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What’s good for the goose…

March 6, 2017

You know how the rest of it goes. The question is,  was Saturday’s series of tweets by  President Trump just his way of saying two can play this smear game, or is there a flame under the smoke?

In other words, could there be any truth to the rather remarkable accusation?

Certainly if one or more intelligence agencies, or more likely the FBI, which is normally the only agency legally able to investigate citizens within U.S. borders,  did get a FISA court warrant they had to have presented something like probable cause to do so.

Former DNI Director James Clapper denies that a FISA wiretapping warrant ever existed through his former agency, but that’s just one agency.

Even if that’s true, his credibility is pretty shaky given his inept job of trying to only half truthfully testify at congressional hearings in the past.

At the time of his appointment as FBI director, the big knock on James Comey was his “…proclivity for mass surveillance…” according to a Huffington Post article at the time.

Another thing working for this story is that in the run-up to the 2012 election, the powers of the  IRS, OSHA and purportedly the FBI were used punitively against conservative Romney supporters, with the IRS actually paying out $50K to settle a lawsuit over the leaking of confidential taxpayer information.

That means the latest allegations could be easily construed as constituting a continuing pattern of  behavior.

FISA warrants are rarely ever made public due to the sensitive nature of the investigations they are granted to expedite. It would be extraordinary (though hardly impossible, given the leaky nature of the government) if the public ever sees it, assuming it does exist.

Still, given the repeated stories that the outgoing President gave specific instructions to share information on the so-called Russian connection among 16 or 17 agencies (agencies that have historically had a difficult time working together on anything) and other instances where Federal agencies have been utilized in a punitive manner, the wiretapping accusation certainly can’t be completely ignored.

If true, then this is the most egregious and actionable form of a government out of power interfering in the affairs of a current administration in U.S. history.

Just off the top of one’s head, the only likely legal  grounds would almost have to be based on accusations of either treason, espionage or maybe involvement in an international criminal conspiracy.

Remember this is all alleged to have taken place before the election, making every single person, from President Trump on down, still private citizens. Supposedly, the government isn’t supposed to spy on private citizens without following due process.

The October warrant, if there is one, would have been granted after Paul Manafort had left the campaign in mid-August, so it’s unlikely that he was the person being investigated.

It’s also possible that the person or persons the warrant covered were Russians, with the Trump campaign personnel being included only as byproducts of an ongoing investigation.

This situation brings up memories of the outrage that erupted when Edward Snowden’s theft of government property proved that the NSA was collecting data on private citizens without their knowledge or consent.

One thing is certainly true.  There seems to be a far different standard being applied to this alleged wiretapping of the Trump Towers and campaign staff than was extant in the press coverage then.

Certainly, this is such a serious accusation that President Trump is going to have to do more than have “no further comment” on the issue unless and until  there is a congressional inquiry into the charges.

As for the argument over whether Twitter was the right place and way to break this story, given the unrelenting media bias, it’s hard to see how else it could have been done.

If the 16 or 17 agencies are all working in concert, how much good would it have done to ask them to begin an investigation?  Probably very little good at all.

By breaking it on Twitter, the President knows it will not get swept under the rug; the public will see to that.

It is highly unlikely that all the Obama loyalists in all of those agencies will ever be completely replaced, and since the President doesn’t have his full Cabinet team in place even now, it will take months to get all of his staff appointees hired to take their places.

It would be nice to know where the President got his initial information. If it was from the various stories popping up on TV and radio, that’s one thing.

If he got it from a security briefing, or a 2017 version of Deep Throat, that’s quite another kettle of fish.

If it is the latter, then one hopes he can refrain from outing his source(s). He got the story out, and that may have to be good enough for now.

From → op-ed

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