Today the long-awaited FISA memo detailing how federal surveillance powers were abused to eavesdrop on a Trump campaign official is expected to be released today. The memo allegedly shows how federal authorities used Hillary Clinton campaign “opposition” research — which was largely a collection of “salacious and unverified” gossip, to borrow James Comey’s description — to justify snooping on a Trump campaign aide. Communications from that surveillance were later leaked to the press in an apparent effort to undermine the incoming Trump Administration.
Despite the press usually pining for greater transparency, many reporters actively sought to suppress this document. Republicans who indicated the contents were damaging to FBI investigators were derided as kooks and conspiracy theorists. Others adamantly insisted that bringing sunlight to misconduct within the FBI was akin to waging "war" on the institution itself, and would only serve to undermine America’s national security, possibly resulting in people dying.
Here are five of the most bizarre arguments the major media's deployed in arguing against greater FISA transparency:
6) Only "Conspiracy Theorists" Worry About the FBI Misusing FISA
This particular talking point has become ubiquitous across the major media. MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, for example, said, "This is just the latest in a long line of twisted realities that they are molding into a conspiracy theory that they are using to desperately try to save Donald Trump."
Commentary's Noah Rothman said, "Advocates for good, limited governance only have so many credible advocates on their side, and they have sacrificed so much of that credibility chasing conspiracy theories -- from voter fraud, to the size of the inauguration, the Seth Rich assassination attempt, supposedly, and now issues like unmasking and FISA abuse."
And that's just a small sampling. A search of Grabien's NewsBase shows that, in all, the words "conspiracy" and "memo" have been used together 385 times since January 1st on the major news broadcasts.
5) Declassifying the Memo Makes You an Enemy of America.
NBC reporter John Heilemann has recently taken to describing proponents of greater FISA transparency as anti-American conspirators. Earlier this week he floated a theory that Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) might actually be a Russian agent.
“Is it possible that the Republican chairman of the House Intel Committee has been compromised by the Russians?” Heilemann asked during an appearance on Morning Joe. “Is it possible that we actually have a Russian agent running the House Intel Committee on the Republican side?”
He later indicated his theory might have merit as no one immediately called him crazy for suggesting Nunes is working with the Russians.
Heilemann also directed this criticism as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), whom has expressed support for releasing the FISA memo.
"I’ve said this now multiple times this week and I’ll say it again; it has clarified the extent to which Paul Ryan is now no longer on team USA or on even team old Republican Party," Heilemann said. [Video] "He is on Team Nunes, which means he’s on Team Trump, which means to some extent they’re all — they’re advancing in some sense the interests of Russia. This is — this is what Russia wants here."
4) Releasing the Memo Will Get People Killed
A number of news programs have invited on national security talking heads and asked (leading) questions about what the worst possible outcome of releasing the memo might be. Unsurprisingly, they've eventually received the hyperbolic response they sought. On MSNBC, former federal attorney and current university law professor, Barbara McQuade, has said declassifying the memo "could get someone killed."
NICOLLE WALLACE: “So, would you put the stakes, Barbara, at life and death stakes for the F.B.I. in terms of the importance of protecting the integrity and respect for the nation’s top cops?”
McQUADE: “It could be. I guess we don’t know exactly what’s in that memo. But they said it would be extraordinarily reckless to release it. The things that the F.B.I. cares about most in these situations is protecting either sources or methods. Sources means, you know, a person who provided that information. So, if it gets disclosed, the whole world will see, as Chief of Staff Kelly said, the whole world gets to see this. And so a source’s identity may be revealed. Only this person knew this information and now here it is. So, that could get someone killed.
3) Only Russian Bots Care About FISA Transparency
Having failed to convince the House Select Committee on Intelligence to keep the FISA memo out of the hands of the American public, the committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff, began arguing that the #ReleaseTheMemo hashtag was being popularized by Russian bots, and as such, going ahead and de-classifying the memo would only serve the interests of these bots.
That talking point was quickly picked up in the media. NBC national security analyst, Jeremy Bash, said calls to release the so-called FISA memo are being "fueled by the Russian federation" and should therefore be resisted. Bloomberg reporter Heidi Przybyla said Republicans seeking to declassify an abuse of the FISA process are "actually using Russian disinformation techniques."
“I’ve actually spoken with some Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee who are livid about this and they say, ‘You know what? This is even worse than just allowing the Russian bots to have their way; this is actively co-opting the tactics of Russian disinformation which is selective, distorted leaks in terms of this memo, in terms of the text messages from Peter Strzok and his paramour being selectively leaked,’" Przybyla said.
2) Publishing the Memo Spells Eternal Damnation
Somehow Satan has even creeped into the conversation. Axios's Jim VandeHei said Republicans who are siding with Trump on targeting alleged FBI misconduct have "made a deal with the devil and they feel good about it."
"If this gets to the point of an indictment, if it gets down to impeachment, he’s got his backstop. Unless Democrats win the House, Republicans are with him," he added. "What Nunes did is unprecedented. Never in the history of this committee, has this committee voted to declassify classified material. Never. The reason is it usually takes years to do that.”
NBC's Joe Scarborough said Republicans pushing for FISA transparency are on a "road to Hell."
"Anybody who has been around Washington long enough has seen this before," the Morning Joe host continued. "They know how this ends, it ends in disgrace for Donald Trump. And why all of these Republicans that heretofore had good reputations would allow themselves to be compromised is beyond me. Paul Ryan doesn’t believe it. Kevin McCarthy doesn’t believe it. None of these people believe the lies that Donald Trump is peddling. So I do, I wonder Mika, like you said, what’s worth it?”
1) Seeking Greater FISA Accountability Is Really a Modern-Day McCarthyism
One of the most recent talking points the media are deploying against releasing the FISA memo is that doing so would play right into the hands of the late Senator Joseph McCarthy, who infamously claimed to have a list of communists working within the federal government. Time Magazine editor Jon Meacham said that Paul Ryan, in working alongside the "hijacker" President Trump is aligning himself with McCarthyism.
"It seems to me that something happened in 2016 when Trump was, you know, we joked about this before, it was the first recorded case of a hijacker boarding an airplane and the passengers sided with the hijacker," Meacham said. [Video] "That continues to be the dynamic. I’m particularly disappointed with Speaker Ryan. You wouldn’t have thought that the Wisconsin figure he would have something in common with would be Joe McCarthy, but right now it’s an open question.”
MSNBC's Steve Schmidt called the FISA release "latter day McCarthyism."
"There’s zero evidence that any of these FBI agents who have had their private text messages compromise, there’s zero evidence they misused their badge, their office, their credentials to abuse the president, his family or any of the president’s supporters," Schmidt claimed. "Again, this is smear campaign directed at these twos agents absent any evidence. This is latter day McCarthyism. And it is entirely about what it seems to be about, which is trying to blow smoke around this investigation to obstruct the American people from finding out what went on here at all costs."