Congress Must ‘Fight for Its Rightful Role’ in Overseeing Spy Agencies

Former CIA officer John Kiriakou warned that the deep state will always resist transparency following bipartisan congressional briefing

by Kathryn Blackhurst | Updated 25 May 2018 at 7:14 AM

Congress must “fight for its rightful role in oversight” of the intelligence community and demand unredacted documents it is entitled to review, former CIA official John Kiriakou said Thursday night on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle.”

Top Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI officials held classified briefings for both GOP and Democratic lawmakers Thursday amid escalating tensions regarding the bureau’s investigation into President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. The briefings came after Trump demanded Sunday that the DOJ investigate whether the FBI planted a spy within the Trump campaign.

Kiriakou, who confirmed the CIA’s waterboarding practices during interrogations in 2007 and was sentenced to 30 months of prison in 2013 after disclosing classified information to the press, told Fox News host Laura Ingraham that the deep state is resisting Congress’ constitutional oversight authority.

“That’s the deep state,” Kiriakou (pictured above, third from left) said. “It’s there, it’s unelected, and it’s in power forever.”

Noting that the intelligence community “pushes back on congressional oversight” as “a part of its very nature,” he warned that intelligence officials will “provide to Congress as little as they can get away with.”

"That's where Congress has to fight for its rightful role in oversight," Kiriakou said.

Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla.), a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, told Ingraham that congressional members "have that responsibility" to demand transparency and accountability from the intelligence community amid highly politicized controversies.

"We have that responsibility. Nothing should be redacted from Congress. [Lawmakers] need to get to the facts," Russell (above, second from left) said.

Among Russell's major concerns is whether or not the lawmakers present at the classified briefings Thursday were able "to look at the information without redactions."

"We see these problems where they will redact things, withholding it from Congress," he warned.

Following the briefing, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, insisted in a statement that "nothing we heard today has changed our view, that there is no evidence to support any allegation that the FBI, or any intelligence agency, placed a spy in the Trump campaign or otherwise failed to follow appropriate procedures and protocols."

But Robert Driscoll, the former deputy assistant attorney general and chief of staff of the Department of Justice's civil rights division, noted that Schiff's statement was "very carefully worded."

"He said 'no evidence' that they placed a spy in the campaign. Now, that could still mean that [the FBI] had a confidential information contact with people in the campaign and record their conversations," Driscoll (pictured above, left) noted. "But that means they didn't have an imbed in the campaign."

Related: FBI Had No 'Clear Criminal Predicate' for Trump Campaign Snoops

"OK, I get that, but I don't think that's necessarily what's of most concern to Congress," Driscoll added.

Driscoll said he finds it quite "interesting" that Trump "could declassify all this stuff himself with the stroke of a pen," but is instead choosing to show "a little bit of deference to DOJ" amid heightened political tensions.

"He's almost playing a mediating role between two branches of government rather than acting as the head of the executive branch, saying, 'Look, Congress has got a point. There needs to be more transparency here. I'm not going to force you to disclose everything because there may be some interests that are so strong that it's justified,'" Driscoll said.

But Ingraham warned that the U.S. has "created a surveillance superstate in this country."

"People at the top also think they're beyond reproach, and they're so confident that they're right," Ingraham said. "They want to do what they want to do with impunity."

PoliZette writer Kathryn Blackhurst can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter.

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