Republicans Warn Reauthorization Of NSA Surveillance Tool Will Be Hard After Flynn Leaks
WASHINGTON — House Intelligence Committee Republicans told the intelligence community Monday that they may not want to reauthorize an intelligence gathering tool that may have snagged and ID’ed former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn during surveillance of Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
“I have every expectation that those we are going to get all the evidence that we need. Now if it wasn’t then, yeah we’d have a problem,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes told The Daily Caller when asked if members may not reauthorize the surveillance initiative if the intel community does not cooperate and provide names of any individual involved with the leak of Flynn’s name.
Florida Republican Rep. Tom Rooney, who chairs a subcommittee that oversees the National Security Agency, disclosed at the House Intelligence Committee hearing Monday he was concerned he will have a difficult time convincing his fellow Republican members that they should vote for reauthorizing an expiring section of the Patriot Act at the end of the year.
Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the government can collect intelligence by targeting foreigners suspected to be outside U.S. borders. However, incidental conversations these individuals have with Americans can happen and that is what members believe happened to Flynn.
But as an American citizen, his name must be “masked.” Instead, Flynn’s name was revealed and released to the press.
“If it hurts, this leak, which through the 702 tool which we all agree is vital, you and I at least agree to that, do you think that leak threatens our national security? If it’s a crime and if it’s unveiling a masked person–and this tool is so important — and when we have to reauthorize it in a few months — if this is used against us to reauthorize this tool — and we can’t get it done,” Rooney said in an exchange with NSA director Admiral Mike Rogers.
He continued, “Whoever did this leak or these nine people who did this leak [if they] create such a stir, whether it be in our legislative process or whatever, and they don’t feel confident that a U.S. person under the 702 program can be masked successfully and not be leaked to the press, doesn’t that leak hurt our national security?”
Rogers answered in the affirmative.
Fellow intelligence committee member South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy stated that getting their members to support reauthorization may only happen if the intelligence community tell them who leaked Flynn’s name.
“What we are reauthorizing this fall has nothing to do with what we are discussing,” Gowdy said, but added that the public does not draw the distinction.
During the hearing, Rogers disclosed that only 20 people, including himself and FBI Director James Comey, could possibly have decided to have unmasked Flynn’s name. However, the other names were not revealed.
Follow Kerry on Twitter