The collective amnesia that we are currently standing witness to is astonishing — even by Washington’s uber-hypocritical standards.
Democrats are suddenly the political party that stands with the FBI.
Yep, you heard that right. They now also believe passionately in Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court-sanctioned spying on U.S. citizens. And they are steadfastly cautioning patience when it comes to releasing a potentially damaging memo that Republicans who have seen it purport contains revelations of embarrassing and dangerous governmental misconduct that may have influenced an election.
Well, at least since candidate Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaCould the coming 'red wave' election become a 'red tsunami'? Bottom line Barack Obama wishes a happy 58th birthday to 'best friend' Michelle MORE referred to George W. Bush as “unpatriotic” and “irresponsible” for adding $4 trillion to our national debt.
But the usual fissure between Republicans and Democrats has eroded into a chasm. And it perfectly mirrors our divided nation.
Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump lawyers to Supreme Court: Jan. 6 committee 'will not be harmed by delay' Two House Democrats announce they won't seek reelection DiCaprio on climate change: 'Vote for people that are sane' MORE certainly hasn’t succeeded in, or even really attempted to mend, the fracture. His inflammatory rhetoric, mean-spirited “fighting back” and failure to find national common ground has led to the #Resistance colliding squarely with #MAGA in ugly eruptions on social media and in zealous counterprotesters confronting intransigent protesters in a city near you.
But nowhere is it more brazenly on display than in the room where meets the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. This committee is composed of members from the two bitterly opposed political parties in D.C. and convenes to discuss oversight matters related to the CIA, the Director of National Intelligence, the Department of Homeland Security, branches of the U.S. military, the FBI, et al.
California Republican and committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesGOP lawmaker adheres to term limit pledge, won't run for reelection The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Winter is here for Democrats Hillicon Valley — GOP leader criticizes Twitter over Greene ban MORE heads a Republican majority that just voted to release a controversial report, a four-page document that has made the word “memo” ubiquitous worldwide.
Nunes has promised that the memo contains explosive details of wrongdoing within the upper echelons of the FBI and Justice Department in the securing of judicial permission to conduct overhears of Americans.
His minority chair counterpart, Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden to make voting rights play in Atlanta Democrats eager to fill power vacuum after Pelosi exit Overnight Health Care — Insurance will soon cover COVID-19 tests MORE (D-Calif.), has taken a predictably opposite view of the memo’s relevance, downplaying its significance and fretting over the potential revelation of “sources and methods” which he warns will harm the intelligence community.
He has drafted his own competing memo that apparently refutes the Nunes version.
But Schiff’s colleagues, like Reps. Trey GowdyTrey GowdyTrey Gowdy sets goal of avoiding ideological echo chamber with Fox News show Fox News signs Trey Gowdy, Dan Bongino for new shows Pompeo rebukes Biden's new foreign policy MORE (R-S.C.) and Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingJuan Williams: McCarthy's inaction is a disgrace Omar allies dig in on calls for Boebert punishment Pressure grows to remove Boebert from committees MORE (R-Iowa), have charged that the official committee version will be “embarrassing to Adam Schiff” and be “deeper than Watergate.”
Democrats countered by siding with FBI Director Christopher Wray, whose agency released a statement opposing the memo’s release, citing “material omissions” that may “impact the memo’s accuracy.” Nunes, of course, denounced the director’s objections as “spurious.”
So, both sides have stubbornly dug in. But with the GOP holding the majority — elections have consequences, as the 44th POTUS once advised Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorRepublicans eager to take on Spanberger in Virginia Virginia emerging as ground zero in battle for House majority McAuliffe's loss exposes deepening Democratic rift MORE — the Nunes memo has been cleared for takeoff by the White House, and we anticipate its availability maybe as soon as later today.
Buckle your seatbelts, folks. This should get interesting.
But lest we forget in the cacophony of partisan bickering and voyeuristic anticipation, we have definitely seen this play before. Only in the “old school” version, roles have been reversed, and occurs the standard regression to the mean.
It would be so trite and cliché to mention the New York Times and Washington Post and their reverential Fourth Estate treatment of classified documents during the latter stages of the Vietnam War. Liberal Democrats exulted when the newspapers succeeded in obtaining and publishing portions of the Pentagon Papers, the explosive study of what led us into, and kept us engaged in, the Vietnam War.
Potential compromise of military and intelligence “sources and methods”? How about the embarrassment wrought to a critical institution, the Department of Defense, by the release? Well, it was a Democratic senator from Alaska, Mike Gravel, who entered the classified documents into the Congressional Record in 1971.
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But that was back when that’s what Democrats clamored for — full disclosure and transparency in any and all government institutions, even at risk of damaging same.
Gravel, by the way, also defended Edward Snowden’s release of stolen secret documents from the National Security Agency in 2013. Apparently, he’s nothing but consistent.
An eponymous movie about The Washington Post’s involvement in publishing some of the Pentagon Papers is currently being celebrated in Hollywood — the jokes just write themselves — with a Best Picture nomination at this year’s 90th Academy Awards. Oh, and Meryl “Times Up” Streep is nominated for Best Actress. Don’t know her? She’s the acclaimed actress who stood and applauded for child-rapist Roman Polanski at the 2003 Oscars.
Think any of those Hollywood types would select Nunes over Schiff in a Golden State popularity contest?
The reader may fairly argue that the 1970s could be considered ancient history. Then allow me to further buttress my argument with an examination of another “release the memo” type action from a current sitting senator from America’s most populous state.
Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinLawmakers in both parties to launch new push on Violence Against Women Act Domestic travel vaccine mandate back in spotlight Biden, lawmakers mourn Harry Reid MORE (D-Calif.), when Democrats controlled the Senate, chaired the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee. Recall when a controversial report on "enhanced interrogation techniques" was being hotly debated on Capitol Hill, within her committee and across dinner tables around the country?
I certainly do.
I do because the FBI deployed me to Afghanistan on three separate occasions during parts of 2002 and 2003. This was in the early stages of Operation Enduring Freedom and the Bush administration had just implemented some fairly controversial allowances for detainee treatment in order to extract actionable intelligence. The fervent hope was to prevent the next imminent terrorist attack on American soil.
Good and decent people can come down on either side of the “Is it or is it not torture?” debate.
But Feinstein took what were considered at the time fairly unprecedented steps in releasing a contested report that many viewed as “fundamentally flawed.”
Sound vaguely familiar?
CIA directors who had been appointed by both parties condemned its release and argued the report’s claims could not be trusted. And many of the “factual claims” were in dispute.
Sound even more familiar?
The famous New Yorker certainly defended Feinstein’s actions and ran with this headline in a June 22, 2015: “The Inside War: To Expose Torture, Dianne Feinstein fought the CIA — and the White House.”
Confused now? Well, don’t be.
When Democrats do it, it’s “courageous.” When Republicans do it, well, it’s “treasonous.”
Inexcusable actions by senior level officials at the FBI and Justice Department deserve public scrutiny. The potential politicization of independent law enforcement entities is a damn serious allegation.
Delay the release of the GOP memo until it can be timed for a simultaneous release with the Democratic countermemo. Make certain both are stringently scrubbed and appropriately redacted in order to ensure the safety of sources and protection of sensitive techniques and methods.
And then stop disingenuously pretending that the Democrats are the defenders of the FBI.
Doubt what I’m saying? Just ask our colleagues at the CIA.
James A. Gagliano is a CNN law enforcement analyst and retired FBI supervisory special agent. He also serves as an adjunct assistant professor at St. John's University and is a leadership consultant at the Thayer Leader Development Group (TLDG) at his alma mater, the United States Military Academy at West Point. Follow him on Twitter @JamesAGagliano.