Free Minds & Free Markets

Pro-Snooping GOP Rep. Claims Shock at Federal Surveillance of Flynn’s Russia Call

Isn’t this what actually authorized foreign intelligence gathering looks like?

Devin NunesU.S. CongressWhy it seems like it was less than a year ago that Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, was actively trying to kill off proposed legislation that would require the federal government to get warrants to collect data on Americans. It was less than a year, actually: last June.

Back then there was a bipartisan push to try to require some more due process in National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance of Americans. Nunes used the deadly attack on the nightclub in Orlando to argue against it, claiming it would hamper the government in its fight against the war on terror.

But while he was opposed to protecting you and me from unwarranted government surveillance, apparently Nunes does think that the feds recording a call between ex-National Security Adviser Mike Flynn and a Russian ambassador in December is beyond the pale. From The Washington Post:

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said Tuesday that the most significant question posed by the resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn is why intelligence officials eavesdropped on his calls with the Russian ambassador and later leaked information on those calls to the press.

"I expect for the FBI to tell me what is going on, and they better have a good answer," said Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which is conducting a review of Russian activities to influence the election. "The big problem I see here is that you have an American citizen who had his phone calls recorded."

No, that's not actually the problem, oddly enough. As just about every story about the Flynn-Russia scandal has noted, the intelligence agencies regularly record phone calls between Russian diplomats and whomever they're talking to. This is actually one of the things most Americans expect foreign surveillance to encompass. Nunes is blurting out the classic "shocked to find gambling going on here" rejoinder, even complaining, "Where are all the privacy groups screaming now?"

There is the matter of how the Flynn call got leaked, the political implications, and the reality of faceless operators within the intel community using their tools to affect executive branch decisions. Being pro-leak (and I'm extremely pro-leak) shouldn't blind a person to the political agendas behind them (it's worth pointing out, though, that increased government transparency would diminish the potential of this secretive political maneuvering).

Right before President Barack Obama left office, his administration increased the authority of several federal agencies to share raw data collected from the very kind of foreign intelligence surveillance that happened in this case. National security surveillance journalist Marcy Wheeler noted that possibly thanks to this change in policy, the FBI would not need to get warrants in cases like this because it involves counterintelligence with another country.

It takes a particular bit of chutzpah to—after insisting that average American citizens shouldn't have formalized legal protections from unwarranted data collection—declare that a person heavily connected to the incoming presidential administration should expect his conversations with high-level Russian officials to be secret.

Note that I'm not arguing that it's wrong for Flynn to have had conversations or even wrong to have suggested sanctions might be eased (sanctions often suck as policy and so does the Logan Act). It is, however, incredibly cynical for the head of the House Intel Committee to play so completely and thoroughly dumb about what actually legal, authorized foreign surveillance looks like.

Photo Credit: U.S. Congress

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  • WakaWaka||

    So should we ignore this point because the messenger is flawed?

    Libertarianism for Deep State?

  • WakaWaka||

    Glenn Greenwald seems to disagree with you. I guess he's not auditioning for a spot at the Washington Post

  • Jayburd||

    "justified felony" Like droning an 8 yr. old?
    Ya want to drone something? Drone that monstrosity at Camp Williams.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    No. We should take his point but excoriate the messenger for being a hypocritical asshole. "Why were they spying on him? He was a Top Man, not one of the little people!"

  • WakaWaka||

    No one said exonerate the messenger, but his point is being dismissed or ignored in the article. Read Greenwald's article, where he seems to disagree with the assertion and says that in fact the snooping was illegal.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Greenwald's point is that the leak ABOUT the snooping was illegal, yet justified.

  • SIV||

    Then put all the leakers in federal prison where they belong.

  • Citizen X - #6||


  • WakaWaka||

    Or maybe career bureaucrats should not be working to undermine an elected administration? I know that sounds crazy, but pretend Elizabeth Warren is president. Now you see

  • marshaul||

    Fuck an elected administration. I'm all for government undermining itself.

  • MikeP2||

    "illegal, yet justified" is a crock of shite.

    Most diplomatic and management roles in the world cannot function under an implicit threat of conversation being made public, let alone selective leaking.

    Privacy allows candor and candor is the basis for understanding and compromise.

    Transparency in government does not require every conversation to be made public and Greenwald is full of shite to imply that these leakers were justified.

  • marshaul||

    Government has never operated, in any sphere, on the basis of "understanding and compromise". You're asking me to bet that it will suddenly become an instrument of either or both of these simply because we allow it to function unscrutinized.

    Fuck that.

  • Scott S.||

    You know who else linked to that piece and warned about the political consequences? I did. In this very blog post that you are replying to.

  • WakaWaka||

    Damn it. I'm an idiot. I tip my hat, Shackford and will slink away. Good day sir. I will never question you again

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Goddammit, Shackelton, you're not supposed to answer your own "You know who else..." question! This isn't Nam. There are RULES.

  • Deven||

    Tsk Tsk.

  • WakaWaka||

    Son-of-a-bitch, I never click on the links

  • Crusty Juggler - #2||


  • Not a True MJG||

    Or read the articles, or the bylines.

  • DenverJ||


  • soflarider||

    It's always Hitler, except in this one rare case.

  • Bacon-Magic <3 Hayek||

    You still need to spill the beans on the Missouri skinhead Deliverance story.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Strawman! Look! Shiny!

  • Bacon-Magic <3 Hayek||


  • Bacon-Magic <3 Hayek||

    The answer to the question is supposed to be Hitler! Come on, you should know the rules.

  • Playa Manhattan.||

    "The big problem I see here is that you have an American citizen who had his phone calls recorded."

    No, the Russian ambassador's calls were being recorded, as they should be. Dipshit got caught talking to him.

  • Jerry on the sea||

    But how does the NSA know the contents of the conversation? And secondly, if they don't, why did they still inform the Justice department?

    I can't imagine the Russian ambassador talking to Flynn over an unsecured line.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Takes two to secure a line, and I can easily imagine a political appointee not having the same security apparatus as the Russian ambassador.

  • Not a True MJG||

    And there were phone calls? What more does Nunes know!?

  • Brochettaward||

    This is my take. This isn't so much about mass surveillance as basic espionage. What's really surprising is that an American general and a Russian diplomat (at least the general) didn't know/expect the call to be recorded.

  • Playa Manhattan.||

    That's the real story here. Either Flynn HAD to know, or he's a fucking idiot and proved himself unqualified.

  • ThomasD||

    Had to know that a secured conversation was going to be recorded?

    Or was going to be selectively leaked?

  • Uncle Joe||

    Put it to ya this way: I'm not a retired general with years of experience in the IC, but if I decided to call anyone working for a foreign government, (even one that we have better relations with than Russia), I'd consider it possible the call was being monitored. If I called the Russian Ambassador, I'd feel 100% sure the call was being recorded.

    Flynn HAD to have known his calls were being recorded & believed he could squelch that intel once he was in a position of power.

  • ThomasD||

    By "squelch that intel" do you mean "stop any politically motivated leaks?"

  • chemjeff||

    Could this be what convinces Republicans in Congress to end the surveillance state?

  • {|}===[|}:;:;:;:;:;:;:>||

    No, but it will convince them to add a carve-out and criminal penalties for surveillance of legislators in the performance of their duties. But of course, I'm a cynic.

  • Eternal Blue Sky||

    How would you... enforce such a thing??

    What, so if you are wire-tapping some mob boss with connections to ISIS and some American senator calls in you're just supposed to stop listening??

  • {|}===[|}:;:;:;:;:;:;:>||

    Without putting too much thought into it that might be one way to draft it yes. Alternatively, public disclosure could result in jail time. Really though, when is the enforceability of a new statute ever more than a tertiary concern of legislators?

  • Hugh Akston||

    Don't hold your breath.

  • Crusty Juggler - #2||


  • Fatty Bolger||


  • John Titor||


  • Citizen X - #6||

    My Magic 8-Ball is in the shop. I'll have to get back to you.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Gotta be pretty damned broken to not know that answer!

  • Crusty Juggler - #2||

    I'm extremely pro-leak

    I too tend to over-hydrate.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    I was wondering about that. "Shackford" doesn't SOUND like a German name...

  • Lee picked the wrong week....||

    +1 Wetwork

  • Deven||

    Regardless of the whole Flynn thing, this type of shit should have libertarians up in arms. The intelligence agencies are far too powerful, and they are actively leaking and damaging the very people who are trying to reign them in. We can't even begin to have a functioning government if the intelligence agencies can blackmail anyone, or barring that, leak information to force them to resign.

    I hope to hell Trump puts someone in who is even more of an asshole than Flynn, this shit is out of control.

  • Crusty Juggler - #2||

    Or, Trump can put someone in who doesn't lie about his actions so that his many opponents can easily get rid of him. It's difficult to be incompetent and still hope to enact change.

  • WakaWaka||

    You know you sound really pathetic, right? You're defending un-elected bureaucrats who are hell-bent on war for spying on an elected administration.

  • Crusty Juggler - #2||

    Is that what I'm doing? I had no idea.

  • dantheserene||

    That may not be your intent, but realistically that is what you're doing. No one can withstand the scrutiny the intelligence community can bring to bear without being compromised somehow. They can find something to leverage anyone who hasn't been locked in a religious retreat since birth.

  • Crusty Juggler - #2||

    How does their power lessen if incompetents are the ones attempting to lessen their power? How can the Trump administration enact any positive change a libertarian-minded individual would approve of - like massively scaling back regulations - if they put buffoons in charge?

    That being said, I am happy the system is publicly devouring itself, which could have a positive effect for liberty-minded people who desire a much smaller and less powerful government.

  • Not a True MJG||

    Especially if they tell unnecessary bald-faced lies to their superiors.

  • Diane Merriam||

    Anyone locked up since birth must be in the hands of a dangerous cult. We'll need to keep close tabs on this one.

  • Uncle Joe||

    Look into Michael Ledeen, Flynn's co-author on "The Field of Fight" & tell me who is pro-war, again. Ledeen's worldview is very much along the same lines as Bannon's & Miller's: we need to wage a massive ground war in the Middle East to fight Islamists of all stripes: Afghanistan, Iran & the Iraqi Shia, ISIS, Assad, Hamas, Hezbollah even the Saudis.

    I'm not a fan of any of those people/groups, but occupation of the Middle East didn't work out for the British or the Ottomans. Maybe we should be thankful for Trump's business conflicts in the region. Seems like it's the only thing that's keeping the crew that wants WWIII in check, other than the career IC leakers.

  • WakaWaka||

    Nah, it's Trump. Anything goes. These people want to war on and that's totally cool with them, because feelz.

  • David Sock||

    Run to the defense of this guy? Trump to CIA: "I am so behind you." I know maybe sometimes you haven't gotten the backing that you wanted and you're going to get so much backing. Maybe you're going to say, 'please don't give us so much backing,'" said the newly sworn-in leader, prompting laughter.:

    You can go fuck yourself now.

  • Not a True MJG||

    Yes, government infighting should be a primary concern for libertarians.

  • Juice||

    It should. As in, the more the merrier.

  • paranoid android||

    Regardless of the whole Flynn thing, this type of shit should have libertarians up in arms.

    Or, I can rub my hands and laugh maniacally as the Leviathan eats itself.

  • ThomasD||

    Bad analogy.

    Think of it more as Leviathan's immune system devouring a perceived threat.

  • dschwar||

    and they are actively leaking and damaging the very people who are trying to reign them in.

    Citation needed

  • marshaul||

    Libertarians don't want a functioning government, because we've actually payed attention to the entire history of it.

  • ||

    Nunes business. Ha ha! Geddit?

    Alt-text so bad you could've only learned it from Joe... Joe Mama!

  • Juice||

    Not Block Insane Yomama?

  • David Sock||

    Note that I'm not arguing that it's wrong for Flynn to have had conversations or even wrong to have suggested sanctions might be eased (sanctions often suck as policy and so does the Logan Act).

    I'll note the ever so sly deflection away from the more pertinent question of whether these illegal conversations were part some greater conspiracy of cooperation between the Russian govt and a presidential political campaign.

  • WakaWaka||

    Nancy Pelosi?

  • DesigNate||

    If the phone calls happened in December, he had already won the fucking presidency.

  • MarconiDarwin||

    Because as long as you win the fucking presidency, it is OK to negotiate sanctions before you are in office

  • ThomasD||

    What makes the conversations illegal?

  • MarconiDarwin||

    Right before President Barack Obama

    Oh you were so close, Scott. But your Drumpfsucking would be frowned upon if you could not find a way to blame Drumpf's and Flynn's Putinfuckery on the black guy.


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