Judicial Watch Lawsuit Over Hunter Biden Laptop ‘Disinformation’ Letter Puts Administration on the Defensive
Freedom of Information claim is pressed against the Central Intelligence Agency over epistle calling the Hunter Biden laptop story ‘Russian disinformation.’
Judicial Watch is pressing a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the CIA. The conservative watchdog group seeks all communications about the letter calling the Hunter Biden laptop story “Russian disinformation,” a reverse October Surprise that’s now seen as shielding President Biden from scandal on the eve of the 2020 election.
Judicial Watch v. Central Intelligence Agency seeks “all communications of the spy agency’s Prepublication Classification Review Board regarding an October 19, 2020, email request to review and ‘clear’ a letter signed by 51 former intelligence community officials.”
The letter would eventually be publicly distributed in an effort to pour cold water on the New York Post’s reporting on the laptop’s embarrassing and incriminating contents on the eve of the election. Twitter and Facebook restricted sharing of the article, which got little pickup in mainstream media.
The president of Judicial Watch, Tom Fitton, told me that the issue is whether the CIA rushed its review “to help with the election — and it looks like they did.” Plus, there are “credible allegations that someone in the CIA shopped the letter,” meaning that, beyond the agency’s mandate to make sure the letter contained no classified material, they “intervened directly in the campaign.”
The signatories were “given outsized attention,” Mr. Fitton said, on “the presumption that they know what they’re talking about because they’re keepers of the secrets … and that they’re going to be honest and not stray from what the intelligence or the reality is. Instead, they abused their security clearances for political purposes.”
President Obama’s acting CIA director, Michael Morrell, instructed the prepublication review panel that the letter was “a rush job, as it needs to get out as soon as possible.” When the agency accommodated his wishes, Mr. Morell said it reflected an assumption that Mr. Biden would win and that staffers were “probably afraid I’m coming back” as director.
“Individuals who signed the letter,” the Sun’s Matthew Rice reported on Friday, “included Secretary Panetta, an acting CIA director, John McLaughlin, a deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Douglas Wise, and a national counterterrorism director, Nicholas Rasmussen,” headlining an all-star list of national security veterans.
Noting that the left has spent “decades yelling about CIA interventions in the elections of foreign countries,” Mr. Fitton said, “we’ve got pretty dramatic evidence that they were playing around in our business in a U.S. election,” yet there’s a “corrupt lack of this interest here in Washington, D.C.” in uncovering “violations of law.”
The CIA — prohibited from operating within America’s borders — is no longer the subject of suspicion. “Because they oppose the target,” Mr. Fitton said, meaning President Trump, “the rules don’t matter.” He described this as a “rule-of-law crisis” where safeguards “meant to protect people from being abused because of politics have been thrown out.”
Mr. Morell testified to the House Judiciary Committee that the letter was first proposed by the man who became Mr. Biden’s secretary of state, Antony Blinken, who also asked him to harvest signatures. This contradicted Mr. Blinken’s sworn testimony to Congress in 2020, Mr. Fitton said, “that he didn’t have anything to do with it.”
The lawsuit also raises concerns about former intelligence officials leveraging their access to classified material. About 4.3 million Americans — greater than or equal to the population of about 109 countries — hold security clearances, according to a 2019 National Counterintelligence and Security Center report, the latest figures released.
The practical reasons for letting former officials keep their security clearance is so they’re already vetted for work at companies that “engage in classified dealings with the government,” Mr. Fitton said, and so they can be “outside voices on classified matters” to “talk shop” with active agencies to “address problems.”
However, Mr. Fitton notes that lifetime security clearance is “a bit of a racket,” and the “minimal expectation is that you don’t abuse it for political reasons — and if you’re using that access to mislead Americans as to something as important as Hunter Biden laptop, then we need to rethink about who’s getting them and why.”
“Someone with subpoena power should be looking at this,” Mr. Fitton said, and the House is beginning to do so. What they uncover will tell the American people whether President Cleveland’s 1888 motto, “Public Office Is a Public Trust,” remains the ideal in Washington or whether officials entrusted with America’s secrets betrayed their oaths in service of boosting Mr. Biden’s campaign and defeating Mr. Trump.