Former FBI Director during the climactic 2016 email/spying debacle James Comey has once again found his way into the political mainstream. This time to attempt to defang the recent substantiated allegations by Attorney General Barr that the 2016 Trump campaign was, in fact, spied on; albeit not necessarily illegally. Fox expands,
“James Comey joined the chorus of Democratic critics complaining about Attorney General Barr’s testimony this week that “spying did occur” against the 2016 Trump campaign, claiming he has no idea what the Justice Department leader is talking about — and saying he “never thought of” electronic surveillance as “spying.”
Comey sought to draw a distinction between surveillance — which was authorized against a Trump adviser — and spying during a cybersecurity conference in California on Thursday, echoing Democratic lawmakers who have accused Barr of going too far in his Senate testimony this week.
“I have no idea what he’s talking about, so it’s hard for me to comment,” Comey said.
“When I hear that kind of language used, it’s concerning because the FBI and the Department of Justice conduct court-ordered electronic surveillance,” he continued. “I have never thought of that as spying.”
He added: “If the attorney general has come to the belief that that should be called spying, wow.”
(Editor’s note: Does the former Director of the FBI not know that electronic surveillance is spying? Does he not know that that is exactly what the National Security Agency, the largest spy agency in the world does exclusively?)
“That’s going to require a whole lot of conversations inside the Department of Justice. But I don’t know what he meant,” Comey said.
It’s Still Spying if Its Court Ordered…
The cavalier attitude Comey expressed towards the idea that covert surveillance conducted by the FBI might seem… well, laughable.
But much more seriously it epitomizes the almost incomprehensible culture of institutionalized domestic spying we have in this country. It’s not just odd, but also unsettling for the former FBI *director* to have sublimated literal by the definition spying to not be so, by merit of it being done with particular documents and permissions; almost fictional.
However, critics – as well as conservative lawmakers with vested interest – have been vocal in hitting back against the argument that no spying but merely (I don’t even know how to phrase it to be honest) ‘state-okay’d watching’ occurred.
For example, The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway tweeted, “There is no dispute about whether spying occurred. There has not yet been a proper investigation about whether that spying–which included human informants, wiretaps, national security letters, etc.–can be justified.”
And that seems to be the main issue Attorney General Barr will be grappling with as more and more information becomes available. Whether the spying that occurred – because spying did occur – was done so with the proper means and more importantly, justification.
Whatever that conclusion may be down the road the undeniable reality now to all but the staunchest opponents – who include apparently James Comey – that seemingly federal sanctioned spying (or ‘surveillance’…) occurred on the Trump 2016 campaign to some degree.
A fancy piece of paper with a court signature on it might make for ‘legal’ surveillance, but regardless of the former FBI directors’ apparent issue with the English language that surveillance is spying; that’s just how the word ‘spying’ works. Really simple stuff here on this one…
By Comey’s overly flexible feelgood definition of spying Nixon’s Watergate scandal was as legal as the now forever marred president argued it was at the time. For apparently as far as Comey is concerned if the administration in power got the papers signed then the surveillance was not only unquestionable in integrity; it wasn’t even espionage.
That attitude is terrible, and people who hold it truly need to be kept at arm’s length from the intelligence apparatus. In the digital age of unparallel access and potential for security breaches an FBI, NSA, etc. wielding that morally flexible view has the potential to egregiously overstep their boundaries in their spying on domestic society.
*Ahem* I mean ‘surveillance’…