Three former CIA officials blasted GOP Congressman Devin Nunes (Calif.) and other Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, warning that they can’t be trusted to defend national security after they pushed for the release of a classified memo that accuses the FBI of abusing surveillance programs.
In an opinion piece for CNN, former analysts Jeff Asher, Nada Bakos and Cindy Otis wrote that Nunes, the Intelligence panel chairman, degraded the committee’s effectiveness as an oversight mechanism by politicizing intelligence information.
“Republicans who were so concerned about leaks of classified information during the last year are now pushing for the release of top secret information to the public, cherry-picked to undermine agencies for which they are meant to be stewards,” they wrote.
“From this point forward, the House Intelligence Committee’s assessment of the intelligence community should be met with skepticism by the public and Congress alike. When we look back on this administration in a few years, we believe this incident will be marked as one of the worst cases of politicization of intelligence in modern American history,” they added.
The GOP-compiled four-page memo released last week accuses senior Justice Department officials of improperly using information from the “Steele dossier” — which originated as an opposition research document during the 2016 campaign — to obtain surveillance warrants on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
Several Republicans and Trump have pointed to the memo as proof the Justice Department’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election is biased against the president. Trump tweeted Saturday morning that the document “totally vindicates” him.
However, Democrats and intelligence leaders have bashed the memo as a partisan effort to delegitimize investigations into Russian election meddling.
Asher, Bakos and Otis wrote Wednesday that Nunes has undermined his own claims, such as when he admitted he had not read the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) application that is the subject of the memo and when he acknowledged later that the FBI actually did tell the courts of the “political origins” of the dossier.
“The memo itself would not pass a college writing class because it does not support its main thesis,” the ex-CIA officials wrote.
“Nunes recently acknowledged on ‘Fox & Friends’ that the FBI did indeed disclose the political origins of the Steele dossier, but he expressed his dissatisfaction that it was in the form of a footnote,” they added.
Democrats have pushed for the release of a memo of their own, which they assert will address claims within the Republican memo and fill in context about the FISA application.
Trump has until Friday to block the publication of the 10-page document, which is classified.