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.


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  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 3 Aug 2017 @ 1:42pm

    What a shady partisan move, Obama loosening restrictions further before leaving office. He's a tricky one.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 3 Aug 2017 @ 2:31pm

    Its only bad when it happens to ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!

    One wonders how he can't understand why regular citizens were upset about being scooped up even as hes screeching that he was spied on.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Aug 2017 @ 2:43pm

      Re:

      He must believe that everybody and politicians are disjoint sets, and therefore their data is not swept up along with the data on everyone.

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 3 Aug 2017 @ 3:43pm

        Re: Re:

        That's pretty much my guess, yes, with politicians and others in power considering themselves as distinctly different from 'the unwashed masses' and as such deserving of different treatment.

        Nobility for the modern age essentially, and he's upset that he and his might be treated the same as the lowly peasants.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Aug 2017 @ 2:49pm

    I can't help thinking that all this is just "Hoover Files" writ large. Mass surveillance is useless for finding evidence of crime, whether by whether pedophiles or terrorists or recreational-poisoners. But it is incredibly valuable at finding embarrassing dirt on influential people, who can then be blackmailed into (using public money and) providing whatever the blackmailers desire.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Aug 2017 @ 3:40pm

    Combined with machine learning technology, it would also be useful for generating lists of political enemies. For example Jews, gays, Muslims, Trump critics, drug addicts, country and western fans, computer scientists etc. Whoever you like. What IBM and the Nazis did back then could be done by one person with five-eyes access on a laptop now. Hopefully we don't have to learn this the hard way.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Aug 2017 @ 4:01pm

    Now think about what Thirty years of records can do

    If weeks or months old records can turn up politically relevant information, imagine what they can do with decades of data like they will have soon. Every political opponent will be ranked in order of blackmailability and your party can legally do everything in its power to line that person up as the primary opponent. Now think about how long the surveillance has been going on....

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

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 3 Aug 2017 @ 6:01pm

    Special snowflakes and delicate flowers.

    This reminds me of the whole Julius Caesar uproar, when Shakespeare in the Park's performance featured a very Trumplike caesar and a very Melania-like Calpurnia. Causing a lot of umbrage and offense.

    Not once did anyone suggest _Trumpcaesar pisses me off, but I ain't no delicate flower who insists on political correctness. I ain't no special snowflake. If killing Trump in effigy is what the liberals need to do to feel better, more power to them.

    I suspect that a lot of people don't consider things from a reciprocal standpoint, and gladly advocate ill treatment of others where they wouldn't suffer it themselves, were the roles reversed.

    The reason we have to state the golden rule, is that it's not obvious to everyone.

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

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 3 Aug 2017 @ 6:02pm

      Re: Special snowflakes and delicate flowers.

      Crap. I messed up my markups.

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

    • identicon
      Thad, 4 Aug 2017 @ 11:07am

      Re: Special snowflakes and delicate flowers.

      That and the message of Julius Caesar is not "Boy, political assassinations are a good solution, and the type of people who commit them are just and honorable."

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

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 4 Aug 2017 @ 5:20pm

        Treachery in defense of democracy.

        Apparently that aspect of the story was too nuanced for some. I think the only reason it became an issue is someone posted video of the performance on Facebook, which was then taken out of context.

        I suspect there's not a strong Shakespeare following among Trump's base.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Aug 2017 @ 6:14am

    usual story. ok when it's affecting everyone else but as soon as he's under the spotlight, he doesn't think it's such a good idea! if he's got nothing to hide, he's got nothing to fear! exactly what he's been saying when in support of the surveillance against everyone else!!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Aug 2017 @ 7:55am

    I think Nunes has received laundered Russian PAC money (or worse) and all his actions in the Russialago scandal point to desperation.

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


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