March 24, 2017

A PLUPERFECT ILLUSTRATION OF WHY THE CLASSIFICATION SYSTEM IS ASININE:

HOW A REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN ACCIDENTALLY DISCLOSED A SECRET INTELLIGENCE DEBATE (Ryan Lizza, 3/24/17, The New Yorker)

It started when Nunes asked, "Do Russians historically prefer Republicans to win over Democrats?" Nunes ticked through some recent elections and inquired whether the Russians supported John McCain over Obama, in 2008, or Mitt Romney over Obama, in 2012. Comey said that he didn't know the answer.

"I'm just asking a general question," Nunes said. "Wouldn't it be a little preposterous to say that, historically, going back to Ronald Reagan and all that we know about maybe who the Russians would prefer, that somehow the Russians prefer Republicans over Democrats?"

Watching the hearing, this seemed like a curious line of questioning. Because members of the House Intelligence Committee often know a great deal more than they can say publicly, they sometimes use their questioning to hint at what they have learned in classified settings. Nunes's questions seemed to suggest some broader debate, as Comey confirmed when he shut down the exchange.

"I'm not going to discuss in an unclassified forum," he said. "In the classified segment of the reporting version that we did, there is some analysis that discusses this because, remember, this did come up in our assessment on the Russian piece."

Nunes thanked him and turned to Representative Peter King, of New York. King was less circumspect than Nunes had been. "I would just say on that because, again, we're not going into the classified sections, that indicating that historically Russians have supported Republicans, and I know that language is there, to me puts somewhat of a cloud over the entire report," King said.

I didn't notice it at the time, though I was in the room, and the C-SPAN video of the hearing doesn't capture it, but Democrats told me that there was, at this point, a minor commotion on the dais. King had just revealed that the classified version of the report had concluded "that historically Russians have supported Republicans."

Two Democrats, confirming what King said, told me that there was a significant fight over this judgment during a recent classified briefing. "I was really taken aback that it came up in the hearing," one Democratic congressman on the committee told me. "I might just observe to you, if there was such a conclusion, you can bet that the Republicans would have pushed back very, very hard about such a conclusion. And I don't want to say more than that."

Sometimes it's difficult for someone privy to classified information to keep straight what is classified and what is not, especially when a classified judgment seems relatively innocuous. I asked King about the exchange, and his answer suggested that he was confused about the classification.

Do we really need to keep who they prefer secret from the Russians?  Aren't they likely to know?

Posted by at March 24, 2017 3:42 PM

  

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