Opinion | Muftic: Russians spying on the American voters
Trump’s Attorney General Bill Barr tossed a plum to the Trump media this past week, first charging Trump enemies with “spying” on the Trump campaign in 2016 and then, within the same Congressional hearing redefined spying as “unauthorized surveillance.” If there was any spying in 2016, it was Russians on American voters to help elect Donald Trump. It was not the FBI spying on President Trump. We do not have to wait for the delivery to Congress Thursday of the Mueller report, redacted or not, to learn of Russia’s activities. It has been spelled out in indictments of Russian active measures conducted by the Russian military and others from and in Russia. However, the Mueller report we see might reveal more than was in the text of the indictments.
Barr admitted he had no evidence that either unauthorized surveillance or spying had occurred. Later Barr tried to claim that unauthorized surveillance and spying were the same things. They are not. My first reaction to Barr’s use of the term” spying” is that the word refers to acts committed by some foreign hostile power.
Dictionary.com confirms the foreign power element defining “spying” as “a person employed by a government to obtain secret information or intelligence about another, usually hostile, country, especially regarding military or naval affairs.”
Barr’s conflating the two terms ignited a semantics war that is dangerous because it feeds the paranoid fantasies and conspiracy theories promoted by the right wing that the “deep state” was out to get Donald Trump by spying on him and Trump at once opined that he was indeed spied upon.
He reiterated his claim again and again that the Mueller investigation was illegal and a witch hunt. The Mueller Special Counsel investigation was authorized by Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein per federal statutes 28 U.S.C. §§ 509, 510, and 515, and the parameters were established in the appointing document.
Those conspiracies promoted by Donald Trump and his followers have an ironic twist.
The same “deep state” actors, the FBI specifically, were also the same outfit that most likely got Donald Trump elected with their disclosure ten days before the election that the FBI had reopened a criminal case against Hillary Clinton.
At the same time, the FBI kept it a secret that a counterintelligence investigation had been opened into Donald Trump and his campaign. The effect was that the FBI was protecting Trump while hurting the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. If the FBI was a deep state out to prove Trump did something illegal, it was at least bi-partisan.
Last week, a Democrat, Greg Craig, former Obama White House counsel, was indicted for lying about his lobbying efforts on behalf of Russian/Ukrainian interests. He has pleaded not guilty.
This is a case stemming from the Mueller investigation. It related to Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, a former political advisor to Russian/Ukrainian interests, who has begun a 47-month prison sentence for financial crimes he committed before joining the Trump campaign.
The Russian hacks and thefts of Democratic National Committee emails, receiving confidential polling data to help them target voters to swing the election to Trump, and having their spies on the US ground, are most definitely examples of spying on the United States.
The arrest of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in England week once again reminded us of how the Russian espionage to uncover the DNC hacked findings, were relayed and released to the public through Wikileaks to impact the 2016 election.
Russians did more than just collect information, per Mueller indictment. They also employed their intelligence gathering results to control the political outcome of the US with their use of social media and advertising, including using Wikileaks as a vehicle. We were played by Russian operatives. The shocker is that the GOP and Trump are quite all right with that, impugning the integrity of Mueller who they once praised, calling the entire investigation as illegal, and demanding Congress investigate the investigators attributing the findings to ulterior motives. It is not all right with me since I think who leads this country should be decided by US voters without being manipulated by some foreign power to further their national interests and using social media as the weapon of their attack.
Is there anything called authorized surveillance? Think back to when the GOP controlled Congress got into the weeds with the FISA court issue. The FISA court is a revolving panel of judges (currently all Republicans) who approve surveillance of US persons, and the FBI must provide evidence to the FISA court that surveillance is justified. The FISA court approved and renewed surveillance several times in the course of the FBI and counterintelligence investigation into Russian election activities.
The House Intelligence Committee then chaired by Republican Devin Nunes attempted to show the FBI had relied on a dossier prepared by UK former spy chief to show justification for the wiretap and did not disclose that to the FISA judges. Indeed the Steele dossier was referenced in the FBI’s filing in footnotes with the comment the dossier was unverified. The burden on AG Barr is now to show how surveillance was conducted on US persons, including the President, that took place without FISA authorization.
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