The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday concerns spying by the federal government against U.S. citizens. Recent declassified documents clearly show that the Obama administration was spying against presidential candidate and then President-elect Donald Trump, his campaign, and members of his cabinet in the months leading up to Trump’s inauguration on January 20, 2017. Obamagate is the name given by Trump to the illegal operations, and it is not a conspiracy theory.
According to this article at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Barack Obama was not the first President of the United States to spy on Americans. The article references the New York Times for December 16, 2005, about George W. Bush authorizing spying against Americans.
According to the Times, Bush signed a presidential order in 2002 allowing the National Security Agency to monitor without a warrant the international (and sometimes domestic) telephone calls and e-mail messages of hundreds or thousands of citizens and legal residents inside the United States. The program eventually came to include some purely internal controls – but no requirement that warrants be obtained from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court as the 4th Amendment to the Constitution and the foreign intelligence surveillance laws require.
In other words, no independent review or judicial oversight.
At least the Obama administration went to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) for warrants. The applications were based on lies, but they at least made the pretense of being legal! The statement above references the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, so we need to know what that amendment says.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
It seems reasonable to me that technological searches and seizures are included in this right of the American people. The ACLU article continues with its explanation.
The US Supreme Court (US v. Katz 389 US 347) has made it clear that this core privacy protection does cover government eavesdropping. As a result, all electronic surveillance by the government in the United States is illegal, unless it falls under one of a small number of precise exceptions specifically carved out in the law.
United States Code Title 50, Chapter 36, Subchapter 1
Section 1809. Criminal sanctions
(a) Prohibited activities
A person is guilty of an offense if he intentionally
(1) engages in electronic surveillance under color of law except as authorized by statute.
In other words, the NSA can only spy where it is explicitly granted permission to do so by statute. Citizens concerned about surveillance do not have to answer the question, “what law restricts the NSA’s spying?” Rather, the government is required to supply an answer to the question “what law permits the NSA to spy?”
Conservative Americans, among others, are calling for investigations and indictments against members of the Obama administration. The amount of evidence continues to increase that the Obama administration was not being honest about its activities. The evidence is compelling that the Obama administration was engaged in corruption. They were trying to keep Donald Trump from being elected as President of the United States. When that failed, they continued the corruption to remove him from office. The Russian collusion investigation and the impeachment proceedings for talking to the President of Ukraine are both efforts to remove Trump from office. Now we know more about their reasons for their actions. David Harsanyi published an article in The Daily Signal about the evidence of corruption.
We know the Justice Department withheld contradictory evidence when it began spying on those in Trump’s orbit. We have proof that many of the relevant FISA warrant applications – almost every one of them, actually – were based on “fabricated” evidence or riddled with errors. We know that members of the Obama administration, who had no genuine role in counterintelligence operations, repeatedly unmasked Trump’s allies. And we now know that, despite a dearth of evidence, the FBI railroaded Michael Flynn into a guilty plea so it could keep the investigation going.
What’s more, the larger context only makes these facts more damning. By 2016, the Obama administration’s intelligence community had normalized domestic spying.
Obama’s director of national intelligence, James Clapper, famously lied about snooping on American citizens to Congress. His CIA director, John Brennan, oversaw an agency that felt comfortable spying on the Senate, with at least five of his underlings breaking into congressional computer files. His attorney general, Eric Holder, invoked the Espionage Act to spy on a Fox News journalist, shopping his case to three judges until he found one who let him name the reporter as a co-conspirator.
The Obama administration also spied on Associated Press reporters, which the news organization called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion.”
And though it’s been long forgotten, Obama officials were caught monitoring the conversations of members of Congress who opposed the Iran nuclear deal.
Harsanyi gave all the above example and then asked an important question: “What makes anyone believe these people wouldn’t create a pretext to spy on the opposition party?” He reminds his readers that there is also evidence that Obama “was keenly interested in the Russian-collusion investigation’s progress.” He also reminds us that Obama’s interest does not mean that he is guilty of committing a specific crime. However, the story with members of his “staff is a different story.”
In addition to relating numerous examples of corruption, Harsanyi told us why this is all important: The “same characters central to all this apparent malfeasance now want to retake power in Washington.” If Biden is elected as President of the United States, we can be sure that many of the same people would become part of his administration. Besides, he was involved in some of the same meetings that Obama was. We need to know “what Biden knew and when he knew it.” Obamagate should be a concern to all Americans. If the agents of corruption are not brought to justice, the privacy of all Americans is at risk.