Yes, Devin Nunes got some things right. But his famous memo also contained blatant and intentional falsehoods, and even its truths were in service of a larger lie.
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The election of a Democratic House of Representatives begins the process of holding President Trump accountable and brings into focus how, in the years to come, Americans should think about repairing the damage he inflicted. To us, Trump’s abuse of our law enforcement and intelligence agencies—where we recently worked—has echoes of the era that culminated in President Nixon’s resignation. But the events of the years after Nixon resigned hold important lessons for the current moment, as well.
'The Day that We Can't Protect Human Sources': The President and the House Intelligence Committee Burn an Informant
What happens when the outing of intelligence sources is the province not of rogue insiders but of senior officials in two branches of this country’s government?
The central irony of the memo prepared by House intelligence chairman Devin Nunes, we now know, is that it tried to deceive the American people in precisely the same way that it falsely accused the FBI of deceiving the FISA Court. The key question going forward is whether the memo’s authors and sponsors will face any consequences for their dishonesty.
President Trump lost no time dismissing the memo released Saturday by the House intelligence committee Democrats in response to the earlier memo prepared by Rep. Devin Nunes on the origins of the Carter Page surveillance:
Over the last week, there's been a great deal of discussion on Lawfare regarding the role that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court might play in clearing up controversy over the Nunes memo. Benjamin Wittes and Susan Hennessey have filed a brief before the FISA Court on the matter, and Sophia Brill has described how the court's rules might allow it to weigh in.
The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) has released the transcript of the Feb. 5 business meeting in which it voted to release the HPSCI minority rebuttal to the Nunes memo.
You can read the full text here:
You wouldn’t know it from the endless public discussion of the Nunes Memo and the Democratic response to it, but the House of Representatives does not get to decide whether a FISA application is valid. Congress gets to decide what the legal standards are under FISA. But at the end of the day, the judge of any individual FISA application is not the chairman of the House intelligence committee. It’s not the ranking member either. It’s actually not even the President of the United States either.
The memo is out, and it is already stale. The Nunes memo makes one central allegation: that the FBI and Department of Justice did not live up to the duty of candor expected of them by the in camera ex parte nature of proceedings before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). My early take has been that the memo’s apparent omissions on what was actually reported to the FISC tends to indicate that more was revealed to the court than the memo admits.
At the heart of the now-released “Nunes memo” is an accusation that the FBI and Department of Justice misled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) when they sought orders to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. One quandary (among many) is how the FBI and Justice Department can defend themselves from these allegations without revealing yet more classified information.