It is said that the Senate plays chess while the House of Representatives plays smash mouth hockey. The revelation by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes that, yes, members of Team Trump were in fact surveilled and the contents of their conversations and their names were recorded and disseminated set off ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff from the People’s Republic of California. As Fox News Politics reported:
Members of the intelligence community “incidentally collected” communications from the Trump transition team during legal surveillance operations of foreign targets, a top Republican lawmaker said Wednesday afternoon.
House Intelligence Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said this produced “dozens” of reports which eventually unmasked several individuals’ identities and were “widely disseminated.”…
“This afternoon, Chairman Devin Nunes announced he had some form of intercepts revealing that lawfully gathered intelligence on foreign officials included information on U.S. Persons, potentially including those associated with President Trump or the President himself. If accurate, this information should have been shared with members of the committee, but it has not been… The Chairman also shared this information with the White House before providing it to the committee, another profound irregularity, given that the matter is currently under investigation. I have expressed my grave concerns with the Chairman that a credible investigation cannot be conducted this way.”
Neither can they be conducted through leaks to the media. Rep. Schiff has no problem with intel leaks to the New York Times, but an intelligence committee chairman giving the President a heads-up that his transition team was in fact caught up in surveillance by his own government is out of bounds? Schiff insisted that it was and claimed Nunes was not acting as a committee chair but as a surrogate of Team Trump:
At his own news conference later that afternoon, Schiff sharply criticized Nunes, given that his committee is in the middle of an active investigation that includes the question of whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia’s suspected attempts to meddle in last year’s election.
“The chairman will need to decide whether he is the chairman of an independent investigation into conduct which includes allegations of potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians, or he is going to act as a surrogate of the White House, because he cannot do both,” Schiff told reporters.
Schiff has had no problem in himself acting as a surrogate for Team Obama or Team Hillary. That deafening silence you hear is the outrage he has expressed over the leaking of classified information to the press designed to fatally wound the Trump transition. Schiff had no problem repeating claims without evidence that Team Trump was colluding with the Russians. Now he is troubled by Nunes citing reports proving President Trump was right about his team being monitored.
Schiff and his brethren insist that this still doesn’t prove Trump’s claim that Obama ordered the surveillance. This is a distinction without a difference. It was Obama who ordered a review of alleged Russian hacking of our elections, demanding that he receive it before he left office. It was President Obama who expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share monitored communications with the 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections. Obama made the leaking of communications he arguably knew were being monitored easier and more likely. President Obama wanted to damage the incoming Trump administration.
Schiff should be shouting from the rooftops demanding the intelligence leakers be found and incarcerated and that the names of those who approved he “unmasking” of the names of American citizens caught up in the “incidental” collection of the conversations with foreign nationals be revealed. Names of such Americans are supposed to be masked by default, unless unmasking is approved for some reason. As the Weekly Standard reported:
Nunes told reporters Wednesday that Trump transition members’ communications were repeatedly intercepted during legal surveillance on a foreign target, otherwise known as incidental collection. These communications were then disseminated in intelligence reports, despite having “little or no apparent foreign intelligence value.” A number of Trump transition members’ names were also revealed through a process known as “unmasking,” he said….
April Doss, a former NSA lawyer who spent over a decade at the agency, told THE WEEKLY STANDARD earlier in March that intelligence officials are required to follow strict procedures governing foreign intelligence collection. These procedures protect the identity of U.S. persons.
“If the communication appears likely to be worth reporting on — there’s a reason why other people in government need to see an intelligence report that says, “here’s what our foreign target was doing”– they’ll write the report in a way that focuses only on the foreign target and that doesn’t name the U.S. person, that literally inserts something like ‘U.S. person number one,'” Doss said.
Schiff was the individual who called the heroes who fought off terrorists from the roof of the CIA annex in Benghazi liars for their account of the Obama/Clinton administration’s denying security improvements, ignoring warnings of the attack, and the issuance of a stand-down order for any rescue, an order they ignored. As Investor’s Business Daily recounted in 2014:
The California Democrat who suggested that his party boycott the Benghazi Select Committee as a waste of time now accuses those who fought on the CIA annex roof of lying “to promote a new book.”
The last we heard from Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., a member of the House Intelligence Committee, was in May. That’s when he told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” he thought the planned select committee to investigate the 2012 Benghazi attack was a “colossal waste of time.”
Calling the yet-to-be-approved committee a “tremendous red herring,” Schiff said: “I don’t think it makes sense, really, for Democrats to participate.”
…Schiff apparently is still not happy about the hearing, which pointed out the State Department’s pre-Benghazi neglect of security, ignoring the security recommendations after the 1998 bombings of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania…
The hearing came right after Kris Paronto, Mark Geist and John Tiegen, three CIA contractors who on that night fought terrorists from the roof of the CIA’s Benghazi annex building, confirmed that there was indeed a stand-down order given that caused a critical half-hour delay….
Schiff, who was not in Benghazi that night, says Paronto, Geist and Tiegen are making up a tale to sell their book, as if their story is less plausible than the proven lie that the Benghazi attack was caused by an inflammatory YouTube video, a myth promoted both by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama.
After seeing clips of Schiff saying the contractors were trying to sell their book and Smith claiming a stand-down order “was never given,” Geist said he “would like to invite Mr. Schiff to a debate… we can talk about it.” He wondered if Schiff wished to “say that to my face.”
Schiff thought the Benghazi heroes were making it up and now he thinks Nunes and Team Trump are making up the fact that they were caught up in Obama administration monitoring of conversations in which they were involved or mentioned. Schif was not being honest then or now. It is he who is not telling the truth.
Daniel John Sobieski is a freelance writer whose pieces have appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, Human Events, Reason Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times among other publications.