Archive for Saturday, March 11, 2017

Opinion: Down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories

March 11, 2017

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Washington — When he was Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state, George Shultz was once asked about the CIA’s disavowal of involvement in a mysterious recent bombing in Lebanon. Replied Shultz: “If the CIA denies something, it’s denied.”

Has there ever been a more dry, more wry, more ironic verdict on the world of espionage? Within it, there is admission and denial, smoke and mirrors, impenetrable fog and deliberate obfuscation. Truth? Ask the next guy.

Which is why my default view of espionage is to never believe anyone because everyone is trained in deception. This is not a value judgment; it’s a job description.

We learn, for example, from Tuesday’s spectacular WikiLeaks dump that among the CIA’s various and nefarious cybertools is the capacity to simulate intrusion by a foreign power, the equivalent of planting phony fingerprints on a smoking gun.

Who are you going to believe now? I can assure you that some enterprising Trumpite will use this revelation to claim that the whole storyline pointing to Russian interference in the U.S. election was a fabrication. And who was behind that? There is no end to this hall of mirrors. My rule, therefore, is: Stay away.

Hard to do with Washington caught up in one of its periodic conspiracy frenzies. Actually, two. One, anti-Donald Trump, is that he and his campaign colluded with Russian intelligence. The other, anti-Barack Obama-CIA-“deep state,” is that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower to ensnare candidate Trump.

The odd thing is that, as of today, there is no evidence for either charge. That won’t, of course, stop the launch of multiple all-consuming investigations.

(1) Collusion:

James Clapper, Obama’s director of national intelligence, who has been deeply and publicly at odds with Trump, unequivocally states that he has seen zero evidence of any Trump campaign collusion with Russia. Nor has anyone else.

The contrary suspicion arises because it’s hard to explain why Michael Flynn falsely denied discussing sanctions with the Russian ambassador and why Jeff Sessions falsely denied having any contacts at all. That suggests concealment. But there was nothing inherently inappropriate with either behavior. So why conceal?

Suspicion, nonetheless, is far short of assertion — and a fairly thin basis for a major investigation, let alone for a special prosecutor. To prosecute what exactly?

(2) Wiretap:

The other storyline is simply fantastical. Congressional Republicans have uniformly run away from Trump’s Obama-wiretap accusation. Clapper denies it. FBI Director James Comey denies it. Not a single member of Trump’s own administration is willing to say it’s true.

Loopier still is to demand that Congress find the truth when the president could just pick up the phone and instruct the FBI, CIA and DNI to declare on the record whether this ever occurred. And if there really was an October 2016 FISA court order to wiretap Trump, the president could unilaterally declassify the information yesterday.

The bugging story is less plausible than a zombie invasion. Nevertheless, one could spin a milder — and more plausible — scenario of executive abuse. It goes like this:

The intelligence agencies are allowed to listen in on foreigners. But if any Americans are swept up in the conversation, their part of it is supposed to be redacted or concealed to protect their identity. According to The New York Times, however, the Obama administration appears to have gone out of its way to make sure that information picked up about Trump associates’ contacts with Russians was as widely disseminated as possible.

Under Obama, did the agencies deliberately abuse the right to listen in on foreigners as a way to listen in, improperly, on Americans?

If they did, we will find out. But for now, all of this is mere conjuring. There is no evidence for either the collusion or the wiretap charge. We are headed down a rabbit hole. An enormous amount of heat and energy will be expended, ending — my guess — roughly where we started.

What a waste. There is a major national agenda waiting to be debated and enacted. And there is trouble beyond the cozy confines of the capital that needs to be confronted. Self-created crisis can leave us distracted, spent and unprepared when the real thing hits.

It’s unquiet out there. North Korea keeps testing missiles as practice for attacking U.S. bases in Japan. Meanwhile, we are scrambling to install an antimissile shield in South Korea as early as next month. Fuses are burning. When the detonations begin, we’d better not be in the rabbit hole.

— Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.

Comments

Fred Whitehead Jr. 9 months, 1 week ago

Stand by!! Here come the Bobs!!

Anyone who criticizes the current illegitimate, predatory liar in the White Hose needs to be shunned from the pages of the Journal World.

Stand by for the baseless and stupid invocations of stupidity against a noted national commentator who's salient and noteworthy opinion has been presented in this article.

Stand by for the fire storm of foolishness!!!!!

Bob Smith 9 months, 1 week ago

This particular firestorm of foolishness began with your hyperventilating hyperbolic post, Fred. Calm down. You'll do yourself a mischief.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 9 months, 1 week ago

Hyperbolic.......?? Huh?? did I do that?? (whew!)

I am very calm......I am just waiting for the news that enough members of Congress have come to the conclusion that we have an incompetent fool in the White House and initiate impeachment proceedings to get rid of this disaster. Can't happen soon enough. Before North Korea hits us or someone else.

Scott Burkhart 9 months, 1 week ago

And, what, Ferd? Declare Hillary the "winner" after all?

Marc Wilborn 9 months, 1 week ago

If NK does "hit us", it will be likely the fault of our prior President who offered no deterrence whatsoever. Have you already forgotten the "Wait until my election when I will have more flexibility" comment? Project much, Fred?

Fred Whitehead Jr. 9 months, 1 week ago

"Obamacare......."Obamacare,....the worst thing that has ever appeared in the United States"......what did you have before???....

"Obamacare......the racist label that everyone including the major news sources have utilized for what is the "Affordable Care Act". The implication, of course,, that the black, non-citizen, Muslim President of the United States (according to our new "non-president") was responsible for this "terrible disaster" that has occurred.......(Again.....what did you have before??) Could you even get or afford health insurance before??? If "Obamacare" was so terrible, why did millions sign up for it?? " Oamacare "............Is "Trumpcare" going to be any better given the credibility lack from the lying and disgusting behavior of the new non-President of the United States??.......you may find yourself wishing for "Obamacare" later.

Bob Smith 9 months, 1 week ago

You've come down with the "...." disease.

Calvin Anders 9 months, 1 week ago

The investigation into the wiretapping allegations should take about 45 minutes. Realistically, if warrants were issued, there is a paper trail that can't be hidden. We can investigate Russia's involvement in the election without assuming obvious collusion between Trump's campaign and Russian operatives. But the investigation of Russian involvement in the election does need to examine who was involved and how deeply. These are not equivalent situations. But false equivalencies are the stock and trade of Trump and his surrogates. What troubles me most is that it's no longer shameful for our elected leaders to be so obviously partisan in the face of criminal allegations. It's no longer a requirement that those in Congress even try to seem like they are seeking the truth. It's more important for them to express loyalty to party.

Bob Smith 9 months, 1 week ago

Considering the dog-eating tyrant's track record of using the might of the federal government against his enemies, why is it so hard to believe wiretapping? Of course, there's be no tracks leading directly to 1600 Penn Ave. His handlers were smarter than that.

Scott Burkhart 9 months ago

I don't know, Bob. It was either Heat Street, WaPo, or the New York Times that reported that a report on the surveillance was provided to the White House.

Steve King 9 months, 1 week ago

"Dog eating tyrant"? Sounds like a KKK crowd cheer. Can't wait for the truth to come out and warch Bob shrivel up in his Robes.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 9 months, 1 week ago

Steve.....you gotta give Bob some slack here......he has a virus that makes him scream "Liberal" at opposing view or differing opinion....It would be wasted time to point out that wire tapping requires judicial approval and leaves a very visible track in it's wake.

Trump is a liar and this is just another one of his frauds and misrepresentations

Bob has a "conservative" disease that makes him scream "LiberalIs!" at every turn...(I don't think there is a medicine or therapy for people infected with "Rush Limbaugh Syndrome".)

Just ignore him.

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