What is your take on what was revealed in the (Republican) FISA memo? What should we do with that information?

Thanks for the question.

To my eye there are a couple of clues as to the intent and quality of this memo in the memo and cover letter, as well as the facts (that we know of) surrounding them:

1) There is a lot of emphasis on how “top secret” the information is supposed to be, and how strictly and appropriately the management of its declassification is being carried out. All of the language in the cover letter echoes the somewhat melodramatic hand-written crossing out of the top secret designation on the scanned memo itself. All of this seems contrived to make the memo seem much more revelatory and important than it actually is.

2) The bulk of the memo’s “revelation” is a conspiracy of nefarious intent to neutralize Donald Trump’s presidency (i.e. “an insurance policy”). The problem with this approach is that, even if the intent could be verified by reviewing the source materials (and here we must, alas, rely on a rather ethically tainted Devin Nunes to assure us this is the case), that does not necessarily impugn the information collected. In other words, even if some FISA threshold were artificially engineered, that does not negate the veracity of observed criminal activities. This frames a rather weak ad hominem strategy for countering accusations against folks working for Trump. Of course, if the FISA warrant really lacked appropriate justification, then the data collected might not be admissible in criminal proceedings…but that is a completely separate legal issue from whether or not there was evidence of collusion with Russia. I can only imagine that Nunes is hoping to muddy the water so that the American public falsely equates a possible political agenda for the investigation with inaccurate or fabricated surveillance results.

3) There is a lot that we know to contradict a purely political motivation on the part of the FBI to investigate the Trump campaign. Others have covered this in much more detail — the political leanings of key players at the FBI, how Comey undermined Hilary’s credibility in the 11th hour before the election, etc. However, what seems a lot more important in this case is the vast amount of classified information that would need to be disclosed to clearly evaluate the FISA proceedings for bias. And that likely won’t be available for years. Which means…Nunes had absolutely no business releasing this superficial assessment, which itself so clearly embodies an aggressive political agenda. In other words, the memo is pregnant with the very same quality of nefarious intent it attempts to assign to others — the pot calling the kettle black if you will.

All-in-all, I would say the memo illustrates a very sad state of affairs in Congress — a conniving and twisted flavor of manipulation we haven’t seen since the McCarthy era.

My 2 cents.


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