However, Nunes’s other points, if true, are deeply troubling. The intelligence community has a responsibility to “minimize” the identifying information of U.S. citizens whose communications are incidentally collected. Likewise, “unmasking” is only sometimes appropriate, and the power to do so is generally restricted to a small number of officials. Nunes seems to be suggesting that Obama-administration officials flouted those protocols. His fourth point — that none of this surveillance was related to Russia — raises the question of how the intelligence in question was collected, and whether the results were classified. Leaking classified information is, of course, a crime.
This information would likely be getting a fairer hearing had Nunes not chosen to disclose it to the White House before he informed the other members of the House Intelligence Committee — a lapse in judgment he has since acknowledged. Of course, the committee’s ranking member, California Democrat Adam Schiff, has shown interest primarily in making political hay of the whole inquiry; over the weekend, he declared that Russia “hacked the election” — a claim for which there is precisely no evidence.
We have repeatedly encouraged the Senate and House intelligence committees to conduct a thorough and, to the extent possible, transparent investigation of the various allegations tying the Trump campaign to Russia, and into the leaks that have fueled those allegations. At this point, it seems that the Senate’s committee may be better suited to conducting this probe than the House’s. If it is not up to the task, Congress ought to form a Select Committee.