Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Scandal Wrapped in a Smear Inside of a Calumny

 Why worry about World War III when the only fallout we have to fear is the politically radioactive detritus from the scandal known as RussiaGate? A fate even worse than massive death and destruction would be the tragic loss of public confidence in our benevolent Surveillance State.

So whispered a Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee into the sympathetic ear of New Yorker columnist and CNN talking head Ryan Lizza.

In a delicate little convoluted pretzel of a story, Lizza strives in fine Orwellian fashion to obfuscate rather than to enlighten. As Donald Trump recklessly goads a cornered North Korean dictator into a nuclear confrontation while mindlessly bombing thousands of people to death throughout the greater Middle East, Lizza idiotically complains that "the most reckless lie" of Trump's entire career has been the one about the Obama wiretapping. It's even worse, apparently, than Trump's whopper about the American Armada encircling Korea even as the Carl Vinson chugged thousands of miles away in a completely opposite direction.

Were it not for Republican Devin Nunes, the House Intelligence Committee chairman, making such political hay out of our patriotic spies just doing their normal thing and sweeping up and transcribing the international phone conversations of Trump associates, the future bright prospects of the great surveillance state would not now be in such danger. 

The fact that Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice, was also just doing her normal national security thing by "unmasking" some of Trump's associates is not proof of a political conspiracy to damage Trump's candidacy. That is because when she unmasked them, she had no idea what she was looking for. Most of the names in the examined transcripts remain masked anyway.
It is now clear that the scandal was not Rice’s normal review of the intelligence reports but the coördinated effort between the Trump Administration and Nunes to sift through classified information and computer logs that recorded Rice’s unmasking requests, and then leak a highly misleading characterization of those documents, all in an apparent effort to turn Rice, a longtime target of Republicans, into the face of alleged spying against Trump. It was a series of lies to manufacture a fake scandal. Last week, CNN was the first to report that both Democrats and Republicans who reviewed the Nunes material at the N.S.A. said that the documents provided “no evidence that Obama Administration officials did anything unusual or illegal.”
Notice how Lizza glibly avoids any investigative journalistic effort of his own by ceding authority not only to both corporate political parties, but to his own war-hungry employer, CNN. If Republicans and Democrats have bipartisanly decreed that the Obama administration is innocent and the Trump administration is guilty, and establishment propaganda organ CNN then obediently reports their findings, all Lizza has to do is obediently re-report the approved reporting for maximum public acceptance.

But just to make doubly sure that his readers keep feeling as informed as it is possible to feel while flailing in the miasma of manufactured journalistic confusion, he next employs the old propaganda trick of using one anonymous source to confirm the findings of another anonymous source:
I spoke to two intelligence sources, one who read the entire binder of intercepts and one who was briefed on their contents. “There’s absolutely nothing there,” one source said. The Trump names remain masked in the documents, and Rice would not have been able to know in all cases that she was asking the N.S.A. to unmask the names of Trump officials.
Lizza cleverly doesn't inform his readers whether it was the primary source or the secondary source who told him that there is no there there. I imagine that it would be very easy for an unnamed invisible source who wasn't actually there to honestly and conveniently assure our intrepid reporter that there was nothing there.

Now, we get into the real nitty-gritty nuclear fallout aspect of Lizza's piece: it's not the fact that the United State spies on every man, woman and child in the country, even the world, sucking up all our phone records and all our emails and all our Internet searches. It's the fact that the Republicans are reminding us of it, and wrenching us out of the our miasma of ignorance and blind compliance with the inexorable, largely unnoticed, and very bipartisan destruction of the Bill of Rights.
Nunes is being investigated by the House Ethics Committee because, in talking about the documents, he may have leaked classified information. But this is like getting Al Capone for tax evasion. The bigger scandal is the coördinated effort to use the American intelligence services to manufacture an excuse for Trump’s original tweet.
The intelligence source told me that he knows, “from talking to people in the intelligence community,” that “the White House said, ‘We are going to mobilize to find something to justify the President’s tweet that he was being surveilled.’ They put out an all-points bulletin”—a call to sift through intelligence reports—“and said, ‘We need to find something that justifies the President’s crazy tweet about surveillance at Trump Tower.’ And I’m telling you there is no way you get that from those transcripts, which are about as plain vanilla as can be.” (The White House did not respond to a request for comment.)
Translation: everything the Surveillance State does is as pure and comforting as a dish of ice cream. Only Trump would find evil in an innocent dish of ice cream, or discern porn on prim little sheets of frosty white vellum.
 The fallout from Trump’s tweet could have grave consequences for national security. The law governing the N.S.A.’s collection of the content of communications of foreign targets is up for renewal this summer. Known as Section 702, part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, it is perhaps the most important intelligence tool that America’s spy agencies have to gather information about potential terrorist attacks and about the intentions of regimes around the world. There are legitimate privacy concerns about allowing the N.S.A. to vacuum up such an enormous amount of communications. A report from 2014 by the Obama Administration’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board identified several areas that might be changed to increase the privacy protections for Americans, but the board also “found no evidence of intentional abuse” of the program.
 Remember, citizen-consumers, be afraid only of the things, like Russia, which they tell you to fear. Trump's stupid Tweets are far deadlier than any atomic weapon. You can only be safe as long as all your emails, all your phone records, and all your Internet searches can be vacuumed up by government bureaucrats for future reference.  Although they abuse your privacy rights on a constant basis, their intentions remain as pure and as sweet as a dish of all-natural vanilla ice cream.

What is really scary to the establishment is that those annoying "questions are being raised" by politicians who refuse to loyally adhere to the extreme center. The surveillance state is having its own privacy severely damaged, and it's all Trump's fault:
Some American intelligence officials are now concerned that Trump and Nunes’s wild claims about intercepts and Rice have made Section 702 look like a rogue program that can be easily abused for political purposes. The intelligence source said, “In defense of the President, Devin Nunes and some other partisans have created a huge political problem by casting doubt, in the service of Donald Trump, on these intercepts.” Senator Rand Paul, of Kentucky, a leading critic of Section 702, has been using the episode to rally libertarians. He recently tweeted, “Smoking gun found! Obama pal and noted dissembler Susan Rice said to have been spying on Trump campaign.” Democratic critics of Section 702 have also been emboldened. “Section 702 of FISA allows warrantless searches on Americans. That’s unconstitutional & must be changed,” Representative Ted Lieu, the Democrat from California, tweeted last month, during the controversy.
So, when it is correctly pointed out that all of our emails, phone records and Internet searches are being swept up, it becomes a "wild accusation" - especially if this fact is pointed out for purposes of craven political gain. This unmasking unfairly politicizes the intelligence agencies, which actually exist at the funding pleasure and unquestioning behest of the politicians both in the White House and in Congress. The intelligence community wants to have its cake and ice cream, and eat them too.
“They manufactured a scandal to distract from a serious investigation,” Eric Swalwell, a Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, who would not comment on the N.S.A. documents, said. “And the collateral damage is the public confidence in our intelligence community when we need to count on them now more than ever. Considering the threats we are facing right now from North Korea and ISIS, it’s a pretty dangerous time to undermine the I.C.’s credibility to make a five-yard sack in the Russia investigation.”
There's nothing worse than a silly distraction from a serious distraction. This silliness distracts the tired, the hungry, the jobless from what really counts: Russia, and voting for a Democratic Party whose sole remaining purpose is to serve its pathologically rich cadre of donors. It's a distraction from fighting a terrorist group which itself was manufactured by the same "intelligence community" which is now pretending to do battle with it. But pointing this out would be a huge distraction from Ryan Lizza's convoluted little propaganda piece. 

Williams Hughes Mearns sums up the mainstream media's distractionary angst quite nicely in the famous ditty Antagonish (originally and aptly part of a play called Psyco-ed.)
Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn't there
He wasn't there again today
I wish, I wish he'd go away...

When I came home last night at three
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall
I couldn't see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don't you come back any more
Go away, go away, and please don't slam the door.
Last night I saw upon the stair
A little man who was not there
He wasn't there again today
Oh, how I wish he'd go away.


Zee said...

Wow! My head is truly spinning with the charges and counter-charges being slung between Democrat and Trump partisans regarding the alleged connections (or non-connections) of the Trump campaign to the Russkis.

Does anyone really believe that the Trumpsters are clever enough to

“…coördinate… [an] … effort [with] ,,, Nunes to sift through classified information and computer logs that recorded Rice’s unmasking requests, and then leak a highly misleading characterization of those documents, all in an apparent effort to turn Rice, a longtime target of Republicans, into the face of alleged spying against Trump [?]” It was a series of lies to manufacture a fake scandal.”

C’mon! The Trump administration can’t even keep track of where it has most recently dispatched an entire carrier group, North Korea or the Indian Ocean!

Could it hatch a byzantine plan like this, worthy of a John Le Carré or Tom Clancy? I think not.

Moreover, other questions about Rice’s conduct remain.

First, she couldn’t remember the subject “unmaskings;” she had no idea what anyone was talking about. Then, inadvertently admitting that she “did too remember,” she said that she did nothing illegal, anyway. And finally, as I understand it, there was nothing about that unmasking that was part of her normal, day-to-day chores. Didn’t she have to submit a special request to the agency (or agencies) that did the recording, explaining why she needed to have American citizens “unmasked” in the first place?

I may have some of this wrong, because I haven’t followed it in all that much detail lately—I’m getting sick of it. But I don’t think so.

Still, it is clear that the Democrats are going to use Rooshian interference in our elections as an excuse to do absolutely NOTHING for the foreseeable future. Could it be because THEY HAVE NO PLAN AS TO WHAT TO DO FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE?

How convenient.

voice-in-wilderness said...

Deliberately misleading the North Koreans and the world about that carrier fleet is the single most dangerous thing the Trump administration has done. That is how wars start from miscalculation and accidents.

Don't forget you can always sing along with Tom Lehrer from the Cold War days:

Jay–Ottawa said...

We sensible armchair investigators are now as good––no better, no worse––as any public official (or hacker) armed with an agenda and the authority (or capacity) to look at any document anywhere, no matter how secret, no matter how real or concocted, with or without redactions. Nothing real is hidden anymore; and, as ever, no manufactured falsehood can be disproved.

Alas and halleluia, the official investigators will now be at a loss as much as we amateurs in determining whether there really is or was a who, a what, a when, a how, and a there there. What I mean is, reason and hard documents in the archives once enabled an investigator (J Edgar Hoover or Seymour Hersh) to "connect the dots." Nowadays, depending on which way you're looking through the telescope, those days are either over or just beginning. Swamped with an endless supply of digital facts, the investigators and the curious will be able to open too many doors leading to nothing but confusion but exactly what you need to convict anyone, high or low, of anything.

The problem is that the NSA and its sisters (and the ultra hackers) can now gather ALL the dots in existence. Too many dots don't enlighten us; they darken the picture. The pointillism of a Georges Seurat has been flooded with a super-modernist excess of dots signifying everything and nothing. It's all a blur now. You can connect those dots in any convoluted way you please. Because they're all there before your eyes at once. Welcome to the (bottomless) information age, the world-wide net, and the boundless Wikipedia. From now on every theory is correct and has the dots to back it up.

Connect the eternity of dots one way, and you establish a conspiracy that helps the in-crowd or the out-crowd. Connect the dots/facts another way, and you lend credibility to the opposing conspiracy––or is that reality? The kaleidoscope of facts that shape the "news" is infinite.

Playful writers in the English canon wrote teasing short stories doing the same thing; after you put down one of their books, your brain kept spinning. Did Frank Stockton's princess direct her lover to open the door hiding a lovely alternative for her forbidden lover, or did she direct him to open the door to the tiger, which would devour him, thus pleasing her barbaric father and her barbaric jealousy? Call me when you have the answer to Stockton's "innovative" child's story. Call me when you know which dots are real in the hall of mirrors called Russiagate.

We have eaten the forbidden fruit reserved for the gods. Everything turns out to be too much in the Garden of Information. The NSA is rebuilding the Tower of Babel. Or should I say this is The Flood? At the same time, who among us will advocate our collecting less data, and therefore knowing less, and therefore thinking less about what we know, don't know, know we don't know––oh, where's Donald Rumsfeld when you need him?