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  • The counter-leaks have already started in response to the release of Devin Nunes’ memo; many of the controversies regarding the memo would go away if the Department of Justice released the text of its applications for FISA court warrants targeting Carter Page and other people associated with the Trump campaign and transition team. Many commentators are arguing there isn’t a scandal here, but Victor Davis Hanson makes a good argument why there should be one:

    If all this is not a scandal — then the following protocols are now considered permissible in American electoral practice and constitutional jurisprudence: An incumbent administration can freely use the FBI and the DOJ to favor one side in a presidential election, by buying its opposition research against the other candidate, using its own prestige to authenticate such a third-party oppositional dossier, and then using it to obtain court-ordered wiretaps on American citizens employed by a candidate’s campaign — and do so by deliberately misleading the court about the origins and authors of the dossier that was used to obtain the warrants.

    Mark Steyn takes issue with the Department of Justice renewing the warrant targeting Carter Page even as the the perceived quality of the intelligence that justified the warrant in the first place kept decreasing as they investigated further:

    A surveillance warrant against a US person also has to be renewed every 90 days – which this one was, thrice: That would presumably be just before the inauguration in January, and again in April and July. By the time of the first renewal, signatories Yates and Comey were aware that Steele had been fired as an FBI informant for blabbing to the press about being an FBI informant. In addition, an internal FBI investigation had found his dossier “minimally corroborated”. Yet evidently the diminished value of both the dossier and its author were not disclosed to the judge – in January or subsequent renewals. Indeed, one can be fairly confident that Deputy AG Rosenstein and the FBI would have been happy to apply for a fourth renewal, were it not for the fact that the general crappiness of Steele’s dossier was by then all over the papers and even a judge kept in the dark by the feds for a year might have begun to notice it.

    In the middle of all this is an American citizen who was put under 24/7 surveillance by the panopticon state because it enabled the ruling party to eavesdrop on its political opponent. As much as Steele’s dossier, Carter Page was a mere pretext: The dossier was the pretext to get to Page, and Page was the pretext to get to Trump.

  • For more than two years, Israeli drones, helicopters, and airplanes have conducted airstrikes against militants in the northern Sinai Peninsula with the Egyptian government’s blessing.

    The Israeli drones are unmarked, and the Israeli jets and helicopters cover up their markings. Some fly circuitous routes to create the impression that they are based in the Egyptian mainland, according to American officials briefed on their operations.

    In Israel, military censors restrict public reports of the airstrikes. It is unclear if any Israeli troops or special forces have set foot inside Egyptian borders, which would increase the risk of exposure.

    Mr. Sisi has taken even more care, American officials say, to hide the origin of the strikes from all but a limited circle of military and intelligence officers. The Egyptian government has declared the North Sinai a closed military zone, barring journalists from gathering information there.

  • Syrian rebels in Idlib province shot down a Russian fighter plane and killed the pilot after he ejected.

  • A suicide bomber killed 11 Pakistani soldiers and injured another 13.

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  • Andrew McCarthy writes on the FBI’s objections to the release of Devin Nunes’ memo:

    Since before the Republican-led committee voted (along partisan lines) to seek the memo’s declassification and publication, the FBI has been complaining that it was not permitted to review the memo. As I explained last week, this was a very unpersuasive complaint. Having stonewalled the committee’s information requests for several months, the Bureau and Justice Department are hardly well positioned to complain about being denied access; the committee, by contrast, has every reason to believe they would have slow-walked any review in order to delay matters further.

    All that aside, the FBI was guaranteed access to the memo before its publication because of the rules of the process. Once the committee voted to disclose, that gave the president five days to object. During that five days, Trump’s own appointees at the FBI and DOJ would have the chance to pore over the memo and make their objections and policy arguments to their principal, the president, and to the rest of the Trump national-security team. This tells us the real objection was not that they were barred from reviewing the memo; it is that they were barred from reviewing it on a schedule that would make it more difficult to derail publication.

    Angelo Codevilla offers a more partisan take:

    The FBI’s top leadership — whose careers, business dealings, politics, marriages and extramarital affairs intertwine — invested itself incompetently and illegally into the 2016 election campaign against Donald Trump. In part to cover itself, it launched the so-called “Russia probe.” Its members are personally, deeply interested in keeping the public from seeing the documents concerning these activities. They raised the familiar shield: release would compromise the sources and methods of national security.

    The House of Representatives’ Republican majority wanted the documents made public, issued a subpoena for them, and was prepared to jail senior FBI for contempt had they not complied with it. The House compromised, being satisfied by viewing them and making a summary, which it has voted to make public. The FBI and the Justice Department’s bureaucracy, being out of options for saving their reputations, their pensions, and perhaps for keeping themselves out of jail, urge President Trump to advise the House to guard the secrecy of the summary, of the activities that it describes, and hence to save their bacon.

  • The U.S. Marine Corps relieved the commander of one of Okinawa’s two MF–22 Osprey squadrons of duty. Lt. Col. Bryan Swenson lost his job due to a “loss of trust and confidence in his ability to lead his command.” Six months ago an Osprey crashed off Okinawa’s coast.

  • Fourteen Catholic senators voted against cloture for the “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” a.k.a. the 20 week abortion ban. Father Dwight Longenecker provides the name of each senator’s bishop so you know who to complain to.

  • The Trump administration designated Harakat as-Sabirin Li-Nasran Filastin as a terrorist group. As-Sabirin is a Shiite group that operates in Gaza and is funded by Iran. The Trump administration also designated two Muslim Brotherhood offshoots in Egypt as terrorist groups — Harakat Sawa’id Misr and Liwa al-Thawra.

  • The Syrian government reportedly used chlorine rockets again in Douma.

  • Reuters provided some backstory for Ji Seong-ho, the North Korean defector who appeared at Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech this week.

  • A cybersecurity company based in the United Arab Emirates, DarkMatter, started revealing some information about its operations and customers. DarkMatter is tight with the UAE’s government, and hires a lot of ex-CIA and ex-NSA people.