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.