AG William Barr Doesn't Want The Government Spying On The President But Thinks It's OK If It Spies On Everyone Else
from the selective-deployment dept
Attorney General William Barr is against* domestic surveillance.
Attorney General William Barr on Friday continued to go to bat for President Donald Trump, reiterating his attempt to justify his investigation into the origins of the FBI investigation into Trump campaign’s ties to Russia ? including by claiming without evidence that U.S. government “spying” on Trump’s campaign was just as grave as Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“I think people have to find out what the government was doing during that period. If we’re worried about foreign influence, for the very same reason we should be worried about whether government officials abused their power and put their thumb on the scale,” he said in a Fox News interview airing Friday. “I’m not saying that happened, but I’m saying that we have to look at that.”
Let me restate that: William Barr is opposed to certain, very narrow subsets of domestic surveillance. Specifically, Barr doesn’t think the government should have spied on Trump and his campaign staff, if that’s what actually happened, which Barr doesn’t actually seem to know.
But if you’re literally anyone else, domestic surveillance is just another name for national security, whether you’re a random Verizon customer or one of the world’s most useful websites.
The Wikimedia Foundation sued the federal government over domestic surveillance back in 2015. The suit lives on four years later, thanks to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recognizing the Foundation had stated enough credible facts to be granted standing. The fight continues, with Barr’s DOJ reiterating its original point that there’s nothing wrong with spying on Americans when national security is on the line.
Wikimedia’s case could mark the first time a public court weighs in on the constitutionality of this decade-old spying operation. But in stark contrast to Barr’s public expressions of concern over the privacy of Americans, his Justice Department has thrown up a series of litigation roadblocks in an effort to prevent the court from ruling on the legality of this surveillance dragnet.
In fact, on Thursday, Justice Department lawyers argued that Wikimedia’s case should be dismissed outright. They contend that Wikimedia cannot prove with sufficient certainty that its communications are surveilled, and that it therefore lacks “standing” to sue.
We expect hypocrisy from those in the self-service business. Government officials are not expected to apply their ideals and beliefs consistently across the board. The DOJ itself, however, is completely ambivalent. It is more than willing to spy on both presidential candidates and everyone else in the country, even as it argues none of the millions of entities swept up in the NSA’s dragnets have standing to sue over violated rights.
Barr wants to dig into the federal government’s spying on Trump, but doesn’t want the public to dig into the government’s spying on everyone else. Tough, but unfair. But that’s how the government operates, and AG William Barr is no exception. To use the DOJ’s own argument, Barr’s seemingly baseless claims about spying on the Trump campaign shouldn’t be granted standing by the general public, much less the DOJ he wants to investigate itself.
*The DEA has run multiple bulk records collections for more than 20 years, given the green light by our current Attorney General, William Barr, who also ran the DOJ back in 1992.