The Hunter Becomes the Hunted
The scenario anticipated more than a year ago in King vs. King has advanced to the semi-finals. The Russian collusion affair, which began with the incoming president on the defensive, has now become a set of simultaneous offensives with each side trying to jail the other. "President Trump on Sunday said he would 'demand' a Justice Department investigation into whether the FBI 'infiltrated' his 2016 presidential campaign," USA Today reported.
I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes - and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!
This demand follows revelations that an FBI operation codenamed Crossfire Hurricane ran “at least one government informant” against the Trump campaign in counterintelligence fashion. Andrew McCarthy writes:
The FBI, lacking the incriminating evidence needed to justify opening a criminal investigation of the Trump campaign, [in contrast to the Clinton campaign, he adds elsewhere] decided to open a counterintelligence investigation. With the blessing of the Obama White House, they took the powers that enable our government to spy on foreign adversaries and used them to spy on Americans — Americans who just happened to be their political adversaries.
This implication was quickly denied. "Former Director of Intelligence James Clapper said Thursday night on CNN that it was 'a good thing' there was an FBI informant spying on the Trump campaign."
Clapper admitted the FBI “may have had someone who was talking to them in the campaign,” referring to President Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. He explained away the possibility of an FBI informant spying on the campaign as the bureau was trying to find out “what the Russians were doing to try to substantiate themselves in the campaign or influence or leverage it.”
Obama’s Director of National Intelligence then went on to say, “So, if there was someone that was observing that sort of thing, that’s a good thing.”
The invaluable timeline of the investigations compiled by Sharyl Attkisson seems to confirm what Lee Smith of Tablet Magazine has already suggested: that the roots of domestic spying predated the Trump candidacy. He notes that "Obama officials vastly expand[ed] their searches through NSA database for Americans and the content of their communications. In 2013, there were 9,600 searches involving 195 Americans. But in 2016, there are 30,355 searches of 5,288 Americans."
The context in which this ramp-up took place was an actual uptick in foreign tensions largely underplayed to the public. By 2016, all pretense of a "reset" with Russia had collapsed. Former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul notes how he was being hazed by Putin's thugs the instant he left the embassy in 2012. Someone was hacking the DNC emails. Not only the Russians but the Ukrainians were active participants in events. The timeline shows that in April 2016:
Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee lawyer Mark Elias and his law firm, Perkins Coie, hire Fusion GPS for anti-Trump political research project.
Ukrainian member of parliament Olga Bielkova reportedly seeks meetings with five dozen members of U.S. Congress and reporters including former New York Time reporter Judy Miller, David Sanger of New York Times, David Ignatius of Washington Post, and Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt.
But none of this was played up to the public. Even while McFaul was being hazed, Obama was "zinging" Romney.
In October 2016, "President Obama advises Trump to 'stop whining' after Trump tweeted the election could be rigged. 'There is no serious person out there who would suggest somehow that you could even — you could even rig America’s elections,' said Obama."
But by the time the 2016 elections were happening, furious activity was taking place. In late August 2016 the timeline notes:
...reportedly working for the FBI, one-time CIA operative Professor Halper meets with Trump campaign co-chair Sam Clovis offering his services as a foreign-policy adviser, according to The Washington Post. Halper would later offer to hire Carter Page.
On January 20, 2017, "Fifteen minutes after Trump becomes president, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice emails memo to herself purporting to summarize the Jan. 5 Oval Office meeting with President Obama and other top officials. She states that Obama instructed the group to investigate 'by the book' and asked them to be mindful whether there were certain things that “could not be fully shared with the incoming administration."
In response to Trump's demand, Rod Rosenstein has asked the DOJ inspector general to review the possible infiltration of the Trump campaign. The hunters have themselves become the hunted. For better or worse, two major American political factions are trying to jail each other. The outcome of their struggle may determine not only who occupies the White House, but what future role the intelligence agencies play in public life.
The specifics of the individual accusations may be fake, but the struggle over the control of the bureaucracy is frighteningly real. Concern over the independence of powerful bureaucracies has long been paramount for a reason. The biggest problem with weaponizing intelligence agencies is it CREATES a pathway for the foreign takeover of the system. If a once hostile power takes over the White House and that president corrupts the agencies, an unfettered secret police will have the ability to remain in power indefinitely.
Who's on first? Worse yet, who's playing?
The current conflict in Washington, though dismaying, is at least much more comforting than the condition where everyone sings each other's praises. The whole purpose of oversight, checks, and balances is to avoid the formation of an absorbing Markov transition -- a kind of political Hotel California -- which you can enter but never leave.
Avoiding a crisis depends on not crossing certain lines and concealing that fact if it has occurred. That has now gone by the board. When a system is undeniably confronted with deceitful lawlessness it is like finding the dealer was cheating at cards. Trump, by officially demanding an answer into whether the previous administration engaged in political spying, is effectively accusing them of cheating at cards. As everybody knows, once you ask this question at a table, the surface game stops and a deeper game begins. Suddenly the little cardboard rectangles don't matter anymore.
The King vs. King battle appears to be moving into a new phase. The smaller players have skirmished and been cleared away. Now the clash between the heavier units is about to begin.
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The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies, by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. This book reveals the forces driving the reinvention of our lives and our economy. As the full impact of digital technologies is felt, we will realize immense bounty but also experience wrenching change. Professions of all kinds - from lawyers to truck drivers - will be forever upended. Companies will be forced to transform or die. Recent economic indicators reflect this shift: fewer people are working, and wages are falling even as productivity and profits soar. Drawing on years of research and up-to-the-minute trends, MIT's Brynjolfsson and McAfee identify the best strategies for survival and a new path to prosperity.
Open Curtains: What if Privacy were Property not only a Right, by George Spix and Richard Fernandez. This book is a proposal for bringing privacy to the internet by assigning monetary value to data. The image of "open curtains" is meant to suggest a system that allows different degrees of privacy, controlled by the owner. The "curtains" may be open, shut, or open to various degrees depending on which piece of data is being dealt with. Ultimately, what is at stake is governance. We are en route to control of society by and for the few rather than by and for the many, because currently the handful of mega tech companies are siphoning up everyone's data, for nothing, and selling it. Under the open curtains proposal, government would also pay for its surveillance in the form of tax rebates, providing at least some incentive for government to minimize its intrusions ... (from a review by E. Greenwood).
Skin in the Game, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. In his new work, Taleb uses the phrase "skin in the game" to introduce a complex worldview that applies to literally all aspects of our lives. "Never trust anyone who doesn't have skin in the game. Without it, fools and crooks will profit and their mistakes will never come back to haunt them," he says. In his inimitable style, he pulls on everything from Antaeus the Giant to Hammurabi to Donald Trump to Seneca to the ethics of disagreement to create a jaw-dropping tapestry for understanding our world in a brand new way.
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