Closing the barn door on the politicization of intelligence
So after months of congressional hearings, the unmasking scandal, where top Obama administration officials were caught revealing the names of Americans caught up in political dragnets and then leaking them to the press, really just boils down to a need for a rules change?
That's the apparent state of things, now that the director of National Intelligence has proposed a new set of rules on unmaskings during presidential transitions. In a letter to House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes, the DNI, Dan Coats, has proposed new guidelines with new safeguards and reporting requirements on unmasking any Americans during a presidential transition. This time, they will make them really, really, really airtight to protect innocent Americans.
The problem here is that there already are rules in place, and the Obama administration just didn't want to follow them. Obama people broke the laws on unmaskings; unmasked like crazy under the protestation that they were just doing their intelligence duties to protect the country, as they testified in House hearings; and then got away with it.
Putting more reins and fetters on now sitting Trump officials who have done nothing of the sort pretty well closes the barn door after the horse has gotten out. It's infuriating because it suggests that Team Obama – from Samantha Power to Susan Rice to Ben Rhodes – won't be held to account for the blatant abuse of their privileged access to top U.S. intelligence information for political purposes. This was evident in their leaks of national security advisor nominee Michael Flynn to the press in a bid to whip up a legal case against him.
For that abusive tactic alone, the charges against Flynn ought to be dismissed.
Yet they are the ones who broke the law big-time in their unwillingness to accept the results of the 2016 election, and Flynn is the one paying the price over a minor slip-up after the illegally pretexted prosecution activity was launched. Improperly gathered evidence is dismissed in criminal cases, and it should be dismissed here, too.
The sad thing here is that more laws aren't going to fix this underlying problem. Democrats break these laws with impunity, so no new laws are going to stop them. Has anything come of the massive wave of unmaskings that Obama officials such as Power and Rice have insisted were just them doing their duties? Has anything come of why someone was able to use Power's intelligence account to access zillions of unmaskings as she denied doing it herself? Has anyone found out whom she gave her password to? Has anyone figured out Obama's role in this? What's needed here is serious punishment for lawbreakers at the source – for prosecutors to go after the likes of Rice, Power, Rhodes and others for their blatant abuse of intelligence privileges for political purposes. Since they aren't going to obey laws, they need to fear the long arm of the law instead.