Panetta on memo release: 'I have never in my lifetime seen anything like this happen'

Panetta on memo release: 'I have never in my lifetime seen anything like this happen'
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Former CIA Director Leon Panetta fears that the release of a controversial memo alleging government surveillance abuses by the Justice Department will cause "some very serious damage."

Speaking with CBS News's Jeff Pegues, Panetta said he had a lot of concerns with the decision by President TrumpDonald John TrumpButtigieg on Mueller report: 'Politically, I'm not sure it will change much' Sarah Sanders addresses false statements detailed in Mueller report: 'A slip of the tongue' Trump to visit Japan in May to meet with Abe, new emperor MORE and House Intelligence Committee Republicans to publish a confidential memo that alleges federal law enforcement officials relied heavily on an opposition research dossier in their application for a warrant to surveil former Trump adviser Carter Page.

"I think the release of this memo is going to do some very serious damage, damage to the Intelligence Committee and the bipartisanship that is necessary in order to do oversight of classified information — damage because the president and the Congress now have a position of distrust with the Justice Department and the FBI — damage to the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] process which has been important to our national security, and all of this sends a terrible message to our allies who are going to worry about sharing classified information that is so easily released as part of this political effort, and it's also frankly going to encourage our enemies who will see this as a breakdown in our national security process," Panetta said.

He also doubled down on his past comments that it "creates a constitutional crisis." 

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"I believe it creates a constitutional crisis when the president distrusts the Justice Department and the FBI. They are a primary law enforcement institutions in this country. They're the primary law enforcement agencies under our Constitution, and when the president distrusts the FBI and the Justice Department as he did in this matter, I think it does create a crisis in our system of government."

He added that in more than 50 years of public service, "I have never in my lifetime seen anything like this happen."

Panetta is just one of a number of lawmakers and intelligence officials who warned against the release of the memo and have since criticized its publication.

While many Republicans had argued the release was necessary to shed light on what they say is bias in the FBI, Democrats and intelligence officials say it poses a national security risk.

Some have also raised concerns about the memo's accuracy, and have accused those who crafted the memo of omitting key information in order to discredit the Russia investigation and protect Trump.