Are you alarmed as the onion of American intelligence surveillance and how it operates is peeled back one layer at a time for all of us to see? I don’t know about you, but it’s pretty scary to me. The FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Court was constructed to strictly protect the privacy of American citizens from our OWN government. This came amid revelations that the NSA was (and still is) documented every phone call every day of and to Americans. They way they are just “saving” the data of phone calls and do not listen in. But with all the recent revelations of surveillance techniques and how they operate, the fact that our government has that “mega data” is spooky. Think about it: we are just now finding out there are those linked to the Obama Administration who used that monitoring system to target campaign staffers of then candidate and now President Donald Trump for political reasons — reasons that nothing to do with national security. And a big part of that operation apparently was legally based on approval by the FISA Court! Why is that spooky? The judge who heard those pleadings to obtain permission for those surveillance operations was supposed to have verifiable proof such surveillance was necessary “for national security reasons.” Obviously listening in on telephone conversations of presidential campaign staffers was NOT a national security issue. So either someone slick talked a judge into believing it was necessary, the judge gave permission based on his/her political reasons, or there was just plain ignorance on the part of the judge. Anyone of these reasons should make the bells go off in every American’s head: Big Brother is Watching and Listening!
It is painfully obvious the wheels of Congressional investigation are slow turning. While Congress has subpoena power and has the ability for its various committees to obtain classified information on this subject from the various intelligence organizations, those entities have a history of slow playing Congressional requests for documents, evidence, and the appearance of witnesses. Even though there are several investigations underway in the matter by several Congressional committees and at least two investigative arms of the intelligence community, it is going to be a while before Americans see what they have discovered. And even then the specifics of those findings will probably be dramatically redacted because they will be labeled “Classified” and therefore its examination will be denied to average Americans, most in Congress, and even some federal lawmakers.
I was skeptical of what I thought was paranoia on the part of former Presidential candidate Ron Paul and his son Senator Rand Paul who are both Libertarian and who both think the U.S. Government overreaches in its stepping into the lives of private citizens with this everyday surveillance of Americans’ communications. In doing so they both are convinced these actions violate the Constitutional rights of Americans and the Fourth Amendment:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
The question of whether the Constitution protects privacy in ways not expressly provided in the Bill of Rights is controversial. Many originalists, including most famously Judge Robert Bork in his ill-fated Supreme Court confirmation hearings, have argued that no such general right of privacy exists. The Supreme Court, however, beginning as early as 1923 and continuing through its recent decisions, has broadly read the “liberty” guarantee of the Fourteenth Amendment to guarantee a fairly broad right of privacy that has come to encompass decisions about child rearing, procreation, marriage, and termination of medical treatment. Polls show most Americans support this broader reading of the Constitution.
The constant threat of government surveillance going unchecked and the fear of that surveillance being implemented at will by those in government who have access to do so resulted in the creation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the FISA Court. It seemed to be the best way to assure Americans that the average American would NEVER find themselves caught up in any unauthorized surveillance by any agent or agency of the Government. The FISA law made such surveillance illegal. Unfortunately since the Trump inauguration almost daily we receive new confirmation of surveillance of Americans, some of which apparently occurred as a result of a legal FISA warrant in which those Americans were included in surveillance as being part of a conversation with others who were actually the subject of that warrant — or least that is what we were originally told. Only now it has been shown that some of this surveillance was conducted for political purposes and NOT for the only legal purpose allowed by FISA: for national security reasons. Former NSA Director Susan Rice has been caught up in what seems to be a plethora of partial truths, untruths, and carefully phrased explanations for her requests for the unmasking of Americans who were caught up in these apparent legal intelligence operations. But once again, that unmasking of Americans (which is the revelation of who those Americans are) apparently did NOT occur for national security reasons but for political purposes by former Obama Administration employees and/or appointees. All of this has flooded the U.S. with even more certainty that our government — at least in intelligence areas — has gotten out of hand and is operating in part in a politicized environment rather than in the pursuit of intelligence in national security matters.
I am one American who no longer trusts the veracity of FBI Director James Comey, NSA Director Mike Rogers, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (who was caught in lies to Congress), former Senator Dan Coats — the current DNI Director — has not been operating long enough to get a good read on him. My doubts and mistrust include CIA Director James Brennan. Just because I doubt these people’s honesty and integrity does not mean I am right. But isn’t it ironic that the people that hold directorships in the major Intelligence Agencies of the United States are all clouded in a shadow of doubt about their performing in their intelligence roles with total disregard of all things political?
So what can/should be done? I think President Trump ought to adopt the process of selecting Intelligence Department leadership from the non-political workers in each of those departments who have proven track records of their integrity, honesty, knowledge of each department and its structure and operations, and has been proven to fly in their work and personal lives below the level of politics. This procedure has been used by many Presidents to establish non-partisan department heads in numerous federal agencies. And for the most part this process has been worked very successfully.
Until these and other Intelligence agencies are “fixed” from the top down, Americans are doomed to live lives without assurance that their government is adhering to Constitutional mandates of privacy as they pertain to all Americans. President Trump himself has made it clear regarding James Comey — FBI Director and the most publicly visible of these Agency heads — that he trusts Comey…..NOW…..but “the book is still out.” I think the “businessman” Trump needs to put into practice in this matter what he has systematically used with great success in his various companies and make immediate wholesale changes at the top of the CIA, FBI, NSA, and DNI. Besides giving all Americans the assurance that political perspectives are NOT welcome or tolerated in the Intelligence Community, it will assure the Trump Administration that these agencies are doing just what they were formed to do: provide the President and Congress (as the representatives of the People) assurance that all intelligence matters of national security are the ONLY matters being conducted by each department.
It’s time for President Trump in his continuing trek to “Clean the Swamp” tell each one of these gentlemen: “You’re Fired!”