It seems that everyone has something to say regarding Trump's tweet about being wiretapped. Everyone has a take, but no one is talking about the real issue. A few weeks ago I wrote an article called “Problems Cannot Be Solved With The Same Mindset That Created Them” that addressed the root to this problem, which if left untended, will only continue to grow and will become impossible to pull out.
- © 2012 NOAA's National Ocean Service, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio
Government is much like an iceberg. We see this huge chunk of ice floating in the water and really have no idea how big it really is. About 90 percent is hidden under water. We see our three branches of government and the 545 people who are in direct control. Did you know there is not an official recognition of the number of federal government agencies? According to some, it is 60. According to the Administrative Conference of the United States, the number is 115. The Federal Register lists 257. In a 2015 Federal Judiciary committee meeting a senator noted that there were 430 departments, agencies, and sub-agencies in the federal government.
Let that sink in; no one can even agree how many there are. How many employees are on the federal payroll? In August of 2015, there were 21,995,000 employed by federal, state, and local governments. The manufacturing sector employed 12,329,000. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are about 123 million people employed full-time in the US. A full seventeen percent of full-time employees work for some government agency.
What does this have to do with Donald Trump being wiretapped?
Constitutional conservatives, such as myself, see the entire iceberg as if it were sitting on the beach for all to see. And a fully exposed iceberg would not be a danger. What is dangerous is what lies below the surface.
The wiretaps were supposedly authorized by the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court or FISA Court. What the heck is that?
FISA is a federal court authorized and established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. Yes, a remnant of the Carter Administration. Its duty is to oversee requests for surveillance warrants against foreign spies inside the US by federal law enforcement and intelligence services. Hey, the Cold War was in full swing, and we needed to keep an eye on all those Soviet and other Eastern bloc spies.
The court is secret because of the sensitive nature of the matters it involves...and we well know how leaks are a normal course of events in government. Rarely is any information from its proceedings released and only then after it is heavily redacted. FISA rarely denies a request from any government agency.
- © 2013 Mike Licht, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio
The court makes its own rules as it goes. Imagine our founders' thoughts on that one. You may recall the infamous Verizon order leaked by Edward Snowden, which allowed the collection of “metadata” of millions of innocent customers.
The court relies on one-sided information from the federal government and trusts that the information given is complete. Data collected by the NSA and FBI under these applications often remains secret, even if information obtained is used in criminal proceedings.
When the FISA passed, it authorized individual warrants for surveillance. Now the court approves mass surveillance. The original intent was to approve individual warrants for specific individuals, much as regular judges do with warrants, including safeguards built in for national security. After 9/11 and the Patriot Act, people readily accepted whatever the government wanted to “keep us safe.” The Patriot Act greatly expanded the scope of surveillance allowed. Sharing among agencies, formerly forbidden is now in the normal course of events.
Here’s the kicker: the government has never shown that the bulk collection of data has ever stopped a single terror act.
Now, back to Donald Trump. It seems the first request to FISA in July 2016, for a warrant, named Trump, and it received a rare denial. In October, another more narrow request was made after evidence of a server, possibly related to the Trump campaign, and its alleged links to two banks- SVB Bank and Russia’s Alfa Bank. According to a BBC report, neither Trump nor his associates are named in the warrant.
As a side note, Obama’s former director of national intelligence James Clapper on NBC’s “Meet the Press” said, “For the part of the national security apparatus that I oversaw as DNI, there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president, the president-elect at the time, or as a candidate, or against his campaign.” This is the same guy who clearly lied under oath to Congress when he declared, “No, sir" and "not wittingly” to a question about whether the National Security Agency was collecting “any type of data at all” on millions of Americans.
We now are largely participating in a new episode of “The Blame Game.” Isn’t that the new national pastime? Someone is always out to get us, and we are all victims. The sad thing is, when dealing with government, it is likely the truth.
Since this has come to light, blame has been cast on the Russians, the intelligence community, and now Obama. The real problem is never addressed. We believe these accusations because they are entirely possible and believable. We have seen demonstrations of the abuse of power for years using agencies, regulations, and laws to silence or control opposition. Do you recall the pressure placed on journalists such as Sharyl Attkisson and James Rosen? What of the Tea Party groups around the country? What of using the IRS to go after people?
Is there a “paper trail” of senior officials directing agencies to go after certain people? Not hardly. We know the way it works. People take action on their own, knowing they will be either rewarded or protected for their support of the cause.
The problem is the pervasive size and scope of the federal government. All of this goes leaps and bounds beyond the original intent of our founders. It's ironic that all the things that people were upset with King George before the American Revolution are the same things that people are upset with the abuse of government today. Click HERE to look at the list of grievances listed in our Declaration of Independence.
Rather than cast blame and play the victim, President Trump should rail against government power, including his own, as being wildly against constitutional principles. He should call out to Congress to reclaim their constitutional powers and take them from him and future presidents. He should call out on Congress to end unconstitutional overreach by government agencies and phase them out. If President Trump is to be a true conservative, it must be in action and deed, not simply in words.
We watched presidential power grow from Teddy Roosevelt (with the exception of Calvin Coolidge) to Barack Obama, and exponentially so, with Bush 43 and Obama. President Trump signed an executive order January 30th calling for a 2:1 reduction in regulations. Let’s hope he will follow through on that and demand the same from Congress. If he decides to govern with a phone and pen, heaven help us.
Photo Credit: "The Bug Stops Here," © 2013 DonkeyHotey, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio