[1/11/17] Donald Trump ran for president on the promise to “Make America Great Again!” He ran as an outsider — a political underdog — who was as fed up with the government status quo as those whose votes he courted. While there is room for cautious optimism that on issues such as stopping the globalist free-trade agenda his promise will be kept, when it comes to the issue of balancing individual liberty and national security, President-elect Trump is filling top intelligence posts with the same surveillance hawks who have built their careers by building the surveillance state.
Last week, Trump named former Senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.; shown, left) to lead the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). Before retiring from Congress last year, Coats served on the Senate Intelligence Committee. He is also an unapologetic surveillance hawk who wrote an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal condemning Ed Snowden and defending the surveillance state.
The senator’s op-ed piece, dated June 17, 2013 — one week after Snowden revealed the size and scope of the surveillance state’s unconstitutional and illegal domestic spying activities — was titled “To My Congressional Colleagues: Stop the NSA Grandstanding” and carried the subtitle, “Members have had ample opportunity to learn about these valuable programs.” As many in Congress were expressing their disagreement with the warrantless surveillance which Snowden had revealed, Coats wrote:
Last week, Edward Snowden, a National Security Agency contractor, attempted to make a political point by leaking several documents that have seriously harmed America’s ability to identify and respond to terrorist threats. As damaging as Mr. Snowden’s disclosures are to public safety, I am also troubled by the decision of several members of Congress to mischaracterize this leak to advance their personal and political agendas.
Not only did Coats write that he considered the NSA’s programs of vacuuming up all e-mails, phone calls, text messages, browsing histories, and other personal data of all Americans to be “valuable,” he went on to write that they were “legal, constitutional and used under the strict oversight of all three branches of government.” Of course, nearly everyone now knows that was not true. The courts have since curtailed at least some of the surveillance programs Coats so enthusiastically defended.
Coats also wrote in his Wall Street Journal piece that “the Obama administration” had “made the reaction to Mr. Snowden’s leak far worse” by statements which “fueled people’s distrust of government.” The reader who walks away from Coats’ article with the impression that the NSA spying on ordinary citizens’ every communication is perfectly acceptable and should not create a sense of “distrust of government” can easily be forgiven. Because that is exactly the impression Coats intended.