The #ReleaseTheMemo campaign is an extraordinary tactic based on a legitimate fear. Which is why this left-liberal reporter supports (with one condition) the campaign of pro-Trump Republicans to make public a House Intelligence Committee report on the surveillance of Trump officials.
No, I’m not a Russian bot. I certainly don’t support the goal of #ReleaseTheMemo, which is to demonize the FBI and special prosecutor Robert Mueller and pave the way for President Trump’s all-but-inevitable attempt to fire Mueller. I’m glad to read the reports that Mueller's investigation is reaching into the Cabinet and the Oval Office.
I believe Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., when he says the memo is "rife with factual inaccuracies" and makes reference to “highly classified materials that most Republican Intelligence Committee members were forced to acknowledge they had never read” and is “meant only to give Republican House members a distorted view of the FBI.”
But there's no reason to object to the publication of what amounts to a Republican Party press release, even if it is filled with selectively declassified factoids intended to smear U.S. law enforcement. The posturing of the “Blue Lives Matter” crowd charging that the FBI is a cockpit of Clintonian liberalism is worth exposing. (The authors of the memo will not even let the FBI respond to its allegations.)
Release the memo, and we’ll see just how ludicrous it is.
Veil of secrecy
The only reason #ReleaseTheMemo has a shred of credibility is because of the extraordinary—and unnecessary—shroud of secrecy that surrounds the investigation of the president.
Conservative Byron York says the memo will not be made public for at least a week.
I'm told number of House members who have read secret Intel Committee 'FISA abuse' memo is now around 200. Leaders planning public release, timeframe 1-2 weeks.
— Byron York (@ByronYork) January 23, 2018
We'll see if this really happens. But release of the memo without the underlying substantiation is worthless: it'll just be a pile of unverifiable Devin Nunes assertions. It only has value if the claimed evidence to substantiate those assertions can be publicly reviewed: https://t.co/XvlloEGWlG — Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) January 23, 2018
The public needs to see the evidence and Greenwald notes "four easy ways" the Republicans could make it public. Schiff told the Washington Post that he offered a motion to delay release of the memo until all members had read the underlying top-secret documentation. The Republicans refused, a strong indicator that their case cannot withstand scrutiny.
Only secrecy gives the fraudsters of the #ReleaseTheMemo campaign credibility.
The National Security Agency and the FBI are loath to expose and explain to the American people how the system of mass surveillance actually functions. They say they cannot publicly explain and defend the process by which NSA surveillance operations captured the phone conversations and emails of certain Americans and turned them over to law enforcement and the White House via the FISA secret court system. They say this surveillance process—no matter how great its implications for American democracy—must remain hidden from the American people.
And so demagogues use official secrecy to distort democratic debate. Defenders of the FBI and NSA say the confidentiality of the ongoing investigation should be respected, while Trump supporters spin conspiracy theories about the Deep State.
You don’t have to be a Trump supporter (I’m not) or an agent of Putin (contrary to what the Weekly Standard says, I’m not) to worry about a secret investigation of a democratically elected president by secret agencies and secret judges. To say the powerful U.S. mass surveillance apparatus could be dangerous in the wrong hands is more true than ever.
The House Republicans charge (so far without evidence) that the Obama White House abused the FISA process. How do we know Donald Trump and CIA director Mike ("Vicious") Pompeo won't misuse the mass surveillance spying apparatus for political ends? We don't. Transparency is essential to curbing the potential abuse of presidential power.
Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and #ReleaseTheMemo is the kind of mold that grows in the darkness of secrecy. Release the memo and all of the underlying documentation. It will disinfect American politics.