @ 5:30am

      Re:

      Ohhh both sides are equally bad you say? Do tell! For that is new concept that I have only heard about 400 times this month alone.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2017 @ 6:08am

        Re: Re:

        you may have heard it 400 times, but it bears repeating until the parties have been tossed from the system.

        Until then... people need constant reminding for the same reasons why vigilance must be eternal if you want liberty.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2017 @ 5:32am

    How dare they!

    If you have nothing to hide then there ........

    Oh wait.... never mind

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jim, 16 Feb 2017 @ 5:51am

    One to think over?

    Did you notice, Flynn is a retired general? Ah, at that level, col and above, you are eligible to be recalled, at any moment. They don't retire, just like saying, go inactive, still in the military.
    So, why is the military in contact with the Russian ambassador discussing policy? Working during a campaign? Circumventing policy of a sitting president? Prior to the election? There is a common term for that. Found in the UCMJ.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    SteveMB (profile), 16 Feb 2017 @ 8:28am

    Nunes is so utterly lacking in self-awareness that he's actually trying to deflect attention from his hypocrisy with a childish "I'm rubber, you're glue" ploy (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2017/02/14/fbi-needs-to-explain-why-michael-flynn- was-recorded-gop-intelligence-chairman-says):

    > "Where are all the privacy groups screaming now?" [Nunes] asked.

    Well, Devin, when you find "privacy groups" that actually said that American intel agencies shouldn't be trying to listen in on *the freaking Russian Ambassador*, let us know whether there's any "screaming" echoing through the phone booth where this group holds its meetings.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    DNY, 16 Feb 2017 @ 12:01pm

    Thoughts on Flynn and related matters

    A modest proposal: Trump could pardon Edward Snowden, and offer him a top position in the administration overseeing intelligence matters. Besides really sticking it to the intelligence community that seems bent on, if not destroying his administration, at least destroying any chance of rapprochement with Russia -- the only upside I ever saw to a Trump presidency -- this also has the virtue of shocking and surprising everyone on both sides of the political divide.

    More seriously, whatever you think of Trump and Flynn, as an OpEd in The Telegraph (UK) asked is it right for the permanent apparatus of the intelligence services in a liberal democracy to be using leaks to the media, rather than passing information to appropriate authorities (in the US case, Congress) to bring political appointees and thereby harm an elected government? Divorced from the personalities involved, the answer is very clearly "no", and therefore the answer is "no", even if it's General Flynn who's being brought down, and Donald Trump who is being harmed in this particular instance.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Gallumhrasha, 16 Feb 2017 @ 7:31pm

    The whole government is such a mess. Trump is trying to consolidate power so he can have his inside men at all levels of security i.e Flynn at NSA. The Intelligence Community (Deep State) does not like Trump and are fighting against him. Both are evil, but I would side with Trump because he is disrupting the IC which are blatantly breaking civil liberties and laws with mass surveillance and harassment.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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