Silent Dems ignore criminal leaking of US citizen’s conversation
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Every day millions of U.S. citizens make calls overseas to friends, family members, business partners and others.  They do so with the confidence that their conversations are private — or so they think.

One U.S. citizen — his name is irrelevant at this point — engaged in a conversation with the Russian ambassador to the United States late last year.  The intelligence community allegedly stumbled upon this U.S. citizen’s communication as part of legitimate surveillance of a foreign citizen — the Russian ambassador.  

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But when intelligence officials incidentally come across the conversation of a U.S. citizen, they are given very specific instructions in 50 U.S.C. §1801 and its accompanying procedures: “minimize the acquisition and retention, and prohibit the dissemination” of the U.S. citizen’s conversation unless (1) it is “necessary to understand foreign intelligence” or (2) there is “evidence of a crime.”

 

In the case to which I refer, the U.S. citizen’s part in the conversation was not “minimized.”  In fact, far from it.  The citizen’s conversation was acquired, retained, and disseminated — not only around the U.S. government — but also to reporters at the Washington Post, who on Feb. 9, 2017, wrote: “Nine current and former officials, who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.”

The “intelligence matters” discussed were the private conversations of a U.S. citizen — then-incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.  It is a felony, carrying a penalty of up to ten year’s imprisonment — not to mention a grave violation of Flynn’s constitutional rights — to disclose classified information to the news media.

To be clear, not one, not two, but nine current or former government officials discussed a private citizen’s communications with the media with no repercussions for their felonious activity.      

Multiple questions persist: What foreign intelligence or criminal basis merited the acquisition, retention and dissemination of Mike Flynn’s identity in the transcript of his conversation with the Russian ambassador?  Who were the nine officials who purportedly committed a felony in sharing the contents of his conversation with the Washington Post?

And perhaps the biggest outstanding political question of all: Why don’t the Democrats seem to care?

During Monday’s congressional hearing with FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers, Republicans displayed an appropriate level of outrage at the criminal leaking of a U.S. citizen’s conversation.  Democrats were noticeably silent.

Democrats used their time during the hearing before the House Intelligence Committee to present unsubstantiated conclusions that the Trump administration colluded with Russian officials who hacked the DNC.  But, ironically, while there is precisely zero evidence of Trump collusion, there is ample, far-reaching evidence of felony leaking of Mike Flynn’s conversation.  

Democrats were nevertheless silent on the matter.  Why?  The answer is obvious.  Flynn had an (R) for “Republican” behind his name rather than a (D) for “Democrat.”  Flynn was a member of the Trump administration, and thus, in the mind of Democrats, his constitutional rights were less worthy of protection.

The lack of concern about the violation of Flynn’s rights is indeed a sad indictment of Democratic partisanship.  But Democrats should care deeply about this violation of rights despite Flynn’s ideological associations, and they should care for the reasons cited today by Rep. Trey GowdyTrey GowdyCongressional investigations — not just special counsels — strengthen our democracy These 5 House Republicans are ripping their Senate colleagues over healthcare House Intelligence Republican: Claims Gowdy acted as second lawyer for Kushner 'horses---t' MORE.

After grilling the FBI Director on the felonious disclosure of Flynn’s conversation, Congressman Gowdy lamented, “We the American people give certain powers to government to keep us safe, and when those powers are misused and the motive is not criminal investigation or national security, then I’ll bet you my fellow American citizens are rethinking their side of the equation. Because that U.S. citizen could be them next time.  It could be you.  It could be me.  It could be anyone.”

A violation of Mike Flynn’s constitutional rights is a violation of all of our rights, and the criminal leaking of Flynn’s conversation should collectively violate the American conscience.  

Kayleigh McEnany is a CNN political commentator who recently received her Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. She graduated from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service and also studied politics at Oxford University. Follow her on Twitter: @kayleighmcenany.


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