Call me a crazy old conspiracy nut

Call me a crazy old conspiracy nut

I’m so old that I can remember when Republicans didn’t give a rat’s ass (Can I say that?) about the privacy of citizens, warrants, and FISA. But oh Lordy you’d never believe it now if you listen to them talk about the Nunes memo. Nor would you believe they cared about or even knew Carter Page, who is either an evil genius or the biggest buffoon in the history of espionage. You may not know who Carter Page is since he was a part of the Trump campaign for a split second and evidently was George Papadopoulos’s coffee boy. Of course, I know you know who Mr. Page is because of his many nutty, goofy interviews all over cable news. I’d like to think if Page is an example of the kinds of recruits the Russians go after, then Russia poses no threat to us, but we know that’s not the case. Now, after countless FISA warrants have been issued since September 9, 2011, the GOP cares deeply about the rights of this one goober. Obviously, the GOP needs to change its name to the GOPCL—The Grand Old Party of Civil Libertarians.

But before we celebrate Republicans’ emerging ‘liberalism,’ we probably should look back on their history of protecting civil liberties. Ok, so no such history exists. However, they do have quite a history of stripping away rights or at least eroding rights—voting rights and abortion rights to name two.

Paul Ryan, who has turned concern trolling into an art form, appeared on Face the Nation in 2013 to talk about national security:

MODERATOR: Are you convinced that the NSA is violating our privacy or sort of has the capability to do that?
RYAN: I think they have the capability. I can't speak to whether or not they are doing that, but there are more controls that we can put in place.

All righty then! The troll thinks “more controls can be put in place” to protect good citizens’ right to privacy. However, he can’t be sure if the intelligence community would do that. In fact, he can’t speak to it. Yet, five years later, he’s so concerned about congressional oversight, he willingly and recklessly authorized the #DudMemo, which contained classified information. Nor did Ryan seem to care about congressional oversight, but he does now.  Just as an aside, is Dud a reference to Nunes or the memo?  Oh heck!  What does it matter. It’s applicable to both.

Also Ryan’s voting record from 2012 shows no squeamishness about enhanced surveillance.  According to On the Issues, Ryan voted:

  • Yes on extending the PATRIOT Act's roving wiretaps.
  • No on requiring FISA warrants for wiretaps in US, but not abroad.                  
  • Yes on removing need for FISA warrant for wiretapping abroad.
  • Yes on allowing electronic surveillance without a warrant.
  • Yes on continuing intelligence gathering without civil oversight. 

I had to insert this quote by Peter King, congressman from NY, who silently cast his vote to release the Nunes Memo.  Odd that the usually verbose King was uncharacteristically quiet. (Highlight is mine.)

Electronic surveillance is one of the strongest weapons in our arsenal. The real enemy is al Qaeda and Islamic terrorism, not our own government working so hard to protect us. The PAA updated FISA and struck the appropriate balance between protecting our citizens from terrorist attacks and protecting our civil liberties. Today's bill, the RESTORE Act, marks an undeniable retreat in the war against Islamic terrorism. It limits the type of foreign intelligence information that may be acquired and actually gives foreign targets more protections than Americans get in criminal cases here at home. —March, 2008.

On January 11, 2018,  the House voted to renew the Surveillance Act although a bipartisan group pushed back against it, attempting to add more protections against government eavesdropping.  Since the Nunes memo, stating all the GOP members’ grave concerns about FISA, was written several weeks before the vote, Nunes, along the with majority of his Republican colleagues, still voted to make no changes to the law.  In fact, Nunes vigorously fought back against the bipartisan effort to restrict the surveillance law by releasing this statement:

THE DANGERS OF H.R. 4124 The USA RIGHTS ACT

  • The USA RIGHTS Act is an attempt to impose unnecessarily severe requirements on the Government’s use of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which is a key national security tool in U.S. counterterrorism efforts.
  • Due to its significant negative impact to U.S. national security, the bill is not supported by the Trump Administration or any of the relevant congressional committees of jurisdiction. If enacted, the bill will erode U.S. national security and place Americans and U.S. troops at home and abroad in harm’s way by:

  1. Preventing the Intelligence Community from uncovering plots against the United States and saving potential hostages via limitations on the ability to conduct U.S. person queries in lawfully acquired Section 702 data;
  2. Unnecessarily stopping NSA from understanding foreign threat networks by permanently ending NSA’s “abouts” collection;
  3. Providing U.S. adversaries inferred knowledge of Section 702 targeting decisions by mandating the public description of any classified Section 702 certifications;
  4. Significantly limiting the Government’s ability to obtain Section 702 information on foreign terrorists by unnecessarily restricting when the Government may ask for technical assistance from electronic communication service providers;
  5. Mandating a flat prohibition on the use of Section 702 information in prosecuting dangerous criminals, including murderers and child abusers;
  6. Subverting the authority and expediency of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court by requiring an amicus review during every Section 702 authorization; and
  7. Protecting domestic terrorists and spies, and potentially exposing them to highly classified U.S. sources and methods, by allowing such actors to sue the U.S. Government based on their belief that they communicated foreign intelligence information to foreigners located overseas. In that scenario, plaintiffs may presume their communication was collected by the U.S. Government via Section 702, resulting in actionable injury. The 9/11 Commission Report warned that one of the reasons for the catastrophic terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 was the inability of the Intelligence Community to put the pieces of the puzzle together due to information sharing problems. This bill will rebuild the “wall” between national security and law enforcement and put Americans, at home and broad, in danger.

But, honestly, what else should we expect from the Republicans, the practitioners of the worst kind of hypocrisy, the kind that puts our very lives and nation at risk.

Nunes, appearing on FOX News, decried the surveillance of Page and questioned why the FBI would be interested in him.  He put on his best “I am so baffled” face. The next day both Time and Newsweek ran stories focused on Pages’s claim that he was an “advisor” to the Kremlin. Even without that nugget, we’ve known for months about Page’s connections to the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. Certainly, if we knew, Nunes and Ryan knew.

Odd how both Ryan and Nunes are suddenly concerned about the rights of US citizens, at least one US citizen.  Ryan’s concern for Page’s rights stretches credulity, especially since Carter Page seemed to know that Ryan was going to release some sort of classified information about his surveillance months before its release.  I smell a big stinky rat. Actually, I smell two big stinky rats.

The media, while doing some excellent reporting, still seems oblivious  or at least incurious about Nunes’s behavior from his infamous “midnight ride” when he delivered classified material to the White House that he was given by the White House, to recusing himself as chair of the House Intelligence Committee investigation while not really recusing himself, and on the Nunes memo.

Remember when there were countless debates on cable news about whether or not Trump was a racist after his “shit hole” comment.  I was so frustrated by this because the media seemed to just wake up to his racism. Now I feel the same frustration with the labeling of Nunes as a “Trump stooge or loyalist.”  In my opinion, Nunes isn’t behaving this way out of loyalty but desperation.  His actions and statement appear to be by someone guilty of something.  The media ascribes Ryan’s behavior in this mess as someone who wants to keep Trump’s place securely in the presidency so he can dismantle  Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare.

While I don’t disagree with that,  I think his behavior indicates more motivation than that.  To let you in on my thinking I take you back to the 2017 campaign when Mitch McConnell and the NRA poured millions and millions of dollars, all of it dark money, into GOP campaigns.  Purportedly, some of the money was linked to Russian oligarchs.  If McConnell knew the source of the funding, you can bet Paul Ryan knew. 

Pres. Obama called for a meeting with top Democratic and Republican leadership to sign a bipartisan statement about Russian interference in the election.  On behalf of the GOP leadership, McConnell refused, even going so far to warn the President if he released the statement, McConnell would let the country know that the President’s actions constituted partisan interference in the election. According to an article in The Atlantic:

Instead, top White House officials gathered key lawmakers—leadership from the House and Senate, plus the top Democrats and Republicans from both houses’ intelligence and homeland security committees—to ask for a bipartisan condemnation of Russia’s meddling. The effort was stymied by several Republicans who weren’t willing to cooperate, including, reportedly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Call me a crazy old conspiracy nut, but I truly believe that the Republican leadership is knee deep in with the Russians.  Additionally, I believe that the GOP is stonewalling any attempts to implement systems and policies to prevent Russian interference because they want to win in 2018.

In my opening paragraph I wrote “I’m old enough to remember.” I was born during Truman’s administration and remember the Eisenhower administration so I’m also old enough to remember when the GOP had some decent human beings, many of whom were socially liberal while being fiscally conservative. We used to call them moderates. Those days are long gone, and those folks have been replaced with shrill, hateful, greedy, deceitful ideologues just a smidgen more sane than Trump—well, except maybe Representatives Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz. Even Orin Hatch, who on a rare occasion could do or say something decent, turned into a hateful, mean-spirited old curmudgeon who lost any powers of rational thought.

We have a GOP afraid of losing power because of the changing demographics. Rather than trying to win over the populace instead of changing its policies and rhetoric, we have seen them stoop to suppressing the vote of people of color, spreading vile lies about immigrants, including DACA recipients,  giving their donors and themselves a huge tax cut while increasing the debt by a billion dollars.  Would they also sell our democracy to Putin to stay in power. I certainly believe they would.



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