Democratic Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden over the course of just 16 days in September. Nike

Columnist: Conservatives Should Support Two Democrats’ Efforts To Find Out How Much The CIA Has Been Spying On Americans

In the days before he took office, Donald Trump ignited one of his many feuds as president by criticizing the U.S. intelligence community.

At the time, in January 2017, the Steele dossier was in the news. We now know that it was thoroughly concocted and a product of Hillary Clinton’s efforts to undermine and discredit Trump.

“Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public,” Trump said of the dossier, whose claims were totally debunked. “One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?”

Intel officials went ballistic. John Brennan, the CIA’s then-director, who has been linked to the effort to target Trump, told Fox News, “What I do find outrageous is equating an intelligence community with Nazi Germany.”

But as has happened so often, Trump was not wrong, just early.

Last week, Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico released a letter noting that the CIA conducted its own “secret bulk collection program” of Americans’ information, one that was done solely by the agency under an executive order signed by President Ronald Reagan “rather than the laws passed by Congress.”

In the letter, which was heavily redacted, the senators noted that Congress has signaled its clear intent, “expressed over years and through multiple pieces of legislation, to limit and, in some cases, prohibit the warrantless collection of Americans’ records,” which the American people have broadly supported.

“And yet, … the CIA has secretly conducted its own bulk program. It has done so entirely outside the statutory framework that Congress and the public believe govern this collection and without any of the judicial, congressional or even executive branch oversight that comes with FISA collection.”

“This basic fact has been kept from the public and from Congress,” the senators added.

FISA refers to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows warrantless searches of foreign entities and governments, so long as the intel gathering targets foreigners.

Wyden and Heinrich called for the CIA to release details of how the program works, its size and scope, and what it has uncovered.

“This declassification is urgent,” they added. Doing so “will demonstrate the Administration’s commitment to transparency at a time when trust in government and the IC [Intelligence Community] have never been more important.”

David McGarry, a columnist for the American Conservative, noted in a piece on Thursday that this is one Democratic cause conservatives should get behind.

“Washington surely has the duty to provide for the common defense, but must do so in a manner which preserves the institutions and norms which are foundational to America’s political system. Therefore, those of even the most hawkish persuasion should work for an intelligence apparatus which is consistent with the U.S. Constitution, the rule of law, separation of powers, and principles of democratic accountability,” he wrote.

McGarry said conservatives need look no further than the IC’s treatment of Trump and his allies, and its work in crafting the “compete hogwash” of the Russia-collusion hoax.

“If you allow government to exercise arbitrary, unsupervised power, it will inevitably wield it against you or your allies at some point down the road,” McGarry wrote.

“The truth is that we do not currently know the scope of the CIA’s misconduct. But that’s the point: Further investigation is imperative. Conservatives may not agree with lefties and libertarians on the proper extent of government intelligence gathering, but should be no less vocal in urging the CIA to come clean. It is a matter of rule of law and responsible governance—bedrock conservative principles.”

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