That’s the basic thing you need to know. Read further at your leisure.
Up front, let’s revisit once more the point that this whole thing is about national security, government accountability, and your constitutional rights. The stakes are exceptionally high. It is of grave importance that the people gain a general understanding of what happened in this case.
For one thing, if we want to get a handle on the “Russia” issue, we can’t do it without appreciating what our agencies can and can’t know.
Given that Democrats in Washington have spoken repeatedly about bringing down the Trump administration over allegations about Russia (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, even here) it isn’t good enough to ask the American people to simply take intel narratives on faith. If a duly-elected president is to be removed from office, every secret of every intelligence agency needs to be turned out, if necessary, to validate the reason for such a tremendous national crisis.
No intelligence secret is so important that it must be protected, when the constitutionally-expressed will of the people is to be overturned. If we are no longer a constitutional republic acting in good faith with the people, there is no point in national defense anyway.
The other issue – surveillance of Trump – is interrelated, from both the intelligence and the policy point of view. The people need to know that Trump and his associates came under surveillance, and they need to understand how.
The level of meaning in this situation cannot be overstated. This is far bigger than Watergate, because we already know that the same kind of bulk collection that could enable back-door surveillance of Trump is routinely done on every one of us. Against the implications of that reality, Watergate looks like a harmless adolescent prank.
This is not about Devin Nunes. It’s not even about Donald Trump. It’s about you, and the Constitution, and whether there’s a future in America in which the Constitution protects you. Technology has made this a murky, convoluted issue, one that can be difficult to understand. But none of us can afford to make that an excuse.
If this gets swept under the rug because Nunes is hounded out of finishing the job, an opportunity to peacefully settle this critical problem for constitutional government will probably not come again.
What we have learned about Nunes’s visit to the White House a week ago confirms the analysis a few commentators – including me – have done to date. (Even bloggers by no means inclined to “blame” Obama for things see the mechanics of the intel revelations the same way.)
The locus of decision-making and information processing for the back-door surveillance of Trump was on the National Security Council (in my view, probably acting in concert with the ODNI staff). There’s nothing to go on right now to verify how far up the chain of command the back-door surveillance was approved.
It was changes in the intel community’s IT arrangements that made it possible for staffers at the NSC to conduct such surveillance. The “surveillance” was done by searching NSA’s bulk-collected data. As I have written before, in the brave new Big Data world, the data collection often (even usually) happens first, because it happens constantly. It’s done on the basis of ongoing foreign-intelligence requirements; e.g., terrorism, counterintelligence, drug trafficking, and money-laundering. When the need for specific data arises, searches are done. Special collection can be added at that time, if necessary. But there’s always something to search on.
There was a time when technology would not have allowed remote intel sites like those at the White House or the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB) to perform direct searches on the NSA database. But technology now does allow that – and, as outlined here, the technology was implemented during the Obama administration.
(This isn’t all about Obama being nefarious; please understand that. The programmatic vision for this technological capability has been there since the 1990s. The overall problem with Obama was largely created by previously-implemented visions of government operation, dating back as much as 100 years. The technology of big-data intelligence is simply one of the most recent. Big government can’t be entrusted to anyone, Democrat or Republican.)
Now, policy is not supposed to allow random NSC or ODNI staffers to do searches on the NSA database that would yield Mr. Donald Trump as one of their chief search results. But in a secure facility with more than one person in it, policy, user limitations, and password protections can go only so far to prevent misuse of an IT capability.
What’s been reported from reliable newsmen (e.g., here) indicates that this is basically what Nunes has discovered. If you know how to parse it, it looks like what you’d expect.
And if you step back and understand what’s at stake, and the context in which this is happening, you realize why it’s new territory for everyone, and why Nunes is having to fly by the seat of his pants.
I imagine the White House is having to do the same. The good news: they’re behaving as they would if their ultimate goal were to document and expose the truth. It’s – pardon my French – one hell of a truth to have to tell. No one has a precedent for what to do about this.
Nunes is of course not going to tell any Democrats on the Hill who his source is. The source is presumably on the NSC or in ODNI (Nunes has already said it’s not someone in the White House itself).
And NSC and ODNI are ground zero for the so-called “deep state” campaign by Obama holdovers that brought down General Michael Flynn, and has been reported by Adam Kredo and other journalists to have the entire Trump administration in its target sight.
In other words, what Nunes has found is right in the middle of the hornet’s nest. That’s why the backlash against him is ramping up as it is. It’s why he can’t turn over his source or his specific information to the hornet’s nest, by entrusting Democrats on the Hill with it.
It’s also why it’s so very important that he be able to finish what he has started. He is going to have to withstand an assault like nothing he has ever experienced. And you, the people, are going to have to keep faith that the goal and the process are necessary – no matter what the media and the Democrats are trying to make you believe about Nunes.
They’ll try everything they can to make him look like a bad actor. But it is still better to back him, and support him in pursuing this to the end of the line. The only thing that matters is getting there. Nothing – nothing – is a valid excuse for cutting off the probe he wants to complete. Get it out there, whatever it is, where the people can see it.
This is the fight for America’s future; this, right here. If truth loses this fight, there will probably be no peaceful recovery from that. In the end, truth doesn’t lose – but a lot of other things get terribly broken on its road to victory.