The most famous remark about the American “intelligence [sic] community” was made by none other than Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer: “Let me tell you: You take on the intelligence community — they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you."
One would have expected those words to have been uttered as a challenge to the activities of the FBI, CIA, NSA, and the rest of them. One would have expected them to set all Washington atwitter about the arrogance and vindictiveness of the Men in Suits. But no such thing. The words were cynically spoken, as a rebuke to President Trump for being “dumb” enough to quarrel with the intelligencers; and they were cynically received by the general populace. The secret police are now regarded as a grim inevitability, the subject of helpless humor, like death and taxes.
The words were cynically spoken, as a rebuke to President Trump for being “dumb” enough to quarrel with the intelligencers.
If you’re in the intelligence community, this is very good news for you. You can now do whatever you please. For instance:
1. You can collude with a presidential campaign to produce false evidence against associates of a rival presidential campaign.
2. You can leak the purported evidence to the press, then use the resulting press statements to justify secret judicial proceedings, secret surveillance, the planting of spies, and the smear of “treason” against the candidate and party you covertly oppose.
3. You can arrest and imprison the people you are investigating, claiming that they lied to you.
4. When the person you oppose manages to win, you can immediately start trying to get rid of him: you can entrap him into damaging statements; you can leak truths and falsehoods promiscuously to the press; and you can lean with so much gravitas on co-dependent “investigators” that they reprimand you, at most, for being “less than candid.”
You can arrest and imprison the people you are investigating, claiming that they lied to you.
5. When you fail in your attempt to convict the duly elected president of colluding with a foreign power, you can try to convict him of colluding with another foreign power, itself the enemy of the first foreign power.
6. You can decline to investigate, and scoff at the idea of investigating, the leaders of the political party you favor whenever there is prima facie evidence that they or their associates have colluded with or intimidated foreign powers, to the vast enrichment of themselves.
7. When the president suggests to the leader of a foreign country that such apparent misdeeds be investigated, you can leak his conversation in such a way as to engineer impeachment by his political enemies, who are eager to use the force of law to ransack the private papers and conversations of him and his associates, hoping to discover additional and unrelated “crimes.”
8. You can employ every imaginable tactic of obstruction to prevent the publication of your own proceedings, declaring that national security would be irrevocably damaged if anyone but your own “community” were permitted to decide what should be known about themselves.
The much more obvious, much more urgent question is “Who the hell empowered the CIA to spy on the president and try to remove him from office?”
9. You can go on social media and try to obstruct the president and the justice system by encouraging unlimited numbers of government employees to make damaging accusations, regardless of their truth or falsehood (see for instance this, from September 28).
Those are a few examples of what you are free to do; readers can continue the list for themselves, relying on their own knowledge — because anyone who cares to read knows all these things, and more.
Yet the current subject of dispute is, “What exactly may have been the subtext of President Trump’s conversation with the president of Ukraine?”, and not the much more obvious, much more urgent question: “Who the hell empowered the CIA to spy on the president and try to remove him from office?”
There are many reasons why that second question should be important and urgent to everyone, including people who don’t like the current president. The most significant reason is the most obvious: if the secret police can do these things to the president, they can, and they will, very happily and self-righteously do them to you. The fact that this idea seems to have registered on so few people is a truly terrifying indictment of today’s political mentality.