In the latest development surrounding last week's announcement by Devin Nunes, according to which President Trump and his associates were incidentally swept up in foreign surveillance by American spy agencies, the NYT reports that the pair of White House officials who played a role in providing Nunes with the intelligence reports behind his claim, have been identified.
The NYT has outed the Nunes sources, who it claims are Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council, and Michael Ellis, a lawyer who works on national security issues at the White House Counsel’s Office and formerly worked on the staff of the House Intelligence Committee.
As reported previously, Nunes had refused to identify his sources, saying he needed to protect them so others would feel safe coming to the committee with sensitive information. He first disclosed the existence of the intelligence reports on March 22, and in his public comments he has described his sources as whistle-blowers trying to expose wrongdoing at great risk to themselves.
Amusingly, the NYT adds that "the officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the intelligence, and to avoid angering Mr. Cohen-Watnick and Mr. Ellis."
In other words, the US has devolved to the point where one set of anonymous sources is doxxing another set of anonymous sources in the pursuit of a political agenda.
Cohen-Watnick is a former Defense Intelligence Agency official who was originally brought to the White House by Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser. The officials said that earlier this month, shortly after Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter about being wiretapped on the orders of President Barack Obama, Mr. Cohen-Watnick began reviewing highly classified reports detailing the intercepted communications of foreign officials.
Some further background on Cohen-Watnick from forward.com:
President Donald Trump reportedly overruled a decision by National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster in order to keep a Jewish National Security Council aide in his current position. Trump overruled the decision on Sunday after Cohen-Watnick, 30, appealed to White House advisers Stephen Bannon and Jared Kushner, Trump’s Jewish son-in-law, Politico reported
McMaster had told Ezra Cohen-Watnick, senior director for intelligence programs at the NSC, that he would be moved to a different position at the NSC after CIA officials had pushed for his ouster, according to Politico.
A Washington consultant told Politico that Cohen-Watnick and Flynn “saw eye to eye about the failings of the CIA human intelligence operations,” and that the “CIA saw him as a threat, so they tried to unseat him and replace him with an agency loyalist.
Additionally, the NYT adds, that the intel reports consisted primarily of ambassadors and other foreign officials talking about how they were trying to develop contacts within Mr. Trump’s family and inner circle in advance of his inauguration.
Cohen-Watnick has allegedly been reviewing the reports from his fourth-floor office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where the National Security Counsel is based.
Perhaps more importantly, the NYT sources say the description of the intelligence is in line with Mr. Nunes’s own characterization of the material, which he has said was not related to the Russia investigations when he first disclosed its existence in a hastily arranged news conference on March 22.
It was not immediately clear if now that the identity of the Nunes sources has been revealed, whether Nunes will make the contents of the confidential documents public.