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The Nunes Memo And The Regressive Progressive Rhetoric It Spawned

With Dennis J. Bernstein
When the FBI applied to the rubber-stamp FISA court for a warrant to surveil Trump associate Carter Page they were more than a little economical with the truth. Basing their warrant request, in part, on information contained in the now-infamous Fusion GPS dossier, they omitted to mention that the intel had been bought and paid for by the Clinton Campaign. The FBI did add a small footnote noting that info culled from the dossier came from a source that “may be political” but it was a cover-your-ass note that failed to provide anything approaching the whole truth.
The lies-by-omission continued when Devin Nunes in his headline-grabbing memo made much of the Clinton funding, but failed to mention that the Fusion GPS research had originally been instigated by The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative publication which is funded by one of the GOPs largest donors, Paul “The Vulture” Singer. This single omitted fact negates much of the political point-scoring that is the memo. However, the memo isn’t without merit, since it does highlight the problems created by a secret FISA court system that lacks oversight and approves over 99% of requests made regardless of how dishonestly they are drafted by the agencies that make up our surveillance state.
To be clear: the FISA warrant on Page may be justified by other non-Fusion GPS sourced evidence we haven’t seen. (So, let’s see it!) And it is ludicrous for Nunes and his GOP cohorts to claim that this FBI misconduct somehow discredits the entire investigation of Trump and gang. It’s also imperative that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation continue. But ”” and this is a BIG BUT progressives shouldn’t be so gung-ho to get Trump & Co. at any cost that they’re willing to throw our civil liberties under the bus, along with any expectation that our intelligence agencies should follow due process and abide by the laws of the land.
In this episode of Flashpoints, Dennis J Bernstein and Greg Palast discuss the issues raised by the Nunes memo and the regressive progressive reaction it spawned.
TRANSCRIPT (First broadcast on February 6, 2018)
Greg Palast: My fellow progressives, do you really hate Donald Trump so much that you are willing to throw your civil liberties into his bonfire? Here’s the problem: The Nunes memo, which the DNC wants to deride, did reveal a case of very disturbing FBI perjury. FBI agents lied to the FISA Court, the secretive court that Edward Snowden warned us about and which subjects US citizens to total surveillance. We can’t be applauding this, no matter what we feel about Trump. The evidence they used was a file of sludge called a field dossier and was paid for by Hillary Clinton. Nunes himself is concealing something even more important: It was originally created by the Republican billionaire Paul Singer, who I refer to as “The Vulture.” He creates these field dossiers on people he doesn’t like. Snowden exposed this court and how the FBI has been using it. We shouldn’t be encouraging any of this.
Dennis J. Bernstein: We know that the Clinton machine made many enemies during the campaign in terms of how they undermined the campaign of Bernie Sanders. There were a number of Sanders people who ended up working with Clinton and once they got inside realized that the party hadn’t given Sanders a chance. We still haven’t heard the content of the emails.
Palast: Your Congressperson, Jackie Speier, just accused Julian Assange and WikiLeaks of being Russian agents without a single shred of evidence! She assumes that files from the Democratic National Committee must unquestionably come from a Russian hacker. Julian Assange draws the more plausible conclusion that someone at the DNC who supported Bernie Sanders saw these memos in which they were conspiring to commit felony crimes to undermine the Sanders campaign and promote Hillary Clinton. But neither Putin nor WikiLeaks wrote the DNC memos. They were put out by the DNC leadership. It is a felony crime to use money meant for the party for a particular candidate. We cannot support these McCarthyite attacks. How dare WikiLeaks tell the truth about the Democratic Party? This FISA Court should be shut down immediately. And the FBI should stop using perjury to get warrants to surveil people. We can’t go along with that.
Bernstein: A lot of people in the corporate press seem to be going along with it. They are making money hand over fist with this story. They are hiring former high-level CIA and NSA people for commentary. We are seeing journalists celebrating people who participated in the overthrowing of governments and in very vicious military operations.
Palast: Another thing in the Nunes memo was that a guy named Peter Strzok was writing memos saying that his job was to protect the nation from Donald Trump. That might be a worthy cause, but you don’t use the power of the FBI to do it. When Comey reopened the investigation of Hillary Clinton, Congresswoman Speier basically complained that Comey was telling the truth. Comey said that Clinton, in using her own private email server instead of secure server, was “extremely careless.” Comey’s original phrase was “grossly negligent.” Gross negligence in the handling of classified information is a crime. It was Strzok who got Comey to change the language. I’m sorry, the FBI is not here to campaign for Hillary, nor is it here to protect us against Trump. We can’t have the FBI and the CIA acting as hit squads against a sitting president, no matter how odious he is. If we go along with that, our civil liberties are history.
Bernstein: Does the name Rose Mary Woods ring a bell? It seems that the FBI misplaced a few hundred crucial memos but we are being told that is irrelevant.
Palast: If you read the texting between Strzok and Lisa Page, you will see that the FBI failed to make public the fact that a letter “C” appeared on several of the emails in Clinton’s private server. “C” stands for classified. She claims that she was doing wedding announcements and her mother’s funeral preparations and things like that. So they were doing their best to protect Hillary Clinton. The idea that Comey was out to get Clinton is insane. The FBI doesn’t have a great record of protecting our civil liberties. Mueller and Comey were the guys who ran to what they thought was the deathbed of John Ashcroft to stop him from signing papers to allow torture at Guantanamo, so they are not the worst of the crop. But I don’t think we should take these Nunes revelations lightly.
Bernstein: It does seem that the liberals have become McCarthyites. If we need to bring back the Cold War, threaten nuclear war, whatever we have to do to make Russia the bogeyman because Hillary Clinton lost the election and we want to get rid of Donald Trump. This is walking a tightrope.
Palast: The Democrats keep pointing to this joint statement of our intelligence agencies which supposedly looked into collusion. They were there all together to tell us about how Russia was interfering in our elections. They claimed that RTTV is “messaging Russian interests” because they have run reports featuring the “anti-fracking movement” and the dangers of fracking to the environment and health. Here is why this is dangerous: It is basically saying that if you oppose fracking, you are serving Russian interests. The report also said that RTTV featured the Occupy Wall Street movement, which took the position that America is not a real democracy but is tainted by corporate interests and money. That is a “message of the Russian government.” I thought it was a Bernie Sanders message. But obviously he must be a Russian spy, too. This is dangerous stuff, and the Democratic Party has been leading the charge.

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Before turning to journalism as an investigative reporter for The Guardian and BBC Television, Greg Palast was an investigator of fraud and racketeering for governments and labor unions worldwide. Known as the reporter who exposed how Katherine Harris and Jeb Bush purged thousands of Black voters from Florida rolls to steal the 2000 election for George Bush, Palast has written four New York Times bestsellers, including Armed Madhouse, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, and The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, now a major non-fiction movie. The post-election update of the movie, subtitled The Case of the Stole Election, has just been released on Amazon and can be streamed for FREE by Prime members!
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Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is the author of The New York Times bestsellers, Armed Madhouse, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits and the book and documentary, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.
His latest film is Vigilante: Georgia's Vote Suppression Hitman

Palast is currently working on a new documentary Long Knife, exposing the Koch Brothers' theft of Osage oil, to be released in 2024.

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