Oh? Well, then, Congress should abolish those agencies and start new ones with entirely different leadership.
Who do these people think they are, hinting that the federal legislature might have to beg them for national security information? Whom do they think they work for?
Actually, when you read the piece, I’m not sure any intelligence pros are threatening that. The warning about less sharing with Congress comes from — ta da — Adam Schiff.
Schiff also worries that confidential sources could become more reluctant to provide information to U.S. intelligence agencies for fear that Congress could out them. Moreover, the American public could start wondering whether actions that law enforcement and intelligence agencies take to protect the country will be mischaracterized for political reasons, he said.
The contract between intelligence agencies and the House intelligence committee is broken, he warned.
“I have to think that it’s going to have a chilling effect on what they’re willing to share with us,” he said. “It’s also going to be very demoralizing for people at the FBI to see them being used as a piñata for partisan reasons.”
Go figure that Nunes’s Democratic counterpart, taking an any-weapon-to-hand approach to discrediting his memo, would begin goading intel agencies to withhold info from his own Committee in hopes of saying, “Look what you’ve done now, Devin!” Embarrassing — and hopefully futile, needless to say. Granted, as an executive agency, the DOJ is accountable first to the president in reporting natsec developments, but it was created by Congress. And Congress would have every right to slash its budget to ribbons if it started behaving imperiously (or more imperiously) about what the legislature is and isn’t “allowed” to see. We need at least a pretense of a democracy.
In fact, given the rumors of Trump’s own intelligence briefers withholding sensitive information from him for fear that he’ll blab about it, one wonders who exactly the DOJ and CIA will be accountable to if not to Congress’s intelligence committees.
This criticism from the same AP story, offered by the DNI’s former general counsel, is shrewder than Schiff’s:
“The precedent that’s been set here is very dangerous,” Litt said. “You can only imagine if the Democrats get control of the House in the mid-year election; they will now be able to say look, ‘We’ve established a precedent here. You’ve released classified information, and we’re going to start doing it as well.’”
I said on the day of the document’s release that this was Memo Bowl I. There will be more, and Memo Bowl II may not be played with Republicans in total control of government. Trump would still retain a sort of veto power over any memos written by a Democrat-controlled House Intel Committee, as the president is entitled under the rules to block classified information from being released. But that would likely lead to a court fight, with the Nunes memo cited as precedent: If House Dems are willing to submit a future memo to the FBI for vetting before release to make sure that any sensitive information is removed, would Trump still have the power to block it for purely partisan reasons?
Even if he did, Schiff leaks like a sieve. The future memo would end up in the hands of the New York Times, with House Democrats quietly reassuring each other that they’re just balancing the scales by leaking after Trump used the power of the presidency to release and promote Nunes’s memo. The logic would be similar to the Times’s logic in its lawsuit to obtain the FISA application for Carter Page: Now that Republicans have established that it’s in the public’s interest to know how counterintelligence investigations are being conducted, why should that principle be limited to the narrow case of Page and Russiagate?
Historically, leaders in Congress have sought to bolster the credibility of the intelligence committees by filling them with relative moderates, and insisting that their work be governed by a norm of nonpartisanship.
It will be hard for anyone who has read the Nunes memo to regard the committee’s output as nonpartisan now. And by crying wolf about intelligence abuses with no serious evidence, Nunes and his enablers have made it far easier for America’s spy agencies to dismiss any future allegations, however meritorious, as yet another self-serving partisan distraction: at best, baseless conspiracy theorizing; at worst, an effort to obstruct legitimate investigations.
The stakes of Memo Bowl II may be much higher than they are in Memo Bowl I, but how seriously will casual voters take them having endured the partisan circus surrounding the Nunes memo? Ironically, because of the partisan point-scoring opportunities that this episode has revealed, the House Intel Committee might become more aggressive in scrutinizing the work of intelligence agencies. It’s just that any evidence of malfeasance they produce going forward may be discounted by swaths of the public who are now tuning this stuff out as little more than extra noise in the daily partisan cacophony.