Why FISA-gate Is Scarier Than Watergate

The Watergate scandal of 1972-74 was uncovered largely because of outraged Democratic politicians and a bulldog media. They both claimed that they had saved American democracy from the Nixon Administration’s attempt to warp the CIA and FBI to cover up an otherwise minor, though illegal, political break-in.

In the Iran-Contra affair of 1985-87, the media and liberal activists uncovered wrongdoing by some rogue members of the Reagan government. They warned of government overreach and of using the “Deep State” to subvert the law for political purposes.

We are now in the midst of a third great modern scandal. Members of the Obama Administration’s Department of Justice sought court approval for the surveillance of Carter Page, allegedly for colluding with Russian interests, and extended the surveillance three times.

But none of these government officials told the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that the warrant requests were based on an unverified dossier that had originated as a hit piece funded in part by the Hillary Clinton campaign to smear Donald Trump during the current 2016 campaign.

Nor did these officials reveal that the author of the dossier, Christopher Steele, had already been dropped as a reliable source by the FBI for leaking to the press.

Nor did officials add that a Department of Justice official, Bruce Ohr, had met privately with Steele—or that Ohr’s wife, Nellie, had been hired to work on the dossier.

Unfortunately, such disclosures may be only the beginning of the FISA-gate scandal.

Members of the Obama Administration’s national security team also may have requested the names of American citizens connected with the Trump campaign who had been swept up in other FISA surveillance. Those officials may have then improperly unmasked the names and leaked them to a compliant press—again, for apparent political purposes during a campaign.

As a result of various controversies, the deputy director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, has resigned. Two FBI officials who had been working on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team in the so-called Russia collusion probe, Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, have been reassigned for having an improper relationship and for displaying overt political biases in text messages to each other.

The new FBI director, Christopher Wray, has also reassigned the FBI’s top lawyer, James Baker, who purportedly leaked the Steele dossier to a sympathetic journalist.

How does FISA-gate compare to Watergate and Iran-Contra?

Once again, an administration is being accused of politicizing government agencies to further agendas, this time apparently to gain an advantage for Hillary Clinton in the run-up to an election.

There is also the same sort of government resistance to releasing documents under the pretext of “national security.”

There is a similar pattern of slandering congressional investigators and whistleblowers as disloyal and even treasonous.

There is the rationale that just as the Watergate break-in was a two-bit affair, Carter Page was a nobody.

But there is one huge (and ironic) difference. In the current FISA-gate scandal, most of the media and liberal civil libertarians are now opposing the disclosure of public documents. They are siding with those in the government who disingenuously sought surveillance to facilitate the efforts of a political campaign.

This time around, the press is not after a hated Nixon Administration. Civil libertarians are not demanding accountability from a conservative Reagan team. Instead, the roles are reversed.

Barack Obama was a progressive constitutional lawyer who expressed distrust of the secretive “Deep State.” Yet his administration weaponized the IRS and surveilled Associated Press communications and a Fox News journalist for reporting unfavorable news based on supposed leaks.

Obama did not fit the past stereotypes of right-wing authoritarians subverting the Department of Justice and its agencies. Perhaps that is why there was little pushback against his administration’s efforts to assist the campaign of his likely replacement, fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Progressives are not supposed to destroy requested emails, “acid wash” hard drives, spread unverified and paid-for opposition research among government agencies, or use the DOJ and FBI to obtain warrants to snoop on the communications of American citizens.

FISA-gate may become a more worrisome scandal than either Watergate or Iran-Contra. Why? Because our defense against government wrongdoing—the press—is defending such actions, not uncovering them. Liberal and progressive voices are excusing, not airing, the excesses of the DOJ and FBI.

Apparently, weaponizing government agencies to stop a detested Donald Trump by any means necessary is not really considered a crime.


About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush. Hanson is also a farmer (growing raisin grapes on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author most recently of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, The Case for Trump and the recently released The Dying Citizen.

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14 responses to “Why FISA-gate Is Scarier Than Watergate”

  1. The left is more than happy to ignore the shenanigans of the deep state when it appears to serve the motives of the left. The same goes for the “watchdog” media. Exposing means, methods, and sources of the various spying agencies are NOT important when say–exposing the Department of Defense by publishing the Pentagon Papers, but then become “TREASON” when doing the same for exposing the FBI corruption in FISA-Gate. Hypocrisy knows no bounds.

    • The left is also happy to overlook lawbreaking among its own, so long
      as lawbreakers remain useful to the party. Nixon resigned when it became
      clear that if his impeachment were to come to a vote, there were enough
      Republicans who put the rule of law above party affiliation to carry the vote
      for impeachment. Democrats seem to have no such allegiance to the rule of
      law when it is one of their own– they continued to back Bill Clinton even
      when his perjury was proven.

      • Yeah, I know. It has always been a sore point to me that the party that claims the high moral ground on just about everything–just ask them–acts as though ethics are something everyone else must display while leaving themselves exempt. At times when I feel my stomach can take it I will spend time at Salon to see what others are saying in the commentary threads. I can say without reservation that they see themselves as the exemplars of the highest ethics and greatest morals. It is a dissonance I can neither fathom or explain.

      • Gℴogle is giving now $99 per/hr to complete some jobs from home .. Do work only for few time & enjoy greater time together with your circle of relatives … Anyone can catch this work!!!on Tuesday I purchased a brand new Chrysler after just getting $21683 this four weeks .it is truly the best work however you wo’nt forgive yourself if you do not go to this.!ue70r:➸➸➸ http://GooglePrimeUpdateWorkAtHome/get/pay/98$/hr ♥f♥y♥a♥♥♥d♥♥d♥♥a♥v♥♥♥i♥♥n♥♥p♥♥y♥♥q♥♥e♥♥n♥u♥r♥s♥♥♥f♥♥k♥♥s♥♥♥q♥s♥♥n♥♥k♥♥♥n:::::!oe17d:lhuh

      • Overlook lawbreaking? The list is too long.
        Ditto with PJM. Bridget went slanted slime on the parade story, and I just wasted an hour putting together the complete 2017 Bastille Day Guest of Honor story, and found the photo where Trump understood the significance of standing, not kneeling during our National Anthem.

        Can’t stand coming here – no real news, and too many who continue their deceptive slants. Worse, readers think there is no real news, because so much is being disappeared.
        And no one else is doing much better.

      • I came across a pretty decent news site for following the news in the Afrin Canton that does not have a Turkish bent. I don’t know if you’ve accessed it before. The articles are time-stamped so it makes it a little easier to follow progress.

        It is called ANHA Hawar News Agency: http://en.hawarnews.com/

        It appears the Turks are tightening the circle. The Turkish airstrikes appear to be focusing more on civilian targets than military ones. Another genocide progressing along historical lines. The icons in Liveuamap almost too many to sort out, which doesn’t bode well for the folks trapped in the Canton. Very depressing.

      • They consider themselves part of the ruling Elite. What do you expect them to do? After all, their motto is by any means necessary.

    • What do you call it when every White neighborhood, every White school, and every White workplace are chased down and made non-White?
      Would you call that diversity? And why is diversity only forced upon White neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces?
      No one ever says that a Black anything is too Black and needs diversity.
      Diversity means chasing down White flight. It is a codeword meaning White genocide.
      Anti-racist is a codeword for anti-White.

  2. I’ve said it repeatedly – Nixon was run out of office for trying to break laws Obama actually *broke*. Then again…Nixon didn’t have that nifty Teflon coating…

    • Exactly. One of the looming articles of impeachment against Nixon, for example, was his failed attempt to commandeer the IRS to punish his enemies. Obviously, and without question, the Obama administration succeeded in doing exactly that, and unless I am misinformed, the IRS continues doing it to this very day. And NO ONE has been impeached or indicted. Only poor what’s-her-name, the Fifth Amendment starlet who had pulled the same crap in her previous career at the FEC, has been forced out of government — and into a six-figure government-union retirement.

  3. There are no comparisons between the two. Watergate was never meant to bring down and destroy an opposing party or to unseat a President. It may have been stupid but it was not challenging the whole basis of our Constitutional Government. This democrat plot, using toxic deep state liberals is exactly that, making it on the level of a dangerous political coup, lacking only armed troops!

  4. Watergate – President Nixon resigns.

    FISA-Gate – Members of the FBI get reassigned.

  5. Have heart, there’s too much out there to be ignored. People will start coming forward to save their asses. There’re cracks in the dam already.