Rand Paul's Day in the Sun

I confess I always had mixed feelings about Rand Paul.  The Kentucky senator is clearly a smart guy but his brand of libertarianism seemed better on paper than in real life. Moreover, his constant warnings about privacy  and the excessive power of our overweening intelligence agencies felt overwrought.  I assumed those agencies had their hands full with ISIS et al. and that it bordered on the paranoid worrying about their cooperating with our own government leaders in domestic spying.  If anything was unAmerican, that was.  And it was illegal.

Boy, was I wrong.

As events continue to evolve in the Susan Rice "unmasking" scandal, my hat's off to Rand.  He's my new hero, out there demanding Rice testify and wondering why the former national security adviser was doing investigating that normally would have been done by the FBI.

Another hero is Lee Smith, whose article in Tablet is positively blood-curdling. After reminding  us of what we already know -- that Rice's "unmasking" of Trump teammates in and of itself is not a crime, even if unseemly -- Smith adds:

But what if Donald Trump wasn’t the first or only target of an Obama White House campaign of spying and illegal leaks directed at domestic political opponents?

In a December 29, 2015 articleTheWall Street Journal described how the Obama administration had conducted surveillance on Israeli officials to understand how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials, like Ambassador Ron Dermer, intended to fight the Iran Deal. The Journal reported that the targeting “also swept up the contents of some of their private conversations with U.S. lawmakers and American-Jewish groups.”

Despite this reporting, it seemed inconceivable at the time that—given myriad legal, ethical, political, and historical concerns, as well as strict National Security Agency protocols that protect the identity of American names caught in intercepts—the Obama White House would have actually spied on American citizens. In a December 31, 2016, Tablet article on the controversy, “Why the White House Wanted Congress to Think It Was Being Spied on By the NSA,” I argued that the Obama administration had merely used the appearance of spying on American lawmakers to corner opponents of the Iran Deal. Spying on U.S. citizens would be a clear abuse of the foreign-intelligence surveillance system. It would be a felony offense to leak the names of U.S. citizens to the press.

Increasingly, I believe that my conclusion in that piece was wrong. I believe the spying was real and that it was done not in an effort to keep the country safe from threats—but in order to help the White House fight their domestic political opponents.

Smith goes on to show how Obama & Co. essentially weaponized the NSA's legitimate monitoring of foreign officials -- in this case Israelis -- to gain the administration's ends (i. e. tarnish Jewish-Americans in opposition to the Iran Deal for having "dual loyalties" in order to weaken opposition to the deal).