House Republicans Renew Attacks on U.S. Intelligence Agencies
(Bloomberg) -- House Republicans attacked U.S. intelligence agencies Thursday for overreaching by investigating domestic terrorism and renewed past complaints from former President Donald Trump and his supporters that they’re the targets of a deep state aimed at undermining them.
“History shows that major abuses occur when intelligence capabilities are turned inwards to spy on our own citizens,” Representative Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said during a hearing ostensibly on the agencies’ annual report on worldwide threats to the U.S.
Although a session in the Senate a day earlier focused on Russia, China and other adversaries, the House Republicans used most of their questions during the panel’s hearing with the nation’s intelligence chiefs to revive past complaints and to question current inquiries into domestic violent extremists after the attack on the Capitol in January by Trump supporters.
“Half of America -- middle America -- they don’t trust these agencies right now,” Nunes asserted. “I will tell you Republicans feel like they’ve been targeted.”
The Republicans questioned why the the Office of Director of National Intelligence and the National Counterterrorism Center -- agencies devoted to international matters -- issued an unclassified assessment last month on the threat from domestic violent extremism.
“It’s also worrying to see a growing number of classified products from the NCTC focused on U.S.-based individuals with no foreign influence or connection,” Nunes said.
Republican Representative Chris Stewart of Utah said “the American people should be scared to death” that intelligence resources were used for the assessment.
Stewart also asserted that some Americans lack confidence in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which investigated Trump and his allies for their connections to Russia.
“If an FBI agent came up and asked to talk to me there’s no way in the world I would talk to them without a lawyer present,” Stewart said.
FBI Director Christopher Wray defended the bureau, saying agents and the organization have a very good reputation that he hears about when he travels to field offices.
U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies are grappling with how best to confront the rising threat of domestic terrorism, especially from white supremacists, after a mob of Trump’s supporters attacked the Capitol in an effort to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential election win.
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines defended the work of the agencies, saying the counterterrorism center has statutory authority to receive domestic intelligence, combine it with international intelligence for analysis and produce a comprehensive picture for policy makers.
Some threats -- particularly white nationalism -- have both a domestic and international aspect, she said.
“What we are trying to do is, I believe, within the law,” Haines said. “It’s a challenging issue that we’re going to face across a range of spaces.”
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