In an unprecedented move, the Justice Department has released the FISA application submitted by the FBI to spy on Carter Page, the rather hapless would-be advisor to the Trump campaign who has been smeared as a “Russian agent” – but has not been charged after almost two years.
We’ve never before even seen a FISA application, in which law enforcement agents explain to a judge why it is necessary for them to conduct surveillance on an American citizen, and so this is a special treat. The document that came out of this unique Freedom of Information Act request shows that the FBI had an ulterior motive in going after Page – and that they lied to the FISA court judge.
In order to get the judge to agree to the surveillance, the FBI had to establish a fairly convincing probable cause: at a minimum, agents had to identify multiple sources indicating that an act of espionage may have occurred or is about to occur imminently. This FISA application shows that the FBI had a single source: the unverified “dossier,” compiled by “former” MI6 agent Christopher Steele, bought and paid for by the Clinton campaign to dig up dirt on Trump. The other ostensible “sources” were news articles by journalists whom Steele had leaked to. There was a clear intent to deceive the judge who read this application.
This technique is a familiar one: remember how the neocons used to quote each other as “proof” that Saddam had “weapons of mass destruction”? It’s the old echo chamber trick, and every third-rate smear artist deploys it. The question arises: so is this how the FBI carries out its “investigations” into espionage?
This whole affair, and the shocking denouement, reminds me of the FBI investigation of … myself and our co-founder, Eric Garris. If you look at the initial memo proposing a “preliminary investigation” of the two of us, it contains an article by raving neocon Ronald Radosh that appeared in the Boston Globe accusing me of trying to create a “red-brown coalition” to oppose the Iraq war. It is full of the most imaginative smears, including a discussion of my alleged sexual proclivities, supposedly proving I’m an “agent of a foreign power” – just like Carter Page.
Apart from fag-baiting, the rest of the Radosh piece is simply a series of epithets – I’m a fascist, a Very Bad Person, etc. etc. Radosh doesn’t bother citing a single complete sentence of anything I’ve written or said. In short, the FBI included this worthless compendium of bile only in order to justify spying on me. But since when does an opinion piece by a clearly biased person serve as “evidence” of anything? Is this how the federal law enforcement authorities routinely guard the nation’s security?
I’m very much afraid that the answer is yes.
Carter Page is just a high profile victim of a widespread practice on the part of those supposedly assigned to guard the nation against espionage, saboteurs, and spies – they make it up as they go along. Since their goal is to conduct surveillance on everyone, they cast as wide a net as possible in hopes of “catching” a real villain. Yet the powerful tools at their disposal married to dubious methods enable the worst excesses – and that is certainly a fair description of what happened in the case of Carter Page. For it wasn’t Page they were really after: they simply used him to get to other members of the Trump campaign staff.
This isn’t mere incompetence: it’s sheer malevolence. This is what happens in police states.
Speaking of unmitigated evil — the Gnostics believed that Satan, not God, reigns in Heaven, and directs the ways of the world, and that certainly explains all too many recent events, especially the continued martyrdom of Julian Assange.
I won’t reiterate the many tortures Assange has had to endure due to his unique position as the greatest truth-teller of modern times. Suffice to say that his long – six years! – imprisonment in London’s Ecuadorian embassy is a sentence that was neither deserved nor was it legal. As far as we know, Assange has not been charged with any crime: contra journalistic malfeasance, he was never actually charged by the Swedish authorities for supposedly engaging in bad behavior with two women. He sought asylum in the embassy because the Swedes, always subservient to Washington, would have shipped him to the United States to stand trial for “espionage” – despite the fact that we don’t know if a grand jury has proffered charges.
Assange was granted sanctuary due to Rafael Correa, then the President of Ecuador: unfortunately, Correa’s successor – one Lenin Moreno – has caved to pressure from the US and Britain, and it looks like Assange is going to be handed over to the British imminently.
What happens next is anybody’s guess, but my own view is that there has indeed been a grand jury secretly deliberating his case, and charges will be made public: which means Assange will be sent to America, and to an uncertain fate.
Uncertain due to the Supreme Court decision in the Pentagon Papers case, in which the Supremes ruled that the First Amendment protects journalists who report facts that may embarrass or otherwise inconvenience the government.
In other circumstances, and in an earlier era, his fate would not be uncertain, it would be sealed. After all, WikiLeaks has revealed more US government secrets than any single individual or state adversary in history. One after another the revelations came – a US helicopter gunship gunning down Iraqi civilians, the entire secret diplomatic history of the US, complete with original documents and references, the methodology of hi-tech US surveillance on ordinary Americans, and the list goes on and on. Assange is, in short, the greatest journalist of our time – and so naturally the rest of the profession hates his guts, and is calling for his head.
The reasons for this should be clear enough: the Russia-gate mythology, a matter of faith for the Fourth Estate, characterizes Assange as one of its chief demons. He is, in their fake-expert phraseology, a Russian “asset,” Putin’s puppet, who deprived Hillary Clinton of her rightful due and “stole” the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Donald Trump.
There is no evidence for this, although the “mainstream” media and their CIA/FBI handlers carry on as if it’s a settled matter. It isn’t. We have no idea where the DNC files came from, although we do know that John Podesta, Hillary’s top aide, had his email account penetrated because his password was “password.” What anyone who knows anything about attribution of hacking incidents can tell you is that Trump is right: it could have been the Russians, just as it could have been anyone. Assange has strongly hinted that it was an inside job. My own view – no, I can’t prove it — is that it was probably a disaffected Bernie-crat who kept his or her sympathies secret and acted when he or she saw what was going on.
Yet why, we have to ask, is this relevant? The question of whodunit is surely interesting in itself, but ultimately it doesn’t matter: what mattered then and matters now is that the material uncovered is true. The WikiLeaks document dump exposed the fact that the Democratic primary was rigged from the very beginning. Bernie Sanders never had a chance, due to the machinations of the Democratic National Committee in cahoots with the Clinton campaign. So when the media refers to “stolen emails,” translate that into “rigged primary” and you get an accurate picture of the reality.
There will be considerable pressure on President Trump from his base to pardon Assange if charges are made public and he’s dragged to the US by his British captors. I don’t see how he can pull that one off, politically: I have no doubt that the top leadership of the CIA, the FBI, and various other agencies would collectively resign in protest.
From my perspective, that would be a good thing: it’s one way to get rid of the Deep State, or at least pry the worst ones from the levers of power. Then again, I’m not the President of the United States, Donald Trump is, and I can’t imagine him deliberately provoking an unbelievable uproar and taking the slings and arrows that would come his way if he dared to do it.
On the other hand, I can imagine it. Can’t you?
This is the really interesting thing about such a turn of events: predicting who will be howling for Assange’s blood and who will be demanding that he be set free. It’s the same division that’s occurring over the Russia-gate hoax: the believers (and I mean that in the religious sense) will form a mob straight out of The Lottery. The few skeptics – Tucker Carlson, Glenn Greenwald, a scattering of honest leftists, and most of us libertarians (although who knows if the Kochs will let Reason magazine come out for Assange) – will be his only defenders.
As long as WikiLeaks was exposing the dark underside of the Bush administration’s murderous foreign policy, our virtue-signaling “liberals” were all for it: Assange was a hero in their eyes. Just as soon as Obama took office, however, his left-wing fan club largely turned their backs on him. And during the 2016 presidential election they went after him with a vengeance: Hillary herself wondered aloud if the US could drone strike him. She was only half-joking.
As in the case of war and peace, so in this very important civil liberties case, the traditional positions of the left and the right are transposed, with the “left” arguing for the continued imprisonment of the man they used to lionize, and the “right” (populist version) rising to defend the civil liberties of journalists everywhere. This division won’t be clean, however: a few liberals (see above) will join with Trump’s base to campaign for Assange’s freedom, and I think we’ll even see some alleged libertarians go A.W.O.L. in this fight. Trump Derangement Syndrome has some pretty ugly symptoms.
Assange, who is very sympathetic to libertarianism, has been swimming against the tide for all of his public life. To say he hasn’t taken the easy way out is a bit of an understatement. Instead of mouthing the expected leftist bromides, and exhibiting the well-known prejudices of the species, Assange has gored everyone’s ox without fear or favor. As a result, his enemies are legion – a situation I can personally sympathize with.
The aura of inevitable doom that has permeated the air around Assange has finally descended on him, and may very well devour him in the end. We can’t let him go down without a fight. President Trump – who hailed WikiLeaks during the campaign! – is his only hope. Yes, yes, I know – that’s not exactly reassuring. But it’s all we have: it’s all Assange has, at this point.
Call the White House: (202) 456-1111. If Assange is being held by the British, bombard the Brits with your protests – call their Washington embassy and give them holy hell. Don’t let this horrific injustice pass in silence: make noise. Speak up. Fight back.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.