You’ve probably seen the buzz around #ReleaseTheMemo on social and other media. But perhaps you found it hard to follow from a privacy advocate’s point of view.
The House Intelligence Committee in Congress agreed to share a document that allegedly described abuses of FISA surveillance, pending the president’s approval.
Now that it’s finally been released, let’s take a look if it lived up to the hype…
- It would describe political surveillance, conducted with the knowledge of President Obama, of people involved in the Trump campaign
- It would show the bias inherent in the Mueller investigation of President Trump
- It would vastly misrepresent the underlying intelligence reports
- It would be unprecedented to release to the public reports of such a highly classified nature, potentially compromising national security
- It would provide substantial evidence for the need of greater oversight of FISA surveillance
- President Nixon used his access to the federal intelligence apparatus to engage in political surveillance, leading to his impeachment
- Testimony from former US Air Force analyst Russell Tice suggests that the NSA has engaged in political surveillance before
- Classified information is often classified simply because it is embarrassing or reveals unconstitutional activity by an agency
- Its main point is that the FBI failed to disclose bias by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele against Trump as part of its application for a FISA warrant; But it was already well-known that Steele’s firm received payment from Democrats, that he was vehemently opposed to Trump’s election, and that his dossier constituted opposition research
- It doesn’t lessen any suspicion of collaboration between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives, because that has been shown from other sources than the Steele dossier
- Perhaps the FBI should have caveated better on the FISA application as to Steele’s motivations.
- However, the memo doesn’t seem to substantively reveal improper political surveillance by the FBI motivated by political animus against Trump
- From our standpoint, the memo seems to have been released as a parry in the knife fight of partisan struggles; it doesn’t reveal material relevant to Restore the Fourth’s mission
- Suggestions of the memo compromising national security seem to be overblown; the memo could easily have been part of a public discussion prior to this, and the fact that it wasn’t suggests that our system vastly overclassifies information, and is reluctant to let the public know about things we’re in fact fully capable of understanding.