It’s always great to receive letters from readers who have real-world experience to share, even when it means my commentary has put me in the “hot seat.” In this case, my comments about ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes sparked a reply by someone with a background in law enforcement, specifically, obtaining search warrants.
I totally disagree with you and Nunes. There are existing laws that were blatantly broken by personnel in the FBI and the Justice Department. Why don't we enforce existing laws instead of creating new laws that obviously will not be enforced?
I am a retired law enforcement officer who was involved with the creation of numerous search warrants. If I did not disclose all the information that would be relevant to the search warrant, and the information had to be properly vetted, once the judge and my department learned of my deception, I would be terminated and charged with violating someone’s constitutional rights. Nunes, why are these people not in prison? I would be!
From the Gov:
Thanks for writing, David. I get the sense from your letter that we actually do agree on quite a lot, and that Nunes would, too. Certainly he shares our belief that some people should be in prison who are not, but he as a member of Congress can’t put them there.
We agree that there are existing laws that have been broken, and that existing laws should have been enforced, as they would have been in the hypothetical scenario involving you. But they haven’t been in this case, at least so far, so what to do? Would you agree with Nunes and me that we have, in practice, a two-tier justice system, and that a chronic lack of transparency has contributed to this over many years? As long as we have this situation,, laws will continue to go unenforced or selectively enforced. So that’s where the reform needs to be.
Of course, Nunes is a legislator, so I’m reminded of the old adage that “to a carpenter, every problem looks like a nail.” Writing new laws that won’t be enforced isn’t going to do any good. But re-writing existing laws and policies to make it harder to enforce the law inconsistently, well, that makes some sense.
Nunes’ list of names is one way to make the investigation and the law apply to all, not just Republicans. Mueller’s probe and, now, the myriad House investigations are obviously so politically motivated that they won’t even look at what “Team Hillary” did that was clearly illegal. Nunes is right to turn the “interview” list over to Lindsay Graham, who has subpoena power in the Senate and will use it. This is how you use the existing system to enforce existing law.
But it appears that existing law, as currently written, needs to be examined, mostly from the standpoint of transparency. The FISA court seems to operate as a sort of “star chamber”; even now, to my knowledge, not one of the FISA judges has spoken about what happened in the case of Carter Page. We have serious problems with oversight, of the FISA court and also of the special counsel, as it was possible for someone with unbelievable conflicts of interest (Rod Rosenstein) to supervise Mueller for virtually the entire investigation, and any suggestion of placing limits on the special counsel was attacked as “obstruction.” And the rules about unmasking were easily skirted by the Obama DOJ; we need to look at how our principle of protecting the privacy of Americans can be better codified into enforceable law.
This kind of reform is not going to pass in the Democratic House, which won't even touch it. In the meantime, in the name of transparency, Nunes has called for complete declassification of everything related to the Trump/Russia probe. I agree that sunlight is the best disinfectant. Except for protecting information that would damage an innocent person caught up in this mess, I say “go for it,” and let the chips fall.