Like most of what ails us today, the seeds of the current crisis in republican governance — the severance of Washington’s omnipotent law enforcement and intelligence apparatus from democratic accountability — were sown in the 1960s and ’70s. That was when we began to erase the salient distinction between law and politics. Under the guise of “national security,” we insulated governmental actions and policies from the reckoning of our citizens, whose safety and self-determination hang in the balance.
Fast forward to 2020. The FBI, in its bungling partisanship, very likely swung the 2016 presidential election away from its preferred candidate, Hillary Clinton. The sprawling “community” of intelligence agencies (led by the FBI and CIA) covertly used dubious foreign sources to justify monitoring an American political campaign and, later, a U.S. presidential administration. To do so, it invoked daunting foreign-counterintelligence surveillance powers, based on a fever dream that its bête noire, Donald Trump, was an agent of the Kremlin. And the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court recently chastised the FBI for feeding it false and unverified information — the secret court apparently calculating that this extraordinary public expression of wrath will divert attention from its own shoddy performance in approving highly intrusive spy warrants based on sensational, blatantly uncorroborated rumor and innuendo.
As usual, Washington is reacting with high-decibel inertia. In an era of hyperpartisanship, Democrats defend the politicization of the law enforcement and intelligence that resulted in the Trump-Russia investigation. Republicans, meanwhile, wail about being victimized — even as the victim-in-chief ham-handedly dabbles in his own mini-version of the abuse: the Ukraine kerfuffle, in which the president sought, however futilely, to leverage the investigative and foreign affairs powers of the executive branch for domestic political advantage.
Few are willing to confront the crisis. Even acknowledging it seems politically impossible. Not only are Democrats invested in defending the Russia investigation and its excesses, but their post-Watergate surveillance reforms forged the modern law enforcement and intelligence apparatus, which tends to be politically like-minded, at least in the supervisory ranks. For their part, Republicans pay lip service to limited government and political accountability while continuing to see national security and law-and-order hawkishness as key to political success. Any questioning of the status quo, as opposed to criticism of the individual abuses that the status quo reliably produces, is framed as a green light to foreign sabotage and domestic lawlessness.
Yet there are indications we’ve reached an inflection point: The public is growing weary and not a little bit angry. The politicization of law enforcement and intelligence-gathering threatens everyone, regardless of political persuasion. And officials seem always to escape accountability.
Consider the center-right, the part of the political spectrum where the FBI and aggressive spy powers have traditionally found their staunchest defenders, myself very much among them. We see several Trump operatives (Carter Page, Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos, Roger Stone, and Paul Manafort) subjected to groundless surveillance or prosecuted with unseemly zeal for process crimes (usually, misleading investigators), or for offenses unrelated to the fictional Trump-Kremlin conspiracy. In stark contrast, government officials who misled investigators, judges, and lawmakers evade prosecution. The latest example: the Justice Department’s mid-February announcement that the FBI’s former deputy director, Andrew McCabe, will not be indicted despite serially misleading agents who were probing a media leak that he orchestrated.
Here is the problem: The immense powers wielded by our law enforcement and intelligence apparatus are essential to protecting the United States. The agencies that wield them, as currently constructed, are not.
The intelligence community’s performance is often subpar. While officials have played an admirable part in preventing a reprise of the 9/11 atrocities, they have also promoted misconceptions that they and their intrusive information-collection techniques are fit tools for the tasks at hand. For example, the notion that international terrorism is primarily a law enforcement matter led for years to a focus on post-attack prosecutions rather than the prevention of attacks from happening. Indeed, the specter of jihadist strikes ebbed only after domestic law enforcement was subordinated to military operations against overseas terrorist sanctuaries. And let’s not forget the bulk collection of communications and metadata involving tens of millions of innocent Americans, supposedly necessary for intelligence agencies to target a relative handful of bad actors — which amounted to the risible suggestion that heaping ever more hay in the stack somehow makes the needles easier to find.
Yes, we need aggressive intelligence collection, mission-focused rather than warehoused without much discrimination, to protect the nation from very real foreign threats. But this is a political responsibility, and government officials who carry it out must be accountable. When officials are permitted to shroud their work in complete secrecy, making themselves unaccountable, an outraged public will eventually react to abuses of power by demanding that the powers themselves be pared back or repealed. Our nation would be imperiled from without by foreign aggressors, even as we remained threatened from within by a politicized bureaucracy.
I happen to believe FISA is important and necessary. Of course, it can be abused; ANYTHING can be abused without the threat of punishment. Even the very foundation of everything we believe in, our system of justice, can be terribly abused, as shown by Judge Jackson and her pursuit of crucifixion of Roger Stone. Do we consider getting rid of the Justice system?
Of course the FBI needs to be reformed; those involved in these crimes needs to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. THAT will reform; people will have second thoughts about using law enforcement as a political tool.
For example, the FISA system was grossly abused to spy on Carter Page and, by extension, go after Gen. Flynn, Papodapolis, Manafort and Stone. That is a terrible abuse that must be punished. But, what is the firewall; the failsafe? The COURTS. So, these cases built on abuse are fed into specially construed courts populated by vile, partisan, biased judges that will do the bidding of the liberal apparatus. The role of the courts is not only to deliver justice but to expose such abuses by rejecting the “evidence” (instead of blocking anyone exposing the gross, transparent abuses).
Impeaching and disbarring Jackson, the prescribed reaction to judicial abuse, and then repeating the process wherever abuse is found (look to the 9th Circuit) would send the message that, no, complaining about abusing the legal system to artificially promote liberalism is not acceptable and the same punishment as for any other gross abuse is going to be employed.
Prosecutors usually reject evidence gathered by illicit means as the discovery of the impropriety would destroy the case. Here, though, the prosecutors are in league with the judge, all are in on the scheme and all act in unison to prosecute and convict based on false and wrongly collected evidence. They do so because the CAN do so with impunity. Is it a widespread problem? Well, THOUSANDS of those in Justice will come together and PROTEST the exposure of the abuse, not the injustice; what does THAT indicate?
The same goes with rogue law enforcement that works to destroy political opponents; sever punishment will not on deliver a distinct message but will also root out the fellow conspirators who will not put their orders in writing.
Take FISA and the Patriot act to the dumpster where all unconstitutional garbage belongs. While we are at it make it illegal to gather and sell personal data on the internet.
@Deplorable Me: What has happened is a travesty and goes against everything this country was founded on. There are two administrative approaches to fixing this- the scalpel approach and the meat cleaver approach. For the FBI the scalpel approach would be to return the agency to its glory days of nabbing “Public Enemy Number One”. That would involve leadership at the top who are experienced in catching bad guys instead of being political bureaucrats and who are not part of the good old boy club. It’ll require an outsider at the top. Think Sheriff Clarke not another Christopher Wray. Next, move the agency HQ’s far away from DC in order to eliminate the upper echelons rubbing elbows with people they should probably be investigating. The meat cleaver approach would be to disband the agency and farm its duties out to other agencies. The field agents who are doing their jobs keeping the country safe can latch on with one of those organizations. The corrupt “Seventh Floor” problem children would be eliminated.
Ditto for the DOJ. The scalpel approach would be to locate them far away from DC to eliminate the corruption and prevent them from becoming drinking buddies with people they should be prosecuting. The meat cleaver approach would be to disband the Department and return the DA’s to the Department of Interior where they were before and make them elected officials answerable to the people instead of political appointees. The DOJ was formed by Congress and blessed off by Grant in 1870 in a large part to deal with civil rights issues namely the Klan. The Klan, contrary to leftist belief, is no longer a big threat to the country so the DOJ’s main mission was achieved awhile ago.
As for the CIA, now that they are in the business of regime change in our own country, there is no scalpel approach such as implementing “reforms” because they won’t do any good if another Brennan and Obama come along because there were already restrictions that were easily ignored. There is only the meat cleaver approach. Disband them and go back to concept of the OSS.
The scalpel approach starts with prosecuting everyone involved in the coup. If we can’t make it to step one, then go straight to the meat cleaver approach. It’ll be time to burn it down and start over.
@another vet: The primary rule for a FISA warrant is clear; one end of the conversation tapped has to be overseas. The court regulating the surveillance is the fail-safe. That is a very thin line of defense, but a line of defense nevertheless. The solution to what we’ve seen is either severe punishment for the judges that authorized the nonsensical surveillance of Page or severe punishment for the investigators that provided false evidence to justify it.
Next comes the prosecutors that should look at the evidence they are going to use and make the decision if it is legitimate and legal or not. If they are using evidence they KNOW has collected illegally or is altogether false, THEY deserve severe punishment.
Finally, we have a judge that is supposed to be neutral and curious. When we have judges that are in league with the corrupt prosecutors, corrupt investigators and corrupt FISA judges, and if we are unwilling to punish the wrong to preserve the confidence in our justice system then the only option is to destroy it and start all over.
Clearly the ideological left has infiltrated every level of the Justice and IC departments and there are many to punish… or simply toss in the trash altogether.
@Deplorable Me: The mere fact that they keep this up means they have the utmost confidence that our government won’t hold them accountable. A VERY scary thought.
@another vet: Based on past experience, it’s a safe bet.
@Deplorable Me: @another vet: I agree with both of you. If there is no penalty for illegal behavior, there is no hope for reform. There is an FBI training facility in WV. Maybe the whole organization should be moved there. With the Soros involvement in the DA elections across the country, I have fear with elections rather than appointments. Maybe there should be a better system of oversight.
@Randy: Compare the trial Weinstein got with those of Manafort and Stone. Weinstein got actual due process and three of the counts against his scumbag ass were cleared because of the lack of irrefutable evidence. Scumbag liberals (redundant) get more consideration than any conservative.