The Scandal Hiding In Plain Sight

There is a deep irony in the fact that Democrats are hysterically demanding investigations of President Trump and his campaign team, and in fact multiple investigations are now in progress, even though there is zero evidence that anyone associated with the president has done anything wrong. On the other hand, we now know for certain that the Obama administration weaponized the intelligence agencies in order to use them against political opponents, in a manner that is unprecedented, highly dangerous to our democracy, and criminal.

This scandal, which dwarfs anything of which the Trump team is even suspected, has been exposed and lies largely in plain sight for all to see. Yet it has generally been greeted with yawns, if acknowledged at all, by politicians and commentators.

At USA Today, Glenn Reynolds provides a primer on the Obama scandal:

In 1972, some employees of President Nixon’s re-election committee were caught when they broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters to plant a bug. This led to Nixon’s resignation and probably would have led to his felony prosecution had he not been pardoned by his successor, Gerald Ford.

But if a single bugging of the political opposition is enough to bring down a presidency — and maybe lead to an unprecedented criminal prosecution of a former president — then what are we to make of the recently unveiled Obama administration program of massively spying on political opponents in violation of clearly established law?

Because that’s what was unveiled last week.

Glenn goes on to explain the safeguards that supposedly surround spying by the National Security Agency. But the Obama administration flouted these safeguards, and then lied about its actions.

A report from journalists John Solomon and Sara Carter last week, based on recently declassified documents, exposed what went on. As Solomon and Carter write:

More than 5%, or one out of every 20, searches seeking upstream Internet data on Americans inside the NSA’s so-called Section 702 database violated the safeguards President Obama and his intelligence chiefs vowed to follow in 2011, according to one classified internal report reviewed by Circa. …

The normally supportive court censured administration officials, saying that the failure to disclose the extent of the violations earlier amounted to an “institutional lack of candor,” and that the improper searches constituted a “very serious Fourth Amendment issue,” according to a recently unsealed court document dated April 26.

A respected federal judge, serving on the FISA court, has leveled a very serious charge against Barack Obama and his administration–more serious than any charge that was made, let alone proved, against Richard Nixon. The Obama administration was guilty of an “institutional lack of candor,” which is a polite way of saying that it lied to the court about what it was doing. And what it was doing, was violating the constitutional rights of Americans. Donald Trump and his associates have been accused of nothing even remotely as serious.

Solomon and Carter continued:

The admitted violations undercut one of the primary defenses that the intelligence community and Obama officials have used in recent weeks to justify their snooping into incidental NSA intercepts about Americans. … The American Civil Liberties Union said the newly disclosed violations are some of the most serious to ever be documented and strongly call into question the U.S. intelligence community’s ability to police itself and safeguard Americans’ privacy as guaranteed by the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful search and seizure.

Glenn concludes that the scandal raises serious questions about whether the “intelligence community” can continue to operate as it has in the past, and whether it deserves the support of Americans:

This debacle also raises serious questions about the viability of our existing “intelligence community.” In the post-World War II era, we gave massive power to the national security apparatus. In part, that power was granted in the belief that professionalism and patriotism would lead people in those agencies to refuse to let their work be used for partisan political purposes.

It now seems apparent that we overestimated the patriotism and professionalism of the people in these agencies, who allowed them to be politically weaponized by the Obama administration. That being true, if we value democracy, can we permit them to exist in their current form?

That’s a decision that President Trump and Congress will have to face. Ironically, they may be afraid to — for fear that intelligence agencies will engage in further targeted political leaks.

The Department of Justice needs to get to the bottom of Obama’s abuse of the intelligence agencies and the FBI. That abuse was criminally compounded when Obama administration officials leaked classified information to the Washington Post and the New York Times in order to damage political opponents. We know for certain that felonies have been committed, so someone should go to jail.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions needs to ask: What did President Obama know, and when did he know it? Who else in his administration was responsible for the scandal? Where criminal prosecution is warranted, it is up to Justice to bring the cases.

More broadly, once it has enacted tax reform, Obamacare repeal and other top priorities, Congress should set investigations in motion. The public needs to know not only who committed crimes, but how deep the corruption went inside the Obama administration. And Congress needs to address, seriously, the question whether our politicized intelligence agencies can continue to exist in their present form.

As for President Trump, firing James Comey didn’t go anywhere near far enough. Heads should roll at the CIA, the NSA and the FBI. Those who are tainted with the abuses that took place during the Obama administration should be shown the door and, where crimes have been committed, prosecuted.

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