House intel chair saw 'dozens' of reports on Trump surveillance
Info comes 3 months after Obama revised rule on intel sharing
By TATIANA PROPHET
In an unusual development in the House investigation into the Trump campaign's ties with Russia, California Republican Devin Nunes on Wednesday announced the existence of "dozens" of reports containing communications by Donald Trump and his transition team.
"Details about persons associated with the incoming administration, details with little apparent foreign intelligence value, were widely disseminated in intelligence community reporting," Nunes told the press.
The way the information collected appears to have been incidental, via a legal warrant, he said, although he is not entirely certain how it was "picked up."
He added that none of the surveillance was related to Russia, the investigation of Russian activities, or any investigation of the Trump team.
Nunes said he expects to have more information by Friday.
"I can tell you this, that we've been asking people to come forward, and they came through the proper channels, they had the proper clearances, and I'm just going to leave it at that because we have to protect people who came forward in the right manner, and brought the information. I'm not even going to say it's one person."
Fallout for his actions was swift; Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the committee, held his own press conference denouncing Nunes' actions as unilateral and saying that he had undermined the credibility of the investigation.
"The chairman will either need to decide if he's leading an 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 said at a news conference, also on Capitol Hill.
And Republican Senator John McCain suggested that Congressional oversight of any Russia investigation had been compromised because of the announcement.
Nunes himself was a member of Trump's transition team -- a dual relationship sure to raise eyebrows if it has not already.
The announcement comes nearly three months after the Obama administration revised the rules on how the National Security Administration can share private information about U.S. citizens with other government agencies.
The revision, signed by National Director of Intelligence James Clapper and then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch, allows "signals" intelligence (electronically intercepted intelligence) gathered by the NSA to be disseminated to 16 intelligence agencies without privacy being first redacted.
The agencies are:
- Department of the Treasury
- Drug Enforcement Administration
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Marine Corps Intelligence
- National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
- National Reconnaissance Office
- National Security Agency
- Navy Intelligence
The recent new rules appear to be compliance (eight years in the making) with executive order 13470 signed by President George W Bush in 2008, amendment to EO 12333 from 1981. The Bush document called for coordination among intelligence agencies and for those in charge of those agencies to develop a plan to coordinate information.
"Functional Managers shall report to the Director concerning the execution of their duties as Functional Managers, and may be charged with developing and implementing strategic guidance, policies, and procedures for activities related to a specific intelligence discipline or set of intelligence activities; set training and tradecraft standards; and ensure coordination within and across intelligence disciplines and Intelligence Community elements and with related non-intelligence activities. Functional Managers may also advise the Director on: the management of resources; policies and procedures; collection capabilities and gaps; processing and dissemination of intelligence; technical architectures; and other issues or activities determined by the Director.
(i) The Director of the National Security Agency is designated the Functional Manager for signals intelligence;(ii) The Director of the Central Intelligence Agency is designated the Functional Manager for human intelligence; and(iii) The Director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is designated the Functional Manager for geospatial intelligence."
Critics say it is a blow to the privacy rights of U.S. citizens. Those who want to give the Obama administration the benefit of the doubt say it was a plan to somehow prevent the Trump administration from further eroding privacy rights.
Either way, it has apparently resulted in a very quick dissemination of information and leaks among the current intelligence community -- about all sorts of things.