Professor Jonathan Turley has an interesting take on the Nunes memo over at The Hill. Turley says the contents are “enlightening” in some respects but also concedes the document is a summary of other material and testimony which needs to be viewed in context before coming to any firm conclusions. However, he points out another problem which isn’t getting nearly as much attention. What happened to the dire threats to national security we were told were contained in this memo?
My greatest concern is what is not in the [memo]: classified information “jeopardizing national security.” Leaders like Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) declared that the committee had moved beyond “dangerous irresponsibility and disregard for our national security” and “disregarded the warnings of the Justice Department and the FBI.”
Now we can read the memo. There is a sharp and alarming disconnect between the descriptions of Pelosi and the House Intelligence Committee’s Ranking Minority Member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and the actual document. It clearly does not contain information that would reveal sources or methods.
The memo reaffirms concerns over the lower standards that apply to FISA applications as well as the misuse of classification authority. Most of this memo references what was already known about the use of the dossier. What was added was testimonial evidence and details to the publicly known information. Yet, the FBI vehemently objected to the release of the memo as threatening “grave” consequences to national security…
The FBI opposition to declassification of this memo should be a focus of both Congress and the public. The memo is clearly designed to avoid revealing classified information. For civil libertarians, this is a rare opportunity to show how classified rules are misused for strategic purposes by these agencies. The same concern can be directed toward members who read this memo and represented to the public that the release would clearly damage national security.
In that first paragraph above, Turley is quoting the statement Pelosi put out about the memo on Tuesday. However, she made a similar claim on CNN during that contentious interview with Chris Cuomo. “Putting this aside in terms of tit for tat, which you seem to—well, with all due respect to you—trying to make it look like Democrats vs. [Republicans]. It isn’t about that,” Pelosi said. She added, “It’s about our national security.” In the same interview, she said, “We’re not talking about some issue that we’re having a fight about, we’re talking about our national security.”
The point is, this was raised many times this week by Democrats eager to prevent the release of the memo. In retrospect, it’s difficult to see how anyone could have thought it represented a grave threat to national security. Maybe the subsequent release of the Democrats’ own memo will shed some additional light on whatever threat they see in it, but at the moment it looks as if those warnings were overblown. As Turley puts it, “it proved to be an empty ‘grave’ after weeks of overheated hyperbole.”