Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), and ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) speak to the media about Committee's investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, at the U.S. Capitol on March 15, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

After GOP Votes to #ReleaseTheMemo, ACLU Says Dems Have 'Duty' to Make FISA Intel Public

Civil libertarians argue Republicans are "cherry-picking" to help Trump by voting to release only secret memo and not underlying intelligence

Jake Johnson

For what critics are denouncing as blatantly partisan reasons that have nothing to do with concerns about mass surveillance and everything to do with protecting President Donald Trump from an active investigation, House Republicans voted on Monday to release a secret memo that purports to show the FBI abused its power in spying on a Trump campaign adviser while blocking a Democratic report which explains how the GOP memo was "cherry-picked" from underlying intelligence material.

"The Nunes memo on FISA surveillance of a Trump adviser should be made public—but the Schiff report must be made public at the same time. Trump's supporters can't be allowed to cherry-pick their way to undermining the Mueller investigation."
—ACLU

Though Democrats have come under fire from journalists and privacy advocates for their "supine" faith in the benevolence of the FBI—an institution that has a long history of appalling criminality, sanctioned by both parties—the ACLU wrote in a series of tweets after Monday's vote that Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and others in his party are correct to be skeptical of GOP motives, especially given their refusal to release the intelligence underlying the four-page memo.

If the memo, drafted by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), is ultimately released, Democrats have a "duty" to "read the Schiff report and all other underlying documents on the House floor," the ACLU argued.

According to the narrative peddled by the GOP and its partners in right-wing media, the memo the House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines to release Monday night demonstrates that the Justice Department and the FBI conducted unlawful surveillance of Trump's presidential campaign, which they claim discredits the FBI's Russia investigation.

"The House Intelligence Committee, and the entire congressional oversight apparatus, needs systematic reform."
—Demand Progress

But civil libertarians have consistently argued that Nunes cannot be trusted and that the fight over the memo's release has been more about partisan political maneuvering than transparency for the good of the public.

The fact that Republicans and Democrats "came together to push into law the privacy-destroying FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act just a few weeks back" demonstrates that the struggle over the Republican memo "is about who has power, not protecting the American people against the inappropriate exercise of that power," the advocacy group Demand Progress said in a statement on Monday.

"Rep. Nunes is hell-bent on protecting President Trump at all costs, and Rep. Schiff's supine deference to the intelligence agencies undermines Congress's role as a check on the executive branch," added Demand Progress policy director Daniel Schuman. "The House Intelligence Committee, and the entire congressional oversight apparatus, needs systematic reform."

As Glenn Greenwald and Jon Schwartz argued in a piece for The Intercept earlier this month, Republicans and Trump could easily defeat these allegations of partisan opportunism by either using their constitutional abilities to make public the intelligence behind the memo or leaking the information to the press.

If they fail to do so, Greenwald and Schwartz concluded, they will prove themselves to be "shameless frauds."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

'A Very Serious Threat': CDC Document Warns Delta Variant Is as Contagious as Chickenpox

"People need to understand that we're not crying wolf here," said the CDC director. "It's one of the most transmissible viruses we know about."

Jake Johnson ·


As Biden Refuses to Act, Dems Make Last-Minute Push to Extend Eviction Moratorium

"If the administration won't act to extend the national eviction moratorium that expires on Saturday, we must," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal.

Jake Johnson ·


Poll: Overwhelming Majority of US Voters Want Robust Regulation of Tech Companies

"When it comes to Big Tech's monopoly power and surveillance business model, the public is unified: They want action. They want to see the Big Tech companies broken up and users' privacy protected."

Brett Wilkins ·


228 Republicans Blasted for Brief Urging Supreme Court to Overturn Roe v. Wade

"Every single politician who signed this amicus brief is actively working to strip away our fundamental freedoms and endanger pregnant people and families across the country."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Historic Victory': Bayer to End US Residential Sales of Glyphosate-Based Herbicides

"As agricultural, large-scale use of this toxic pesticide continues, our farmworkers remain at risk. It's time for EPA to act and ban glyphosate for all uses."

Kenny Stancil ·