The Real Scandal

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The real lesson in the latest scandal, the Michael Flynn scandal, is that the FBI, the CIA and other intelligence agencies (and people with just one foot inside them) are constantly spying on everyone all the time.

How did the FBI obtain a transcript of Flynn’s phone call with a Russian Ambassador? Neither one of them are on the terrorist watch list, and a diplomat is not really subject to legal electronic surveillance. Why can’t Flynn talk to anyone he wants? It’s a free country.

If anyone in the administration (past or present) thinks that they are on a “secure line” they are mistaken.

What Flynn divulged (or not) to the Vice President or others is not really the question. It should be something between them alone. It might become political football, but a deeper question remains: who is watching the watchers? No one.

There are multiple spy agencies spying on everyone in the administration, including on Pres. Trump. None of his calls remains unmonitored, unrecorded, or unanalyzed. The cars, the Oval Office, every room in the White House, all bugged.

There are only three ways to have relatively secure communication, and really only the last way is most secure.

The first way is to use a pre-paid flip-phone! But those calls are still vulnerable to retroactive access.

The second way, exclusively for reaching foreign political leaders, is to drop off a sealed letter at the consulate or embassy of the country involved. If accepted, the letter then travels to the foreign capital in a sealed diplomatic pouch. This is faster than FedEx. And it is free.

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The third way is to never write anything down, never use email, and never use a cell phone or landline. This means human-to-human, face-to-face communication only.

In fact, this is the preferred system of those who are currently spying on, and gaming, the current administration. They only use human chains for communication. They avoid electronic and digital technology (unless they are using it to spy downward, on the executive or legislative branches of government).

This webpage has alternately supported and criticized different administration policies, on a case-by-case basis. But I am hopeful (though not too optimistic) that this administration can assert normal executive functions, and wrest control from those in the intelligence community who have no legal authority to perpetually spy on government, which is supposed to have its own system of checks and balances.

The intelligence agencies are operating beyond congressional oversight. The FBI, for example, is becoming the “decider” over which policies succeed and which fail – and over who works in government and who does not.

The problem goes back decades. It goes back to J. Edgar Hoover. It goes back to Eisenhower’s warning of the  military-industrial complex. The CIA went rogue decades ago. It does whatever it likes.

It is time to fix this, or we can watch government agencies cannibalize what remains of a constitutional or democratic tradition.

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