I’m sort of reluctant to make this post because I’ve discovered a lot of self-described conservatives actually believe that the government spying on US citizens for no other reason than it can is perfectly fine. If you’re one of those, no reason for you to read any further. Simply dismiss it and move on.

There is a very significant report over at Fox by Adam Housley (who is a very solid reporter) and Malia Zimmerman (who I couldn’t pick out of a two person line up). But this is the set up.

Former Obama administration officials have boasted about how they spread information they had gathered on Trump and his associates across the intelligence community for the self-professed high minded purpose of preserving it from destruction by the Trump administration. If you aren’t laughing by now you have no sense of the ridiculous. In the article the sources frame their “dissemination” in a way that isn’t overtly illegal, though definitely improper. But we have a lot of reason to doubt that they were candid.

The U.S. intelligence official who “unmasked,” or exposed, the names of multiple private citizens affiliated with the Trump team is someone “very well known, very high up, very senior in the intelligence world,” a source told Fox News on Friday.

Intelligence and House sources with direct knowledge of the disclosure of classified names told Fox News that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., now knows who is responsible — and that person is not in the FBI.

Let me give you Adam Housley’s tweets for the top line of the article:

It seems like John Brennan is being fingered as the source. This, in fact, fits in very well with what we know. Brennan developed the well-leaked paper that said Russia wanted Trump to win. When Comey initially refused to sign on, Brennan seemed to strong arm him back into line. Brennan has been the public face of the Russia allegations. Brennan has been very coy and lawyerly in his denials of being a source of leaks. Brennan is a noxious douche who should be imprisoned for felonious mopery with the intent to loiter or just out of general principles.

Now to the article.

Key point #1.

Nunes has known about the unmasking controversy since January, when two sources in the intelligence community approached him. The sources told Nunes who was responsible and at least one of the Trump team names that was unmasked. They also gave him serial numbers of reports that documented the activity.

This was long before Trump sent out his now-infamous March 4 tweets claiming then-President Barack Obama “wiretapped” Trump Tower during the 2016 election.

Nunes had asked intelligence agencies to see the reports in question, but was stonewalled.

Key point #2.

He eventually was able to view them, but there was only one safe place to see the documents without compromising the sources’ identities — the old executive office building on White House grounds, which has a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) required to view classified or top secret reports. The White House did not tell Nunes about the existence of the intelligence reports, but did help him gain access to the documents at his request, the source said.

This, if true, torpedoes the “White House was behind it” narrative that a lot of people are trying to push. It also calls into question the entire story by the New York Times yesterday that claimed to out the leakers of the information. If this is correct, then the chain of events is

  • Leaker gives Nunes list of document serial numbers.
  • Nunes asks White House — probably one of the two lawyers fingered by the NYT as leakers — for help retrieving the documents because of agency stonewalling.
  • NSC intel guy retrieves the documents and passes them to White House counsel for clearance. This part alone makes this sequence believable to me. The NSC intel chief is on thin ice with McMaster, the odds of him defying McMaster by collaborating with Nunes on his own as a “leaker” seemed to me to approach zero.
  • Nunes visits White House SCIF and views documents that have been retrieved.

Of course, if you are predisposed to believe Nunes is a Trump tool and Trump is a Putin puppet, you will dismiss this possibility.

Key point #3.

The communications collected from Trump team associates apparently were picked up during surveillance of foreign targets. But an intelligence source familiar with those targets said they were spied on long before Trump became the GOP presidential nominee in mid-July.

In addition, citizens affiliated with Trump’s team who were unmasked were not associated with any intelligence about Russia or other foreign intelligence, sources confirmed. The initial unmasking led to other surveillance, which led to other private citizens being wrongly unmasked, sources said.

The technical term for what you have had described to you here is a “felony.” If this is correct, US persons were targeted for surveillance (for heaven’s sake, the next time I hear a person talk about a “wire tap” I think I will just hurl) by one or more US intelligence agencies or by FBI counterintelligence for reasons not associated with intelligence gathering.

Key point #4.

 

The minority members on the House Intelligence Committee were expected to visit a National Security Agency facility on Friday to view the same reports Nunes has seen, an intelligence source told Fox News.

Now is the point where Jeff Sessions should appoint a special prosecutor. If the main points of this report are correct, an example must be made of those who ordered the surveillance and the dissemination of the information outside normal distribution channels. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t drop in this bit of stray voltage by veteran journalist Bob Costa: