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Was It Worth It?

Just hours before the Nunes memo on FBI surveillance pursuant to the Russian collusion investigation was released, former Attorney General and Obama stalwart Eric Holder warned it would damage American intelligence capabilities.

[P]eople must understand what is at stake by release of the bogus, contrived Nunes memo. It uses normally protected material and puts at risk our intell capabilities in order to derail a legitimate criminal investigation. This is unheard of- it is dangerous and it is irresponsible.

When the memo was actually released it superficially had nothing to do with cloak and dagger and much more to do with domestic politics. What it alleged was that "senior FBI officials used a fake dossier paid for by the Democrats to get a court order for electronic surveillance of the Trump campaign." Rep. Paul Gosar, in fact, characterized the alleged actions as an attempted coup. "The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence memorandum on the FBI ... is not just evidence of incompetence but clear and convincing evidence of treason."

If any intelligence assets were compromised, they were placed at risk by the dossier itself.  British court documents say that Fusion, an agency working for the Hillary campaign briefed journalists from the New York Times, Washington Post, Yahoo News, the New Yorker and CNN at the end of September 2016.  Whether Fusion's press conference tipped off the Russians is unclear even to Glenn Simpson as Newsweek reports.

The House Intelligence Committee published a transcript on Thursday of a behind-closed-doors interview with Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS, who shared his concerns that people had been picked off by the Russian government after the explosive claims of a Trump-Russia connection emerged.

When asked if one of his sources was killed, Simpson said, “That’s not my information. I mean, there was a series of episodes where people were arrested or died mysteriously that came shortly after the disclosure of the existence of this information. And I do believe there was a bit of an old-fashioned purge.”

But a press briefing couldn't have helped their sources' operational security.

It should be hard for any American of whatever persuasion to exult in the FBI's weakness on full display. A very important agency, on which the safety of the U.S. and the world significantly depends, has been shown at the very minimum to be vulnerable to bad judgment. Confirmation bias alters what is perceived as a threat. The FBI leadership arguably believed Steele because they wanted to believe him. Why the Fusion GPS dossier itself was not regarded as a deception operation when it's a standard Russian ploy to plant their favored narrative in an organization is a question that ought to be asked and answered.

Bias is dangerous because the feds need to look in places even when they're not sure they'll find anything.  They have to play hunches even when they suspect a tip was tainted. They even need to be allowed to make mistakes if, in the main, they get it right.  But they must always be honest about the uncertainty in their investigation not only with the judge but most of all to themselves because that's all that stands between human justice and abuse.