There are plenty of reasons the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, should be removed from his position.
Schiff’s repeated claims of conclusive evidence against President Trump amounted to a perverse striptease with Schiff pretending to hide secret bits we now know he didn’t have.
Such an abuse of classified privilege should be enough to disqualify him from any position of public trust.
But there’s another even more basic reason Nancy Pelosi must remove Schiff from the committee for the good of the country. It’s this:
Adam Schiff doesn’t understand what his job is.
He acts like the Intelligence Committee is a personal spy agency he can use to squeeze witnesses and draw conclusions as he sees fit.
Unfortunately for Schiff, that’s not what the committee is supposed to do.
The House and Senate intelligence committees were created for the express purpose of providing oversight of intelligence agencies, including the FBI, CIA and NSA. Besides ensuring the agencies are doing what they’re supposed to, the intelligence committees are to make sure the agencies are not doing things they shouldn’t be doing.
The Congressional Research Service tells us “media reporting about potentially illegal domestic surveillance by the Intelligence Community of the anti-Vietnam War movement prompted Congress to establish two select committees on intelligence,” in the Senate and House.
Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government tells us the origin of the committee Schiff now chairs:
“These congressional organizations emerged in the late 1970s, when the Church and Pike Committees investigated the CIA and other intelligence agencies in response to the Watergate scandal. Both committees found evidence of spying on American citizens, illegal wiretapping, and cover-ups. As a result, Senate Resolution 400 in 1976 and House Resolution 658 in 1977 established the intelligence committees to prevent future abuses of power and maintain ongoing and regular oversight of the IC [Intelligence Community].”
To be clear, the resolution establishing the Senate Intelligence Committee explicitly states the panel is “to provide vigilant legislative oversight over the intelligence activities of the United States to assure that such activities are in conformity with the Constitution and the laws of the United States.” [emphasis added]
Let’s go back to the beginning. The committee chaired by Sen. Frank Church, D-Idaho, which led to today’s oversight committees, uncovered abuses by intelligence agencies that sound chillingly familiar today.
It found intel agencies used “counterintelligence” as a pretext to begin wide-ranging surveillance of Americans citizens. Operatives would claim “they were looking for foreign involvement … but that’s not how it ended up,” as investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reported at the time.
The FBI’s campaign to “neutralize” Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s – with wiretaps, death threats and attempted blackmail – is well documented. But that was neither the beginning nor the end of our government’s use of clandestine services to influence domestic politics.
For decades, presidents used the FBI for political intelligence and opposition research.
FDR had the FBI keep files on everyone who sent the White House telegrams (Instant Messaging of the day) opposing his war policy.
President Kennedy and brother Bobby, the U.S. attorney general, wiretapped congressional staffers, lobbyists and journalists, and most famously, Martin Luther King Jr.
Lyndon Johnson used the FBI to check into the campaign staffers of his 1964 opponent, Sen. Barry Goldwater, as well as various journalists including TV news anchor David Brinkley and AP war correspondent Peter Arnett. Johnson also had the FBI compare the official “Communist Party line” with statements from senators opposing the Vietnam War so he could better accuse them of being commies – reminiscent of what Adam Schiff, Max Boot and fellow travelers did to anyone questioning the Russia hoax.
By the 1970s, the NSA had files on 70,000 Americans including Muhammad Ali, actress Joanne Woodward, humorist Art Buchwald and various senators as well as civil rights and anti-war activists.
The FBI and CIA also regularly planted stories in American news media to shape public policy and domestic politics. The Church committee found “The FBI attempted to influence public opinion by supplying information or articles to ‘confidential sources’ in the news media” including “derogatory information … intended to generally discredit the activities or ideas of targeted groups or individuals.” Steele dossier, anyone?
When the Church committee reports, “The FBI has also used intelligence as a vehicle for covert efforts to influence social policy and political action,” it sounds disturbingly similar to former FBI Director James Comey’s admission he leaked a classified memo “because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.”
And when Church reports, “The FBI saw itself as the guardian of the public order, and believed that it had a responsibility to counter threats to that order, using any means available,” we’re reminded of Peter Strozk’s “insurance policy.”
The Church committee found the FBI “directly intervened in the people’s choice of leadership both through the electoral process and in other, less formal arenas,” including the use of informants to disrupt campaigns.
The parallels between the Russia hoax and the bad old days when presidents used intelligence resources against enemies are too disturbing to ignore.
The House Intelligence Committee was established in the wake of the Watergate scandal when the Nixon administration was accused of using intelligence assets to target his political opponents.
Now the Obama administration and its allies are accused of using intelligence assets including wiretaps and informants to target its political opponent – candidate, President-elect and President of the United States Donald J. Trump.
This is precisely the kind of allegation the Intelligence Committee is supposed to investigate.
Those who created the intelligence committees wrote: “When a governmental agency clandestinely tries to impose its views of what is right upon the American people, then the democratic process is undermined.”
Adam Schiff either doesn’t understand his job, or doesn’t care. Either way, he cannot dispense his duties as chairman.
For the good of the country, we must get to the bottom of credible reports of abuse of power surrounding the Russia hoax.
“Lawlessness by Government breeds corrosive cynicism among the people and erodes the trust upon which government depends.”
Those words were true when the Church Committee wrote them in 1976, and they are just as true today.