Liberal Jonathan Turley: Outcry over the Nunes memo is damning for Democrats and FBI
By: Jonathan Turley
The release of the four-page memo by the House Intelligence Committee has triggered preset responses from both sides. The memo is, in fact, enlightening in a number of respects. However, the most alarming elements may be what it does not contain.
Second, we knew that Steele shopped the information in the dossier to various reporters to try to get them published during the election. Third, the contents of this dossier were so unverified that virtually all of the reporters declined to run the story during the campaign.
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 ground.
However, even before the release, the FBI seemed to be objecting to the framing of the facts rather than the disclosure of "sources and methods." The FBI said publicly that it had "grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy." That is not an objection to classified material but the fairness of the portrayal. For years, many of us have objected that the intelligence agencies classified material for improper purposes to frame public debate or conceal embarrassing information. Unless there was a material change in this memo, it proved to be an empty "grave" after weeks of overheated hyperbole.
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 the end, there are legitimate questions of political bias raised in the conduct of some FBI officials. This does not mean that there are not legitimate answers for these questions but the effort to keep this memo classified should be itself a matter of grave national concern.
There are indeed two narratives competing in this controversy - one involving improper political influences in the FBI, and another of improper political pressure from the White House. Both could well be true but it is bizarre to suggest that only one of those allegations should be investigated.
The FBI and the intelligence agencies have a long and documented history of such abuse. This includes the targeting of political leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King.
As I discussed earlier, Subsection 11(g) of Rule X was created to allow members of Congress to vote to release classified information when the majority determines "that the public interest would be served by such disclosure."
This serves the public interest, as would a response from the Democrats and the FBI. Regardless of what comes out of the merits of the Russian investigation, Congress should investigate the misuse of classified proceedings in both the securing of the FISA applications and the later effort to prevent the release of this memo. Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University . He has been lead counsel in national security cases for more than two decades and has testified before the intelligence committees. You can follow him on Twitter