The Nuclear Option: President Trump, Washington’s Lone, Sensible Voice on Civil Liberties

For 200 years, stringent safeguards have been in place to protect the civil liberties of U.S. citizens from unreasonable search and seizure. These protections severely restricted the federal government’s ability to spy on Americans, especially on U.S. soil.

Those protections came under scrutiny after the 9/11 terrorist attacks when government officials argued that the artificial walls between domestic law enforcement officials and our international spies had caused the government to miss huge clues that might have let them prevent the attack.

Government officials persuaded Congress to remove some of those walls and, among other things, create an all-knowing director of national intelligence who could ride herd over all the various intelligence agencies and scour for clues to pending attacks.

Civil libertarians, rightly, warned during the 2004 debate that such a move would concentrate too much power into the hands of a few government officials. It would take just one transfer of power in the executive branch for our very worst fears to be realized.

In the closing months of Barack Obama’s presidency — at the height of a national election — high-level government officials with access to terrifying loads of clandestine information about American citizens began spying on domestic political opponents. They launched a federal investigation into some of those political opponents. And, in at least one case, revealed the identity of and exposed one political opponent in order to publicly punish him.

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism,” President Trump tweeted two months after he took office.

The media, of course, was off fantasizing about other stories and ridiculed another of Mr. Trump’s tweets for misspelling the word “tap.”

Sure, we have no direct evidence that Mr. Obama himself ordered the spying into his administration’s political opponents. But it sure is curious. And worth investigating.

Anyway, Mr. Trump’s tweet was — in the main — accurate. And the years since of endless investigation has done nothing but vindicate Mr. Trump and his valid concern that the Obama administration turned America’s clandestine services against domestic political opponents during an election.

This is truly terrifying stuff. We are talking much worse than Watergate and something more along the lines of the Pentagon Papers. And yet, all Washington wants to talk about is this fake Russia “collusion” story.

As usual these days, the lone, sensible voice among all the nonsense is coming out of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

“This is something that should never be allowed to happen to another president,” Mr. Trump told me during an exclusive interview in the Oval Office last week.

Intelligence officials from the Obama administration have some serious explaining to do, Mr. Trump said. Among them, ex-CIA Director John O. Brennan, who is now a caustic talking head on MSNBC, a virulently anti-Trump news channel.

“Bad guy, by the way,” Mr. Trump said. “Be interesting to see where he was at the beginning of this whole thing — you know, how it all started.”

Another person in for serious scrutiny is James B. Comey, Mr. Obama’s FBI director, who presented Mr. Trump with the discredited accusations contained in the so-called Steele Dossier, a Democrat-funded compilation of Kremlin dirt against Mr. Trump.

“Comey was a poor man’s J. Edgar Hoover,” said Mr. Trump, referring to the notoriously corrupt FBI director who illegally compiled dirt on politicians to hold power over them.

“What he did with that report, I think, was to sort of gain influence over the president of the United States,” Mr. Trump said.

“I don’t think that there has ever been a time — whether its politics of not — like the corruption we’ve uncovered,” he added. “Hopefully that’s going to be pursued — by reporters, also.”

Yeah. Good luck with that, Mr. President.

• Contact Charles Hurt at [email protected] or on Twitter @charleshurt.


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