RealClearPolitics: By Charles Lipson –
Amid the flurry of details about spying on Michael Flynn, lying to secret courts about Carter Page, leaking classified documents, and more, it’s easy to get lost in the muck. It’s important to stand back, identify the worst abuses, and explain why they matter for American democracy. These abuses didn’t simply follow each other; their targets, goals, and principal players overlapped. Taken together, they represent some of the gravest violations of constitutional norms and legal protections in American history. Whether you are Democrat or Republican, whether you like Donald Trump or loathe him, these violations matter.
Some call this debacle “Obamagate” since the key officials were his appointees and the White House was directly involved. But they got plenty of help. Some came from the permanent bureaucracy, especially in law enforcement and intelligence. Still more came from the mainstream media, which served as conduits for classified leaks aimed at Trump, his campaign, and then his presidency. For over three years, the media’s top story was “Trump colluded with Russia.” When that imploded after the Mueller Report, they moved on to impeachment.
The entrenched elites behind these scandals are the Swamp at its most sulfurous. They spied illegally on Americans and used powerful tools of government to damage the party-out-of-power, its outsider candidate, and then his new presidency. It’s worse than a single surveillance scandal. It’s three huge ones, intertwined. All were abuses of power. Some were crimes.
Scandal No. 1: Massive, illegal surveillance of American citizens, using the database of the National Security Agency
During the second term of President Obama, and perhaps earlier, private firms from outside the government were allowed to trawl through the massive NSA database of phone calls, emails, and text messages. Without any warrants, they spied on vast numbers of American citizens. The public still doesn’t know who did it, who authorized it, or how the metadata was used.
This illegal practice ended in summer 2016 when the agency’s head, Adm. Mike Rogers, learned about it. He stopped it immediately and reported it to the Rosemary Collyer, chief judge of the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Court. Judge Collyer issued a scathing, heavily redacted report about the illegal activity, but, so far, no one has been indicted.
Scandal No. 2: Spying on the Trump campaign.