It is fascinating to observe the media contortions as they go to extreme lengths to ignore profound and important news. I am referring specifically to the revelations that the National Security Agency, under the stewardship of Barack Obama, was illegally spying on Americans. Here's the story:
A newly released court opinion from the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) shows that for years the NSA improperly and perhaps illegally surveilled Americans. The court order triggered the surprise announcement two weeks ago that the agency would be severely scaling back its domestic surveillance and destroying previously collected data on Americans.
Thursday, the Department of Justice released the 99-page court opinion from last month that ordered the National Security Agency to delete much of its surveillance on American people, which was collected improperly and in potential violation of the Fourth Amendment. The DOJ released the opinion as part of a 2015 plan to be more transparent.
The NSA collected data about Americans if they even mentioned a foreign target.
The opinion is a rebuke of many of the NSA's surveillance collection practices under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the powers of which were expanded under the US Patriot Act. According to the opinion—parts of which are redacted—the NSA improperly collected untold numbers of "multi-communications transactions" (MCTs) as they were in transit around the internet. The NSA is intentionally vague about what MCTs are, but they are believed to be groups of emails, metadata, screenshots of your inbox, and still-classified types of digital information (here's the best primer explaining MCTs).
Under Section 702, the NSA is allowed to collect domestic communication if Americans are communicating directly with a "foreign intelligence target" as approved by the FISC court. According to the opinion, the NSA had been collecting information if a foreign target was merely mentioned in the communication.
"Upstream collection could acquire an entire MCT for which the active user was a nontarget and that mostly pertained to non-targets, merely because a single discrete communication within the MCT was to, from or contained a reference to a tasked selector," Judge Rosemary Collyer wrote. "Such acquisitions could take place even if the non-target active user was a U.S. person in the United States and the MCT contained a large number of domestic communications that did not pertain to the foreign intelligence target."
Instead of focusing on this revelation–i.e., that the Obama Administration was illegally intercepting the communications of many Americans–most of the media is still busy ridiculing Trump for his claim that Obama had him "wire tapped" and obsessing over an anonymous report that Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, had talked with Russia's Ambassador last December and allegedly conspired to set up a private means of communication.
Hardly anyone has focused on the irony of Kushner being concerned about Obama and his cronies intercepting Trump campaign communications while we are getting news that is exactly what transpired under Obama. There is no genuine protection for private communications.
I am shocked by the intensity of the propaganda campaign against the Trumpers and against the Russians. Having worked on covert action programs during my time in the intelligence community, I do have an appreciation and understanding about how such campaigns are mounted and carried out. What is being done inside the United States by our foreign intelligence organizations signals we have crossed a dangerous threshold. Our traditional beliefs about privacy and the requirement for a warrant before authorities can poke around in your personal affairs are no longer valid.
Normally we would expect the so-called liberal media to attack such abuses and lead the charge against the law breakers. But these are not normal times. The media, for the most part, are partisan hacks who are so opposed to Trump that they will gladly embrace authoritarian, fascist tactics as long as they are directed against the Trump Presidency.
One interesting twist in all of this–as long as Trump plays along with the deep state, for example, by vilifying Russia and carrying out illegal U.S. military operations in Syria, then Trump's abuses are ignored and even cheered. There is not legal basis for Trump to authorize bombing strikes in Syria but most in the U.S. establishment and media seem content to welcome those actions.
We are becoming immunized as a society to accept Presidential authority to break laws and numb to any evidence of wrong doing as long as it is embraced by the media establishment. A very dangerous time for our Republic.