Liddick: Surveillance results: Nothing to see here (column)
April 17, 2017
Okay, everyone. Repeat after me: "President Trump was right about surveillance. President Trump was right about surveillance. President Trump was right about surveillance…" Now, click your heels together three times…
No, Trump Tower wasn't "wiretapped." To borrow a phrase from the erstwhile hero of the cult film "Army of Darkness," "Well, maybe I didn't say every exact little syllable…" But it's increasingly evident that Team Trump got surveillance aplenty. Susan Rice, Barack Obama's National Security Advisor, said as much two weeks ago, and she should know: It was likely she who unmasked General Flynn. But as she huffily told her interviewer, "There is no equivalence between unmasking and leaking." Because most high government officials leave the dirty work to underlings. Believe me.
FBI Director Comey has now admitted as well that members of the Trump Team were being spied on since last summer, to ferret out "ties to Russia." One would think that, given the amount of time elapsed, there would be something concrete by now. But no. And that means we have to keep looking, right?
Then there's Carter Page, an unpaid advisor to the Trump campaign who the FBI has been monitoring under a FISA warrant since last summer. His is an interesting case, pointed to by many in the media as proof of the collusion between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin they so feverishly desire. The Washington Post calls the FISA warrant "the clearest evidence so far…"
Consider that for a moment: Proof of collusion is that one is being investigated for collusion. Someone needs a quick course in U.S. criminal law. Not to mention that any Westerner spending more than an hour at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow has likely "engaged with a Russian intelligence operative." So is Mr. Page in serious trouble? It's not until one gets to the bottom of these stories that one reads, "He may never be charged with anything." Nothing to see here, folks.
Except there is. Like the Obama administration's use of GCHQ, Great Britain's signals intelligence agency, as a cutout to scour through the NSA's voluminous database for negative information on Trump during the presidential campaign. Call it "plausible deniability."
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Or the resurfacing of Christopher Steele, the former British spy who compiled a "dossier" on Donald Trump as opposition research for the Clinton campaign. For those with short memories, Steele's odious fantasies were debunked and disavowed by everyone with a functioning brain shortly after they were revealed. Now, Senator Charles Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has sent a letter to FBI Director James Comey asking why his hand-picked number two, Andrew McCabe, contacted Mr. Steele with an offer to pay for further "investigation" of Trump after the Clinton campaign cash faded. Money apparently never changed hands, but this has the odor of something very rotten.
What we are witnessing is something a few predicted when the use of secret warrants issued by secret courts to spy on American citizens became part of the fabric of our everyday life. Although most insisted it could never happen, we now have use of the national security apparatus against political enemies; the power conferred on those who control this protean beast is too seductive. Its very existence invites abuses, particularly when wielded by those who believe that since they are smarter and better than the mundanes and deplorables they rule, they must use every tool at their disposal to continue their grip on power — for the dullard citizens' own good, of course.
These are the leaders — and their willing aparachiks — who weaponized the IRS and turned it against their political foes. Who lied to families about why their sons died in Benghazi, and to the world about what happened there. Who saw nothing wrong with grossly mishandling classified information or peddling access if the proper people did it. And who continue to move heaven and earth in an effort to delegitimize the man who last year beat their appallingly bad presidential candidate like a rug. Their efforts have become more hysterical and transparent as time has passed, so the rabbit hole down which they wish to lead the nation is rapidly closing.
Virginia's Senator Mark Warner recently promised that the Senate Intelligence Committee will get to the bottom of this whole business, following the evidence "wherever it may lead." One can only hope that, unlike some of his colleagues, he means what he says.
That would be both a surprise, and a relief.
Morgan Liddick writes a weekly column for the Summit Daily News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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