Nunes’s Announcement: Another Take

I wrote earlier today about House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes’s statement that one or more intelligence agencies “incidentally” collected communications of members of President Trump’s campaign during the Fall of 2016. A reader writes to offer another perspective:

I think you need to be a bit more nuanced. I think Nunes is leaving the door open for something like this:

The communications were intercepted in the normal course of NSA business–simply because NSA collects essentially EVERYTHING.

The collection of the communications of the Trump team was technically “incidental,” in the sense that they were not specifically targeted–they were simply scooped up with everything else.

However …

It appears that searches were made of the gathered information–thanks to Obama’s radical opening up of access–that cleverly and deliberately accessed information pertaining to the Trump team. These searches were NOT incidental and were designed to facilitate the later criminal “unmasking” which you correctly point out. But the searches themselves, because they almost certainly transgressed government rules that restrict use of this information for “official business,” was also at least a violation of work regs but also possibly criminal law. Nunes is quite specific in stating that the access to this collected information does not appear to pertain to any known investigation. Obama’s loosening of the restrictions on access to this information facilitated all of this, but I doubt that he said this access to government information (NSA’s collection is government property) could now be used for private political spying purposes and dirty tricks.

That is speculation, obviously, but who knows? It might turn out to be true. Someday, perhaps, we will know the facts about the role the Obama administration played in the 2016 campaign.