In this March 15, 2017 file photo, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Re.Devin Nunes, R-Calif., right, accompanied by the committee's ranking member, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. . (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)J. Scott Applewhite AP
House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff is in high dudgeon over the bad form of House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes in reporting his bombshell -- that the chairman had been shown actual surveillance (not involving Russia) of the Trump transition team and possibly of the then president-elect himself -- to President Trump before he presented the evidence to the committee.
Bad form, quite possibly. But so what?
The facts are what they are.
What appears at this writing is that Trump transition team members and possibly Trump himself had their identities revealed, were "unmasked" in the parlance, while foreign diplomats were being surveilled. The identities of American citizens were not sufficiently "minimized," as they are required to be by law. This is a crime one would assume would put the perpetrators in prison. So far it hasn't. More than that, such behavior is a grave threat to a free society, to all of us.
In effect, Trump was wiretapped -- if not in the corny, old sense of the word, something very close. Technologically, he was wiretapped, as were several (actually many) others.
A fair amount of this happened not long before Barack Obama suddenly changed the rules regarding raw intelligence, for the first time ever allowing the NSA to share its data with 16 other intelligence agencies, thus making the dissemination of said data (i. e. leaking) many times more likely. That was done on January 12, 2017, just three scant days before Trump's inauguration. Why did the then president finally decide to make that particular change at that extremely late date, rather than on one of the previous seven years and three hundred fifty-three days of his presidency? You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes or Watson to smell a rat. Something's rotten somewhere -- and it's not Denmark.
Whether Barack Obama ordered the surveillance of Donald Trump during the transition is not the question. He would never have had to. In fact, he would have been highly unlikely to have done so for obvious legal and practical/political reasons. Instead, supporters of the then president in a position to authorize or activate such surveillance would normally know or assume his wishes anyway without having to be told and could act accordingly.
That is the way of the world since there was a world.
The operative question is whether these recorded conversations then ever wound up on Obama's desk or whether he knew about them in some other manner... and, if so, when. If the worst is true, it is a scandal that makes Watergate seem like a child's prank. Even Watergate's own Bob Woodward seemed to acknowledge as much on The O'Reilly Factor on Wednesday night.
This is why any legitimate investigation by a congressional committee or anyone else must encompass both Obama and Trump. This is a two-part story. If both parties are not investigated -- they cannot be separated -- this is no more than a partisan show. Further, the press cannot even faintly be trusted to investigate or adjudicate this matter. Their bias is so overwhelming it would sink the Titanic twice.
Although I have more confidence in Trump (whose errors usually seem those of braggadocio) than I do in Obama (who -- from the evidence of Obamacare and the Iran deal alone -- seems to have been capable of the most consequential prevarications), the issues inherent in this situation are bigger than the pluses and minuses of either man. We have reached a point in our history when there appears to be no privacy for anyone at any level of society, nor organizations, such as the FBI, that can be relied upon.
Meanwhile, this situation keeps exploding. A letter just published online alleges that not only Donald Trump has been been bugged, but the chief justice of the Supreme Court. It also avers our intelligence agencies have been engaged in systematic illegal surveillance of prominent Americans for years while lying to us consistently. But the subject of the letter, who claims to have left his contractor job at the NSA and the CIA with "47 hard drives and over 600 million pages" (of classified information), is himself accused of fraud. So I take no stand.
Nevertheless, something must be done about this privacy problem from top to bottom if we are to have decent lives as citizens and have a democratic republic in any way similar to what the Founders conceived. How this can be accomplished in the present atmosphere is, to say the least, unclear. The hatred of Trump by the media and the Democrats is so profound that rational discussion seems close to impossible. But we are headed toward being a society devoid of trust, if we don't try. I made my little attempt at comity. Originally this article was titled "Time to Investigate Obama, not Trump." I add the "Just" -- for fairness.