House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-CA) said Republicans expect Democrats to further weaponize the intelligence community against “domestic extremists,” much as how they used it to further the Russia collusion hoax against former President Donald Trump.
Nunes said in his opening statement at Thursday’s committee hearing on worldwide threats:
The Democrats see political benefits in characterizing wide swathes of American citizens, particularly Republicans and conservatives, as politically suspect, potentially violent, and deserving of government surveillance. However, I will remind those assembled here today that our Intelligence Community exists solely to counteract foreign threats.
History shows that major abuses occur when our intelligence capabilities are turned inward to spy on our own citizens—from the FBI spying on Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1950s and ‘60s to its surveillance of Republican party members in 2016. This is a red line that simply cannot be crossed—in fact, this committee was created in large part to ensure that line would not be crossed.
Nunes said it is concerning that the Biden administration has directed the Director of National Intelligence to lead a report on domestic violence terrorism, since the DNI gathers intelligence on threats external to the U.S., not internal. He added that it was worrying to see a growing number of classified products from the National Counterterrorism Center focused on U.S.-based individuals with no foreign influence or connection.
He referenced a letter Republicans on the committee sent to DNI Avril Haines on March 18, 2021, asking about the DNI’s authority to report on domestic terrorism and domestic extremists. Nunes said:
Domestic terrorism with no foreign connection is the jurisdiction of our nation’s law enforcement apparatus, not the Intelligence Community. Attempts to blur this line will provoke severe repercussions from every Republican on this committee, from every Republican in Congress, and from the American people.
He said instead of focusing on the myriad external threats, intelligence community directors were spending time virtue signaling on Democrat priorities such as global warming:
I’m concerned about a specific set of issues—that terror networks are continuing to spread, international drug cartels and human traffickers are crossing our borders, foreign cyber-criminals are penetrating our digital infrastructure, and we still can’t get answers about the true origins of the coronavirus in China.
Nunes said Republicans will focus on the committee’s “proper priorities,” including oversight of the entire intelligence community, protecting Americans’ civil liberties from intelligence agency abuses, examining the roles and missions of the Office of the DNI as well as Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, monitoring intelligence and counterintelligence issues related to international terror groups and rogue nation states, and analyzing supply chain issues related to China. He added:
When our nation’s leaders don’t pay proper attention to these issues, and instead focus on targeting their political opponents, real threats to American national security do not evaporate. To the contrary, our enemies — who pay close attention to our domestic political affairs — become emboldened.
“We have to see the world as it really is, not as we want it to be, or what is convenient for preferred political narratives. The intelligence community has the crucial task of defending our national security from foreign threats. But the increasing politicization of this apparatus risks becoming a threat to our national security in and of itself,” he said.