St. Obama Opens the Book of Life

Yes, Obama tapped Trump for political ends.

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

  - The Revelation of St. John the Divine, 20:12

Silly us!  Back when the media were reveling in a constant parade of news photos "accidentally" depicting Barack Obama with a halo, we thought this was just another proof of their leftist bias, much like Time depicting Donald Trump with devil's horns or Ted Cruz with a gun pointed at his head.

But no: apparently, like the President himself, our mainstream media actually did know something that we didn't.  President Obama really was the keeper of the book of life, or at least, the closest earthly thing to it.

True Spies

For a month now, the punditocracy has been fuming at Donald Trump's "totally unfounded" assertion that Barack Obama spied on him and members of his team during and after the election.  Any sensible American views this as a serious charge: the last time a president's team spied on a political opponent, we got the Watergate scandal and our only Presidential resignation.  Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, yet Mr. Trump offered none.

Theories abounded: Maybe Mr. Trump was just muddying the water to cover up his Russian treason?  Maybe it was some sort of base revenge against Mr. Obama?  Maybe his dinner didn't agree with him late that night and he vented his spleen?  Maybe he's suffering from psychotic dementia, like all other Republican or conservative leaders?  Maybe...

Maybe not.  Drip by poisonous drip, the truth of Mr.Trump's assertion has been coming out, and it's equal parts amazing and disgustingly un-American.

Most Americans, when they think of police work and spying envision something from an old TV show where gumshoes in trenchcoats tail suspects around the city and techie nerds in fake AT&T uniforms hook tape-recorders to phone lines with alligator clips.

That's how it worked once upon a time, but not any more.  As Mr. Trump's spokesmen quickly pointed out, saying that Mr. Obama "wiretapped" him didn't mean there was any literal tapping of wires.

In fact, there didn't have to be.  Based on what Mr. Snowden has told us, it seems that the government is tracking all phone calls made into, out of, or inside the United States and recording a great many of them.  As ex-FBI agent Tim Clemente told a TV interviewer:

All of that stuff [meaning every telephone conversation Americans have with one another on US soil, with or without a search warrant] is being captured as we speak.

Does this mean that the police can see your every move and the days of liberty are over?  Not necessarily and not completely: the data are recorded largely by well-guarded computers, mostly untouched by human hands.  No ordinary policeman can waltz up and ask to listen to you talking to Grandma, or even to two gangsters discussing a drug deal.  For that, you need a warrant signed by a judge, and it needs to be a national-security issue, not just a common crime.

Even the spooks are supposed to get warrants, though they use a special top-secret court system called FISA which reportedly approves 99.97% of all warrant requests, but we don't really know because it's so highly classified.

There are only a handful of people who are allowed to view the FISA warrants.  It so happens that several of them are now Trump appointees, which is how we know that one of the .031% of the warrant requests it turned down was a request from the Obama administration to tap Mr. Trump's phones.

So Mr. Obama tried, but failed, to tap Mr. Trump?  No: Mr. Obama's National Security Adviser, Dr. Susan Rice, is one of the handful of people who are allowed to see just about anything they darn well please.  According to former U.S. Attorney Joseph diGenova:

What was produced by the intelligence community at the request of Ms. Rice were detailed spreadsheets of intercepted phone calls with unmasked Trump associates in perfectly legal conversations with individuals... In short, the only apparent illegal activity was the unmasking of the people in the calls.

The Masks We Wear

It's disturbing enough that your government is keeping track of everything everybody does in case it's important to peek at it later.  It's one thing for investigators to have suspicions, collect evidence, present it to a judge, and then start watching and recording the suspect.  It's quite another for the investigators to do the above, but then be granted the Godlike powers of going back in time to review everything the target has ever done and every interaction you may have had with the target no matter how innocent your actions may have been.

The creators of this system at least had the decency to try to protect Americans: the systems apparently mask the names of Americans even from the select handful who are allowed to use the system.  Of course, there are times when the government really, really needs to know those names and there's a process for that: the dozen or two most senior national security officials are legally authorized to request unmasking, and that's what Susan Rice did.  As the National Security Adviser, she had every legal right to do this.

But, by her authorization to unmask, suddenly transcripts of calls by Trump campaign staff exist in a human-readable way where they didn't before.  They are still classified and it's still a felony to leak them to anyone, and there's no evidence that Rice herself did that.

Enter Barack Obama.  Originally, unmasked transcripts of Americans' phone calls were given super-high classification subject to extraordinary protection because the creators of the system understood that having such things lying around was fundamentally unAmerican.  Mr. Obama weaponized our intelligence agencies by changing that:

In his final days in office, Obama created the largest ever expansion of access to non-minimized NSA intercepts, creating a path for all U.S. intelligence to gain access to unmasked reports by changes encoded in a Reagan-era Executive Order 12333.

As we've discussed before, by definition the President has the right to decide what is and is not classified, and to what degree.  By lowering the protections for the formerly very classified unmasked reports on Mr. Trump's people, Mr. Obama broke no law; by requesting the unmasking before Mr. Obama lowered the classification, Susan Rice broke no law either.

But between the two of them, they made it virtually inevitable that damaging anti-Trump information would end up on the front pages of the media:

They ensured that the information existed, in a readily-accessible and human-readable form, rather than locked away in a super-secret computer where almost nobody would know where to look for it.

They changed the regulations to permit hundreds or thousands of comparatively junior government employees, perfectly legally, to look at the transcripts.  Can they have imagined that not one of those people would be a staunch Democrat willing to risk prison to drive a stake through Donald Trump's heart?

They also knew full well that once the inevitable leak occurred, the slavish media would instantly give Page One treatment to anything that could be cast negatively on Mr. Trump.  It's a plot made in the lowest pits of political hell, all the more brilliant for being completely lawful except for the part played by the insignificant minion who actually perpetrated the leak.

We wonder what exactly Mr. Trump knew when he accused Mr. Obama of wiretapping him?  One thing is certain - Mr. Trump's accusations of the Obama administration playing dirty have been vindicated many times over.

The Long Road Back

Which brings us full circle to the End of Days.  Traditionally, Christians and thus most Americans believe that we will all answer to God for our acts on this earth, whether they be good or evil.  Our Founders believed so strongly in this that they put its emblem on our money, in the form of the Great Seal's "All-Seeing Eye of Providence."

It's reasonable for this awesome power to be wielded by God Almighty, Who by definition can do it whether we like it or not.  It's deadly dangerous for any human being to hold the keys to the Book of Life our advanced technology and vast wealth have created.

Can this power be used for good?  Sure it can: back-tracing telephone calls could rescue kidnapped children, track down terrorists before they strike, intercept drug shipments, break up business conspiracies, and halt all manner of crime.

By the same token, putting surveillance cameras everywhere, as in London, would also make solving crimes much easier.  For that matter, if we all carried around tracer-beacons, not only would it be way faster to catch criminals, it would be easy to prove you weren't the criminal because you were demonstrably somewhere else at the time.

So, who'll be first to voluntarily clamp on the tracking bracelet?  Not I, and I hope not you either.  Because if we all did, we wouldn't be living in America anymore; we'd be living in a police state.  Not necessarily an evil, violent, or oppressive one, but nothing resembling "the land of the free and the home of the brave."

Barack Obama and Susan Rice have done us a great service by demonstrating vividly in living color exactly why such systems cannot be tolerated in a free country, no matter how useful they might seem.  If great power exists, it will be abused - and power this great and all-encompassing can't really be fought against.  How can you fight against an all-knowing, all-seeing opponent who answers to nobody?

You can't, which is why it's time to tear down St. Barack's legacy and turn off the snooperscopes.  If we need to tail and wiretap a bad guy, we need to do it the old-fashioned way with a warrant, signed before the data are collected.

"But," we can hear the nationalists saying, "how can we find terrorists if we can't collect data until they do something?"

That's simple, as we've explained before.  We declare war on ISIS as we declared war on Nazism.  Once we do that, communicating with ISIS in any way whatsoever is treason and we can lock 'em up without further ado.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Law.
Reader Comments

OK, so we now know that Mr. Obama weaponized our intelligence agencies against his political enemies as he weaponized the IRS against his political enemies, the only difference is that what he did with the intelligence data was legal.

That is why we call the Democrats the evil party.

It remains to be seen whether the Republican response will once again earn them the title of the stupid party.

April 11, 2017 6:12 AM

Looks like the FBI did get a FISA warrant on a Trump adviser after all:

April 13, 2017 6:54 AM
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