OBAMA GAVE “GREEN LIGHT” FOR NSA, CIA TO SABOTAGE TRUMP
Hacking and the Politics of Moral Outrage
With the chorus of calls for an “independent counsel” or “special prosecutor” to investigate the Russian hacking scandal, there has been one element that remains rather ambiguous: what is the specific crime to be investigated? Clearly there is the hacking but that crime is well-known and was committed by Russians who are unlikely to be subject to any real investigation. A special counsel, as opposed to a bipartisan commission, would require the articulation of a crime and the basis for the investigation. I am all in favor of independent investigations of this and other issues. However, if we are going to move beyond a special commission to special counsel we need to have more evidence and a notion of what we are investigating. That may come but we are not there yet. Below is my column in The Hill Newspaper on the subject — and the moral outrage over hacking.
In a time of virtually complete political polarization, there is one point upon which both parties appear to agree: moral outrage at the notion of Russian attempts to influence our election.
There are bipartisan demands for a special prosecutor and a full criminal investigation. However, while the outrage is most evident, the alleged crime is more difficult to discern. Before we order a massive independent investigation, it might be useful to examine both the basis for the self-evident outrage and the less-than-evident crime.
Moral outrage as political necessity
As our politicians went on the air to vent their disgust over Russians trying to influence our election, there was an interesting study published this month on moral outrage in an academic journal, Motivation and Emotion. The researchers found that moral outrage is rooted, not in altruism, but self-interest — often to affirm one’s own status and avoiding responsibilities or guilt.
“Individuals,” the study notes, “respond to reminders of their group’s moral culpability with feelings of outrage at third-party harm-doing.” The most astonishing aspect of this study is that it was not done entirely on Capitol Hill.
Many other countries can be forgiven if they are a bit confused by the expressions of outrage at the notion that Russia hacked emails or tried to influence our election. The United States objecting to hacking or influencing elections is akin to Bernie Sanders expressing disgust over accounting irregularities.
The United States has not only extensively engaged in surveillance in other countries but hacked the accounts of our closest allies, including the personal communications of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Moreover, our country has a long history of direct interference in foreign elections from overthrowing governments to funding opposition movements.
One study found 81 different instances of the United States interfering with the elections of other countries between 1946 and 2000. We learned from the best; foreign interference in our country goes back to 1700s when France and Britain actively sought to influence our early governments.
Democratic leadership have a particular interest in expressing moral outrage over the election. The extent to which the election becomes an example of “third-party harm-doing,” the less attention will be drawn toward the party establishment which virtually anointed Hillary Clinton as their candidate despite polls showing that voters wanted someone outside of the establishment.
Not only did they select the single greatest establishment figure, but someone with record negative polling. “The Russians did it” is a much better narrative.
Of course, the Russians did not “hack the election.” No votes were fabricated. Indeed, there is no proof of emails being fabricated (despite the claims of some Democratic leaders like Donna Brazile at the time). The reason the public has not risen up in anger is that it is hard to get the public outraged over being shown the duplicitous and dishonest character of their leaders — even if the release was clearly one-sided against Democrats.
The public has every right to be outraged, but the outrage of our government officials would make Claude Reins blush.
Moral outrage in search of a crime
In the end, Russian attempts to influence our election should be a matter of national concern and investigation, though we would be in a far superior position if we acknowledged our own checkered past in such efforts. However, the call for a “Special Counsel” or “independent prosecutor” seems a bit premature since we do not have a clear crime other than the hacking itself (which has already been confirmed).
Clearly the Russians hacked DNC emails but we do not need a special counsel to confirm extensive hacking operations by a host of different countries. It is like complaining about the weather.
Dana Boente, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia (and the acting deputy attorney general), could determine that an investigation by the Justice Department would still present a conflict of interest even after the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The process for the appointment of special counsels through the courts lapsed in 1999. Thus, the current standard would involve Boente determining that the “criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted” and must be done outside of the Department. But what is the crime under investigation?
The suggestions that Sessions committed perjury are far-fetched and unsupported.
Some have suggested violations of the Logan Act. However, that 1799 law concerns calls for the fine or imprisonment of private citizens who attempt to intervene in disputes or controversies between the United States and foreign governments. It has never been used to convict a United States citizen and does not appear material to these allegations. If there were monetary payments to influence the election, that would constitute a crime but there has yet to be evidence such crimes.
Finally, there do appear to have been criminal leaks during and after the election. However, those are insular, conventional matters for investigation by the Justice Department.
We generally do not start special counsel investigations absent a clear articulated and supportable criminal allegation. There are a host of obvious political or policy concerns that could be the subject of an independent investigation by a commission or joint legislative/executive effort. There are real concerns over conflicts in the current administration given the focus on the presidential election.
Yet, we are simply likely to confirm much of what we know: we were hacked. We are also likely to confront what many do not want to discuss: we have hacked others for years.
Until there is more evidence of a crime by United States citizens, there is little reason for a special counsel as opposed to the current investigations. We should investigate the hacking and efforts to influence our elections, certainly. But our politicians may want to leave the moral outrage and hypocrisy behind.
Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University and teaches a course on the Constitution and the Supreme Court.
Obama open mic slip: ‘After my election I have more flexibility’
Conway challenges Comey to release info on Trump’s wiretap allegation
Mar 6, 2017
Senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway challenged FBI Director James Comey Sunday to reveal any information he might have about President Trump’s allegations that former President Obama ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“If Mr. Comey has something he’d like to say I’m sure we’re all willing to hear it,” Conway told Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro in an interview on “Justice with Judge Jeanine.” “All I saw was a published news report. I didn’t see a statement from him. I don’t know what Mr. Comey knows.
“If he knows, of course he can issue a statement,” Conway said. “We know he’s not shy.”
Conway said Trump may know whether he was wiretapped because he receives different intelligence reports than other White House officials. However, she did not provide specific details.
Conway’s challenge of Comey came after the New York Times reported that the FBI director asked the Justice Department to publicly reject Trump’s assertion that he had been wiretapped. According to the paper, Comey argued that Trump’s claim falsely implied that the FBI had broken the law.
Earlier Sunday, Obama’s director of national intelligence, James Clapper, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that nothing matching Trump’s claims had taken place.
“Absolutely, I can deny it,” said Clapper, who also said that he had “no knowledge” of a request for a FISA, or Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Act, order for a wiretap, which requires at least some evidence of illegal activity.
Josh Earnest, who was Obama’s press secretary, took it a step further, saying that Trump’s accusations were an attempt to deflect the attention given to contacts between then-Sen. Jeff Sessions and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign season. The FBI is investigating those contacts, as is Congress.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said without elaborating Sunday that Trump’s instruction to Congress was based on “very troubling” reports “concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election.” Spicer did not respond to inquiries about the reports he cited in announcing the request.
Spicer said the White House wants the congressional committees to “exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016.” He said there would be no further comment until the investigations are completed, a statement that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., took offense to and likened to autocratic behavior.
“It’s called a wrap-up smear. You make up something. Then you have the press write about it. And then you say, everybody is writing about this charge. It’s a tool of an authoritarian,” Pelosi said.
Spicer’s chief deputy, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said she thinks Trump is “going off of information that he’s seen that has led him to believe that this is a very real potential.”
Sources told Fox News that Trump’s allegations caught senior federal law enforcement officials by surprise.
Those sources said that the officials in question had no idea what Trump was talking about when the president made the allegation on social media Saturday morning. The sources also told Fox that Trump did not consult with senior officials who would have been advised of any such wiretapping operations before posting the messages.
Democrat on FISA Last Week: ‘More and More Americans Are Getting Swept Up in the Searches’
(CNSNews.com) – “More and more Americans are getting swept up in these (FISA) searches,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) told Congress last week.
“We are trying to legitimately go after foreign targets that are a threat to us. But as telecommunications systems become globally integrated, we’re getting more and more law-abiding citizens swept up.”
Wyden was speaking at the confirmation hearing for former Sen. Dan Coates, nominated to serve as President Trump’s director of national security.
At the same hearing, both Coates and Republican Sen. John Cornyn gave a spirited defense of the law that President Donald Trump now claims was used against him.
At the Feb. 28 hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Wyden told Coates, ‘You have said that if you’re confirmed, the reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act would be your top legislative priority.
Wyden continued: “For years, I and members of Congress have been asking for an estimate of how many innocent, law-abiding Americans’ communications are getting swept up in this collection. Will you commit to getting this number to this committee and the public before reauthorization?”
Yes, I do. I am going to do everything I can to work with Admiral Rogers and NSA to get you that number. I’ve been told it is an extremely complex process for a number of reasons. As I said, without classification, I don’t know what all these reasons are. (Coates earlier explained he had only recently received his security clearance.)
I need to learn what they are, but I also need to share with Admiral Rogers the need, I think, to get this committee, not just those numbers, but all the information they need, in which to make a judgment as to the reauthorization.
The intelligence community believes that reauthorization is extremely important. It’s a program that has provided a significant amount of intelligence relative to what foreign agents or individuals are trying to do to harm Americans.
And so, you know, it has layers of oversight at all three levels of government, has been examined by the privacy civil liberties board, overseeing board, and supported by the FISA court. But this is something that you will be going through during this next year, and we want to make sure you have all of the information you feel you need to make adjustments that Congress decides to make.
Wyden asked Coates, “So you will commit to making sure we have the number of innocent Americans being swept up before the reauthorization. Will you commit to declassifying any secret legal interpretations related to FISA as well?”
Coates said he would — as long as declassification would not expose sensitive sources and methods.
Republicans defend FISA law
Later in the hearing, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) followed up on Wyden’s line of questioning about the number of Americans swept up in FISA intelligence gathering:
“First of all, it is illegal to target American citizens, correct?” Cornyn asked Coates.
“That is correct,” Coates said.
“Without a search warrant,” Cornyn added.
“That is correct,” Coates said again.
“So what we are talking about primarily is targeting foreign intelligence persons overseas,” Cornyn said.
“(Section) 702 is specifically designed for that purpose,” Coates said.
Cornyn said the director of the FBI recently referred to Section 702 as “the crown jewels” of the intelligence community. “Would you agree with that characterization?” he asked Coates.
“I would, and the intelligence community also sees it that way, the entire community,” Coates agreed.
Cornyn said he doesn’t want the debate over reauthorization of Section 702 to get “caught up in that same sort of hysteria where some people were worried that their own government was spying on them when that decidedly was untrue. But that’s history,” he added. (A week later, it is no longer history.)
Cornyn continued: “I want people to understand that people aren’t targeted, even foreign agents overseas, without court approval. And there is judicial review from time to time as well as “oversight and review” by both the executive branch, the intelligence community, and the Congress.
“There are layers of protection to make sure that no American has to worry about their own government spying on them. In fact, every conceivable effort is being made to prevent that and protect the privacy rights of Americans, which we all agree is important.
Cornyn asked Coates to work with Congress “to educate” Americans “so that they can be reassured” that Section 702 is striking the “proper balance” between privacy rights and national security:
“Well, Senator, I couldn’t agree with you more,” Coates said.
Coates noted that “we are under attack” and “702 is designed to go after foreign bad guys. It’s lawful collection…In that process, there is some incidental – what is called incidental names of Americans, potential names of Americans, some bad guy might have on his laptop – the names of 40 Americans, and so if he’s targeted for something, all of a sudden 40 American names – now, we put a process in place in devising this law that there is a minimization of this.
Coates said he wouldn’t go into the details of “minimization,” “because I can’t explain it as well as others can. But it is a process that understands that we’re not targeting these people, but incidentally they came up, because they were on this guy’s email or on his phone list.
“The level of oversight here is all three branches of government, and it is significant to try to secure those privacies.”
But, added Coates, “We need to ensure that the public is not led into a situation where they think they’re, you know, in deference to my colleague from Oregon, sweeping up, collecting information about them. We are trying to sort it out so we can find out if that bad guy in Syria, or wherever, is talking to someone in the United States. We kind of want to know what they’re talking about.”
Rep. Chaffetz: We will take hard look at wiretap allegations
Tucker Carlson Reacts To The Trump Tower Wiretapping Scandal | Fox And Friends
Gen. Hayden on Trump’s wiretap claim: This is unprecedented
FLASHBACK: NYT ADMITS WIRETAPS USED AGAINST TRUMP
New York Times headline specifically referenced Trump ‘wiretaps’
Mar 6, 2017
The New York Times already admitted wiretaps were used against the Trump campaign, despite now claiming there’s “no evidence” of the wiretapping accusations President Trump lodged against the former Obama administration on Saturday.
A New York Times article published on Inauguration Day specifically referenced “Wiretaps” in its headline, though it didn’t specifically mention that Trump himself, or Trump Tower was bugged.
An online version of the same January article substituted the words “Wiretapped Data” for “Intercepted Russian communications” in its headline: “Intercepted Russian Communications Part of Inquiry Into Trump Associates”.
Here’s an excerpt from that article:
Despite previously reporting on the “wiretaps,” the New York Times on Saturday asserted President Trump had “no evidence” for accusing his predecessor of wiretapping his incoming administration’s communications.
The president’s decision on Saturday to lend the power of his office to accusations against his predecessor of politically motivated wiretapping — without offering any proof — was remarkable, even for a leader who has repeatedly shown himself willing to make assertions that are false or based on dubious sources,” the Times wrote in an article written by at least one of the same authors of the previous piece.
The NYT went on to argue that such a wiretap “would have been difficult” for federal law enforcement to obtain, and claimed protections are in place to keep presidents from interfering with political rivals:
It would have been difficult for federal agents, working within the law, to obtain a wiretap order to target Mr. Trump’s phone conversations. It would have meant that the Justice Department had gathered sufficient evidence to convince a federal judge that there was probable cause to believe Mr. Trump had committed a serious crime or was an agent of a foreign power, depending on whether it was a criminal investigation or a foreign intelligence one.
Former officials pointed to longstanding laws and procedures intended to ensure that presidents cannot wiretap a rival for political purposes.
FORMER CIA ANALYST: OBAMA GAVE “GREEN LIGHT” FOR NSA, CIA TO SABOTAGE TRUMP
Clapper & Brennan “intimately involved” in plot to derail Trump’s candidacy
Mar 6, 2017 by Paul Joseph Watson
Former CIA analyst Larry C. Johnson says that according to his sources, the Obama administration worked with the NSA, the CIA and Britain’s GCHQ to disseminate information about Donald Trump that was illegally obtained via surveillance before the election.
Johnson joined the CIA in 1985 and was later promoted to become Senior Regional Analyst for Central America before moving on to work for the State Department.
The former CIA analyst told RT that the controversy was a “huge deal” and that Trump’s only real mistake was to call it a “wiretap” which was “technically inaccurate” and that those who have denied the charges on behalf of Obama are using semantics to fool the public.
“I understand from very good friends that both Jim Clapper and John Brennan at CIA were intimately involved in trying to derail the candidacy of Donald Trump, that there was some collusion overseas with Britain’s own GHCQ,” explained Johnson, adding that information on Trump gathered by GCHQ was passed to Brennan and illegally disseminated within the Obama administration with the green light coming from Obama himself.
“Donald Trump is in essence correct that the intelligence agencies and some in the law enforcement community on the side of the FBI were in fact illegally trying to access, monitor his communications with his aides and with other people – all of this with an end of trying to destroy and discredit his presidency,” said Johnson, noting that the head of the NSA, Admiral Michael Rogers, visited Trump shortly after his victory, prompting Clapper and others to call for Rogers to be fired.
According to Johnson, Rogers visited Trump Tower in order to “cover himself” because he knew the NSA had been used to spy on Trump.
“There is a genuine effort to take out and defeat Donald Trump even in the aftermath of his election,” said Johnson, calling for the senior executives behind the plot within the NSA and CIA to be fired.
According to the former CIA analyst, there is a “coordinated, organized effort” on behalf of Obama and his allies to sabotage Trump, and some within that camp even thought they could prevent him from taking the oath of office by releasing the infamous “pissgate” dossier.
“What they’re doing I think would fall under the definition of sedition,” he added.
Johnson went on to opine that there was “no evidence” that Russia meddled in the U.S. election.
Over the weekend, former Director of National Intelligence Clapper went public to assert that the Obama administration was not involved in any effort to spy on Donald Trump.
Some pointed out the irony of the mainstream media affording credibility to Clapper’s statements given that he lied under oath about domestic surveillance during his 2013 testimony in front of Congress.
Related previous posts on this blog