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By: Elias J. Atienza
CNN’s editor at large Chris Cillizza wrote an article on how Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and President Donald Trump have been come allies in the last few days over Trump’s allegations that former President Barrack Obama wiretapped Trump Towers. Cillizza argues, and I agree, that Paul is using this in order to continue his crusade against the surveillance state such as the FISA Court and the NSA spying scandals.
Paul is a noted privacy warrior. He ‘filibustered’ the renewal of the Patriot Act, has sued the government for the NSA spying, and has been a general thorn in the side of security hawks like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. Paul, while refusing to directly criticize Trump’s actions and views like he did back in the primary, has been reintroducing legislation that run contrary to many of Trump’s positions.
But what Cillizza is trying to get at is that Trump’s wiretapping claims are false. And they very well might be, considering Trump has not offered any evidence up until the Susan Rice report. Cillizza fires some shots against Paul and his attacks against the surveillance state.
However, Cillizza’s greatest mistake is his argument is his appeal to authority. FBI Director James Comey, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and House Intelligence committee chair Devin Nunes. In his assumption that Trump’s claims is false, he pivots towards Clapper, who told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd that no order for wiretapping came from the FISA court.
“I can deny it,” Clapper said.
But should we really trust Clapper? This is the same man who lied about one of the greatest breaches of the right to privacy in recent American history. Back after Edward Snowden revealed the extent of the NSA surveillance programs, Clapper was asked if the NSA was still collecting millions of Americans phone records and information.
No, sir,” he said during a 2013 congressional hearing. He later said it was an “clearly erroneous” answer in an apology letter to Congress. However, it was a clear case of perjury and one that has affected the lives of millions of Americans who believed their privacy was being protected by the federal government instead of being violated by it. Paul and his allies in the fight for privacy are right to argue he should be jailed.
Nor do people trust FBI Director James Comey or should trust him.
As the New York Times wrote in 2013, Comey has been involved in surveillance efforts for almost his entire career in Washington:
“Despite the showdown, in which Mr. Comey refused the request of White House aides to reauthorize a program for eavesdropping without warrants, he was later willing to go along with most of the Bush administration’s surveillance operations. He and his allies, including Mr. Mueller, eventually backed down from their threats to resign in protest after the White House made modest adjustments.”
Cillizza’s main point is that Paul and Trump are allies of convenience for now. But his justifications, his attacks against Paul, along with his appeal to authority, such as Comey and Clapper, makes his argument falls apart and makes his main point all but moot.