FISA Memo Is Scarier than Watergate.
Victor Davis Hanson write: The Watergate scandal of 1972–74 was uncovered largely because of outraged Democratic politicians and a bulldog media. They both claimed that they had saved American democracy from the Nixon administration’s attempt to warp the CIA and FBI to cover up an otherwise minor, though illegal, political break-in.
In the Iran-Contra affair of 1985–87, the media and liberal activists uncovered wrongdoing by some rogue members of the Reagan government. They warned of government overreach and of using the “Deep State” to subvert the law for political purposes.
We are now in the midst of a third great modern scandal. Members of the Obama administration’s Department of Justice sought court approval for the surveillance of Carter Page, allegedly for colluding with Russian interests, and extended the surveillance three times.
But none of these government officials told the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that the warrant requests were based on an unverified dossier that had originated as a hit piece funded in part by the Hillary Clinton campaign to smear Donald Trump during the current 2016 campaign.
Nor did these officials reveal that the author of the dossier, Christopher Steele, had already been dropped as a reliable source by the FBI for leaking to the press.
Nor did officials add that a Department of Justice official, Bruce Ohr, had met privately with Steele — or that Ohr’s wife, Nellie, had been hired to work on the dossier.
Unfortunately, such disclosures may be only the beginning of the FISA-gate scandal.
Members of the Obama administration’s national security team also may have requested the names of American citizens connected with the Trump campaign who had been swept up in other FISA surveillance. Those officials may have then improperly unmasked the names and leaked them to a compliant press — again, for apparent political purposes during a campaign.
What did he know and when did he know it? The immortal question about Richard Nixon and Watergate should be posed to Barack Obama about Syria. What and when did he know about Vladimir Putin’s axis-of-evil coalition?
Michael Goodwin writes: The significance is not limited to Syria. The question goes to the heart of the Iran nuclear deal, especially the timing of the congressional votes.
Imagine Obama trying to sell the Iran deal now. With Russia, Iran and Iraq working together to muscle the United States aside and defend Bashar al-Assad, the president couldn’t possibly argue that the nuke deal would help stabilize the Middle East. Nor could he argue that Russia could be trusted to help enforce restrictions on Iran.
The strong likelihood that Obama would have lost the Iran vote if Congress knew then what the world knows now suggests the possibility the president concealed the Russian plan until the Iran deal was done. That view fits with his single-minded determination to get a deal at any price, including making key concessions and downplaying Iranian threats to Israel and the United States.
After all that, what’s another lie?
That view is also supported by the chronology, which reveals strong evidence the president hid the truth.
For much of September, reports of Russia moving soldiers and military equipment into Syria invariably said the Pentagon was “puzzled” or the White House was “unclear” about Putin’s intent. Obama declared on Sept. 11 that whatever the dictator’s plan, it was “doomed to fail.”
The claims of fuzziness about Syria allowed Obama to keep the focus on his push to sell the Iran pact to Congress. He touted Russia’s support, vowed to impose “snapback” sanctions if Iran cheated and said he would work to stop the mullahs’ regional aggressions.
His arguments and arm-twisting kept 42 Senate Democrats in line, enough to save the deal. Yet soon after opponents lost their final vote, on Sept. 17, Russia revealed that it would lead a coalition of Iran and Iraq to intervene militarily to save the Assad regime. Read the rest of this entry »
History: President Nixon Resigns With This Letter, Initialed by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger Today, August 9, 1974Posted: August 9, 2015
“In the United States today, we have more than our share of the nattering nabobs of negativism.”
“I apologize for lying to you. I promise I won’t deceive you except in matters of this sort.”
“The number who trust the government all or most of the time has sunk so low…”
CNN‘s Paul Steinhauser delivers the bad news: Four decades after President Richard Nixon resigned, a slight majority of Americans still consider Watergate a very serious matter, a new national survey shows. But how serious depends on when you were born.
” …that it is hard to remember that there was ever a time when Americans routinely trusted the government.”
— CNN Polling Director Keating Holland
The CNN/ORC International poll’s release comes one day before the 40th anniversary of Nixon’s resignation on August 9, 1974. With the Watergate scandal escalating, the second-term Republican president had lost much of his political backing, and he faced almost certain impeachment and the prospects of being removed from office by a Democratic-dominated House and Senate.
There’s a big generational divide over the significance of the scandal, with a majority of those older than 40 describing Watergate as a very serious problem and those under 40 saying it was just politics.
“Just 13% of Americans say the government can be trusted to do what is right always or most of the time.”
The poll also indicates that the public’s trust in government is at an all-time low. Read the rest of this entry »
IRS Destruction of E-mail Evidence: ‘If Nixon Had Burned the Tapes as People Had Advised Him to, He Would Have Served His Full Term’Posted: June 24, 2014
“That there was targeting of these groups is not disputed…”
“The question that makes this interesting and the question that a special prosecutor would pursue is where does this lead, how high up does this go.”
Will noted that people have been saying that nothing has connected the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups to the White House, but he questions that. He recalled the Watergate scandal, which he said never would have been connected to President Nixon but for the tapes that showed him plotting obstruction of justice.
“Something equivalent to burning the tapes may have happened with the hard drive of Lois Lerner.”
Will explained that if Nixon had burned the tapes as people advised him to, he would have served his full time. “Something equivalent to burning the tapes may have happened with the hard drive of Lois Lerner,” Will said…(read more)
Today in History: 1972, Five Men Were Arrested for Breaking into the DNC Headquarters in the Watergate ComplexPosted: June 17, 2014
Today in 1972, five men were arrested for breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. In their possession were cameras, film, and tear gas guns. Ultimately, the suspects were charged with burglary and convicted in January 1973; however, the real scandal as would later be uncovered by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein revealed that the suspects all had ties to the Committee for the Re-Election of the President, a support group for President Richard M. Nixon. While Nixon denied any wrongdoing or knowledge of the burglary, a secret tape later surfaced and revealed that Nixon had known about the burglary cover-up and had tried to use the FBI to stop the investigation.
With Woodward and Bernstein’s persistent news reporting, their investigation sparked one of U.S. history’s biggest stories of crime, espionage and cover-up and shed a light on the importance of journalism and a free press – leading to the downfall of a presidency, with Nixon resigning office on August 8, 1974.
“It’s to me the equivalent of what was discovered with the Nixon tapes.”
“The point is that Republicans have done a terrible job in building the case. Even today I have to say, the questioning was disjointed, it was not organized. If they had appointed a special committee a long time ago the way it was done in Watergate, you would have had answers…”
President Nixon’s voice-activated taping system captured every word spoken in the Oval Office, Cabinet Room, and other key locations in the White House, and at Camp David — 3,700 hours of recordings between 1971 and 1973. Yet less than 5 percent of those conversations have ever been transcribed and published. Now, thanks to professor Luke Nichter’s massive effort to digitize and transcribe the tapes, the world can finally read an unprecedented account of one of the most important and controversial presidencies in U.S. history.
The Nixon Tapes offers a selection of fascinating scenes from the
year Nixon opened relations with China, negotiated the SALT I arms agreement with the Soviet Union, and won a landslide reelection victory. All the while, the growing shadow of Watergate and Nixon’s political downfall crept ever closer. The Nixon Tapes provides a never-before-seen glimpse into a flawed president’s hubris, paranoia, and political genius.
Nixon could never have imagined that people with home computers and smartphones would someday have instant access to a digitized library of audio and transcripts, representing thousands of hours of his White House recordings. Here’s the introduction from nixontapes.org:
nixontapes.org has the most complete, digital collection of the Nixon tapes in existence, which includes approximately 2,950 hours of the nearly 3,000 hours of tapes currently declassified and released by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). In addition, we have transcribed approximately 3,000 pages of conversations on many topics, from conversations dealing with the installation of the taping system in February 1971 to Cabinet Room conversations recorded in July 1973.
WASHINGTON — The National Security Agency is facing its worst crisis since the domestic spying scandals four decades ago led to the first formal oversight and overhaul of U.S. intelligence operations.
Thanks to former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden’s flood of leaks to the media, and the Obama administration’s uneven response to them, morale at the spy agency responsible for intercepting communications of terrorists and foreign adversaries has plummeted, former officials say. Even sympathetic lawmakers are calling for new curbs on the NSA’s powers.
“This is a secret intelligence agency that’s now in the news every day,” said Michael Hayden, who headed the NSA from 1999 to 2005 and later led the CIA. “Each day, the workforce wakes up and reads the daily indictment.”
President Barack Obama acknowledged Friday that many Americans have lost trust in the nation’s largest intelligence agency. “There’s no doubt that, for all the work that’s been done to protect the American people’s privacy, the capabilities of the NSA are scary to people,” he said in a CNN interview.
Denial, evasion, “Let me be perfectly clear” — is this 2013 or 1973?
The truth about Benghazi, the Associated Press/James Rosen monitoring, the IRS corruption, the NSA octopus, and Fast and Furious is still not exactly known. Almost a year after the attacks on our Benghazi facilities, we are only now learning details of CIA gun-running, military stand-down orders, aliases of those involved who are still hard to locate, massaged talking points, and the weird jailing of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.
We still do not quite know why Eric Holder’s Justice Department went after the Associated Press or Fox News’s James Rosen — given that members of the administration were themselves illegally leaking classified information about the Stuxnet virus, the Yemeni double agent, the drone program, and the bin Laden document trove, apparently to further the narrative of an underappreciated Pattonesque commander-in-chief up for reelection.
Arrogance, Contempt for Law, and Thuggery, but the Press Will Give Him a Pass: Priority #1 Protect ObamaPosted: May 14, 2013
The comparisons of the Obama and Nixon White Houses are suddenly coming—pardon the expression—fast and furious, and why not? The IRS investigations; the administration’s fixation on leaks and leakers and its obsession with enemies; the cover-ups, the blame-shifting to subordinates, the defiant chief executive, even the sweating, pathetically dissembling press secretary; it all has the odor of that earlier time. Again, it’s all happening early in the second term, following a triumphant reelection. Again, the operative terms are arrogance, contempt for law, and thuggery.
The growing awareness of administration malfeasance is evident in the numbers on Google: more than 59 million hits for “Obama and Nixon” and 24 million–plus for “Obama and Watergate.” For those interested, the 44th president’s face can already be found morphing into the 37th’s. Then there’s the rising tide of commentary. “Obama knee-deep in Nixon-esque scandal” runs the headline of columnist Joe Battenfield’spiece in the Boston Herald, which notes that Obama’s campaign slogan would have been more appropriate if it were not “Forward” but “Backward”—“All the way to, say, 1972.” “Benghazi, IRS—Son of Watergate?” asks Cal Thomas. “In IRS Scandal, Echoes of Watergate,”observes the Washington Post’s George Will.
Such talk is mostly confined to the Right so far, but a handful of principled liberals have also weighed in. “There’s no way in the world I’m going to defend that,” said U.S. Representative Michael Capuano of Massachusetts of the IRS’s going after the Tea Party. “Hell, I spent my youth vilifying the Nixon administration for doing the same thing.” Former Michigan Democratic congresswoman Lynn Rivers echoed him: “For anyone over 50, this news couldn’t help but stir memories of Richard Nixon’s Political Enemies Project. . . . To use Dan Rather’s ‘duck test,’ the IRS probe of ‘hostile’ ideological groups looks like, swims like, and quacks like government dirty tricks.” One of the heroes of Watergate weighed in, too. “This is outrageous, and it is totally inexcusable,” Carl Bernstein raged about the revelation that the Department of Justice had secretly seized the phone records of Associated Press journalists. “There is no reason that a presidency that is interested in a truly free press and its functioning should permit this to happen.”
Thus it is that questions that once seemed unfathomable take on unexpected plausibility. Where and how far will it all go? Is it remotely conceivable that where Richard Nixon led, Barack Obama might follow? The answer, of course, depends primarily on the nature and severity of the crimes committed—if, indeed, they are crimes—and whether presidential culpability can be established.
But such an observation instantly gives rise to two other considerations. Lest we forget, while Democrats led the congressional inquiries into the Nixonites’ misdeeds—Sam Ervin’s committee in the Senate, Peter Rodino’s in the House—in the end, it was principled Republicans, led by Barry Goldwater (who told Nixon he could count on no more than 15 Republican votes in the Senate), who forced the president’s resignation. Can we expect such nation-above-party behavior on the part of today’s Democrats? Can you imagine Patrick Leahy ever deserting Obama? Or Al Franken? Or Barbara Boxer?
Then there’s the role of the press. Unsurprisingly, the media on the far left have circled the wagons in defense of the president. “Desperate for a Scandal, Fox’s Dobbs Attacks Obama’s ‘Inner Nixon,’” read a dismissive headline on Media Matters for America, while DailyKos has harped on previous “GOP-Fabricated Non-Scandals” that went nowhere. And it’s true that, whether it was the president’s associations with his racist pastor or the Fast and Furious boondoggle, such allegations have gone nowhere—but primarily because the press has protected Obama. So it is a given that the media will again play a key role in determining whether the current scandals are pursued to their logical conclusion or are allowed to fizzle out.
Recent history suggests which outcome is more likely.
Benghazi? With a few notable exceptions, such as CBS’s Sharyl Attkisson and CNN’s Jake Tapper, reporters shrugged off the administration’s cover-up in the immediate aftermath of the attack, when it might have harmed Obama’s presidential fortunes. They have at last been forced by whistleblowers to start asking obvious questions, but their impulse to protect Obama is presumably undiminished. The IRS scandal? Reporters have as little sympathy for the Tea Party as other liberals do, but this story can’t be ignored, at least for the moment. Even administration apologist Joe Klein opines: “I don’t think Obama ever wanted to be on the same page as Richard Nixon. In this specific case, he now is.” But the “specific case” wording is telling; Klein’s piece is generally tepid, arguing that the IRS matter is an exception to what has been a generally scandal-free administration. It is a line that many in the media are apt to adopt.
As Bernstein’s outburst makes clear, the media generally saves its greatest outrage for government attacks on . . . the media. Thus, the DOJ/AP episode may be the most dangerous to the administration of the mushrooming scandals. It’s likely that a prominent head or two will roll, perhaps even Attorney General Eric Holder’s. Reporters are nothing if not creatures of the pack, and the pack has been dissed here, big-time. How hard will they go after the president? Probably not very. Think battered-woman syndrome: he may be an abuser, but he’s still their man—the one they covered for when he was caught with Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers, the one they played along with on the faux war on women and the anti-Islam video as the cause for the Benghazi attack. With Nixon, by contrast, once the media picked up the faintest scent of blood, they were relentless and increasingly joyous in pursuit.
As George Will writes: “Episodes like this separate the meritorious liberals from the meretricious. The day after the IRS story broke, The Post led the paper with it, and, with an institutional memory of Watergate, published a blistering editorial demanding an Obama apology. The New York Times consigned the story to page 10.” So it’s also the case that, amid all the stunning events of the past few days, the story that will likely prove the most relevant is this one, courtesy of hotair.com: “Top CBS, ABC, CNN execs all have relatives working as advisors for White House.”
Harry Stein is a contributing editor of City Journal and the author of No Matter What . . . They’ll Call This Book Racist (soon to appear in paperback as Why We Won’t Talk Honestly About Race) and the forthcoming e-book novel Will Tripp, Pissed-Off Attorney-at-Law.
This month, I spoke at an event commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Watergate scandal with some of its survivors at the National Press Club. While much of the discussion looked back at the historic clash with President Nixon, I was struck by a different question: Who actually won? From unilateral military actions to warrantless surveillance that were key parts of the basis for Nixons impending impeachment, the painful fact is that Barack Obama is the president that Nixon always wanted to be.Four decades ago, Nixon was halted in his determined effort to create an “imperial presidency” with unilateral powers and privileges. In 2013, Obama wields those very same powers openly and without serious opposition. The success of Obama in acquiring the long-denied powers of Nixon is one of his most remarkable, if ignoble, accomplishments. Consider a few examples:
Nixon’s use of warrantless surveillance led to the creation of a special court called theForeign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA). But the reform turned out to be more form than substance. The secret court turned “probable cause” into a meaningless standard, virtually guaranteeing any surveillance the government wanted. After hundreds of thousands of applications over decades, only a couple have ever been denied.
Last month, the Supreme Court crushed any remaining illusions regarding FISA when it sided with the Obama administration in ruling that potential targets of such spying had to have proof they were spied upon before filing lawsuits, even if the government has declared such evidence to be secret. That’s only the latest amongdozens of lawsuits the administration has blocked while surveillance expands exponentially.
Unilateral military action
Nixon’s impeachment included the charge that he evaded Congress’ sole authority to declare war by invading Cambodia. In the Libyan “mission,” Obama announced that only he had the inherent authority to decide what is a “war” and that so long as he called it something different, no congressional approval or even consultation was necessary. He proceeded to bomb a nation’s capital, destroy military units and spendmore than a billion dollars in support of one side in a civil war.
The NYT kept the Libya hearing off the front page because “It’s three weeks before the election and it’s a politicized thing…”Posted: October 15, 2012
Why, yes, it is a politicized thing, isnt it? Oh… you didnt mean your coverage of the news, did you?
The NYT managing editor Dean Baquet was explaining to the NYT public editor why the decision was made to go with the 6 stories they did put on the front page……
one on affirmative action at universities, one on Lance Armstrong’s drug allegations, two related to the presidential election, one on taped phone calls at JPMorgan Chase, and one on a Tennessee woman who died of meningitis.
“I didn’t think there was anything significantly new in it.”
“There were six better stories.”
They put the story on page 3.
To be fair: The NYT put the original news of the Watergate break-in on an inside page. Was it page 18? Sorry, Im not finding that fact as easily as I think I should. I did come up with the information that when Deep Throat/Mark Felt wanted to communicate with the Washington Post, Bob “Woodward’s home-delivered New York Times would arrive with an inked circle on Page 20.”
So the myth of the inside pages of the New York Times looms large in the annals of presidential scandal.
Is the Libya scandal as big as Watergate? The substance of it may be much worse than Watergate, and the Obama administration seems not to have heeded the old Watergate lesson that its the cover-up that gets you, but if Obama loses the election, that will limit the dimension of the scandal. If he wins the election — especially if its very close or contested in some way — Republicans may work themselves into a frenzy going after Obama. Remember that Richard Nixon was reelected after the Watergate scandal broke. The break-in was 5 months before the election, and the first stories had come out. The next 2 years were hell for Nixon, and he was drummed out of office. And Nixon had won by a landslide.
- No Mention Of Libya On The NYT’s Front Page (sweetness-light.com)
- New York Times: Nothing ‘significantly new’ in Libya hearings (politico.com)
- Why Wasn’t Libya Hearing on Page A1 of The Times? (publiceditor.blogs.nytimes.com)
- EXCEPT NOBODY DIED AT WATERGATE: Jennifer Rubin on Watergate Redux – “In hearing, the Libya scandal… (pjmedia.com)
- Watergate: Where Are They Now? (history.com)