Links for 3-5-2017

  • There’s heated debate over Donald Trump’s accusation that the Obama administration wiretapped him during the run-up to the November 2016 election. First, Andrew McCarthy explains that the Department of Justice has both law enforcement and national security roles. The DOJ pursues its national security role at the direction of the President; the President is not (normally) involved in the law enforcement role, which is pursued at the direction of the DOJ’s bureaucracy. According to published reports, the Obama DOJ pursued a criminal investigation (part of its law enforcement role) of Donald Trump’s associates in June 2016, which went nowhere. Then the investigation switched to a national security approach, and DOJ filed a request with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (the “FISA Court”) to surveil Trump’s associates; it’s not clear if that request named Trump himself, and, if it did, in what context. Regardless, Barack Obama should have known about that FISA Court request, since it was filed under his authority as Commander in Chief. The FISA Court rejected that request, which is very unusual. In October 2016 the DOJ went back to the FISA Court with a narrower request, which was approved. It’s not clear who was surveiled under that authorization, or if the surveillance continues today. Obama administration representatives are choosing their words carefully when characterizing what happened, and Andrew McCarthy explains why:

    Nevertheless, whether done inside or outside the FISA process, it would be a scandal of Watergate dimension if a presidential administration sought to conduct, or did conduct, national-security surveillance against the presidential candidate of the opposition party. Unless there was some powerful evidence that the candidate was actually acting as an agent of a foreign power, such activity would amount to a pretextual use of national security power for political purposes. That is the kind of abuse that led to Richard Nixon’s resignation in lieu of impeachment.

    Robert Barnes explains how the Obama administration could have abused the FISA process for political ends, and it is potentially troubling.

  • The federal government has an agency that’s intended to protect privacy and other civil liberties called (appropriately enough) the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. Unfortunately it’s all but dead, and no one in the federal government seems to care.

  • Donald Trump supporters held a demonstration about a mile away from the University of California at Berkeley campus, with predictable results: brawls accompanied by flag and sign burning. Ten people were arrested.

  • Jenna Lifhits explains what happened in the weeks up to the assault on Charles Murray and others at Middlebury College.

  • A Syrian government MiG–23 was shot down on its way to Idlib, Syria. The plane crashed in Turkey. The pilot ejected and also landed in Turkey, where he’s being treated for spinal injuries.

  • A great NRA ad targeting the selective pursuit of the truth by The New York Times: