Summary: Special Prosecutor Mueller’s office is accused of leaking information about the investigation of Team Trump. It’s a charge worth considering because it reveals so much about our government and the people responsible for its problems.
“The further a society drifts from truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.”
— Fake quote attributed to George Orwell. It’s probably true.
Leaks are one way the intramural conflict among factions of America’s elites play out in the news. Intended to manipulate us, we become better informed as a byproduct. Imagine what the newspapers would be without leaks (including those by whistleblowers). They would be mostly press releases, op-eds, sports, and comics.
For a broader context, imagine how little we would know about our government’s deeds since 1960 without leaks. Much less. Most of the scandals of the past 20 years have come from leaks — not internal audits or law enforcement. From government agencies to the big corporations to the White House, leaks have become perhaps a major source of major news in America.
Consider the Department of Defense. Leaks have shaped our knowledge of the Vietnam War, the actions of the CIA and NSA, the F-35, and especially the bloody farce of the WOT.
- Afghan War documents leak: Disclosure of internal U.S. military logs of the War in Afghanistan.
- Iraq War documents leak: A WikiLeaks disclosure of 391,832 Army field reports.
- United States diplomatic cables leak: A WikiLeaks disclosure of classified cables sent to the State Department by 274 of its consulates, embassies, and diplomatic missions around the world.
- Guantanamo Bay files leak: Classified assessments, interviews, and internal memos about detainees, written by the Pentagon’s Joint Task Force Guantanamo.
- CIA interrogation tapes: Videotapes made by CIA during interrogations of Al-Qaeda suspects.
That we rely on leaks for information is quite dysfunctional, but that’s our America. Of course the priority of our leaders is not to fix America’s broken government machinery but to suppress leaks. President Obama’s use of the Espionage Act of 1917 was just the first volley in this battle against leakers. We are much easier to rule when we are ignorant.
About the damage done to America by leakers.
So far few or no leakers have been irresponsible. The news they release is information that our foes already know, or whose release has minimal impact on national security. Most government secrets revealed by leakers were essentially rebuttals to official lies.
The first big lie of the modern era is Ike’s denial in 1960 that the USSR shot down a U-2 over Russia. The Russians knew the truth. Ike wanted that information kept from us. A more recent case is the hack of OPM files in March 2014. The immediate result was hysteria! My favorite: “This infobomb is a catastrophe.” Three years and three months later: not a hint of any damage. Not the slightest. This is the kind of false news to which leaks are our best antidote.
A typical response of government officials to leaks are claims of damage to national security. As the years go by, those claims have consistently proven to be false. If we could bottle the hot air expended warning about the certain horrific effects of leaks, we should heat America for the next three winters.
The cost to America from leaks is nil vs. the immense benefit they provide us. Whatever their motives, we owe them much.
About the special prosecutor
So the special prosecutor is leaking news, playing the game as it is in DC. Just as prosecutors did during Watergate, during the 1980s insider trading scandals, during Ken Starr’s long investigation of the Clinton administration, and during most of the major special prosecutor investigations since Watergate. Muller doesn’t get to set the rules or choose the field.
He has been criticized for these leaks. Rightly so, in my opinion. But there is a larger issue lost in the partisan chaff about these investigations. Without the stick wielded by special prosecutors we’d be in deep (deeper) trouble, as there is little else restraining senior members of the executive branch.
Congress has largely abandoned its supervisory role, focusing instead on — in priority order — campaign fund-raising, continuous electioneering, working as ombudsmen for the rich, and (last) working on legislation. Those high re-election rates do not happen by themselves (average ~95% for the House, ~85% for the Senate).
The courts remain open for those with fortunes to finance challenges to government power. But they have become less willing to restrain government power. Getting search warrants on even the flimsiest evidence is routine. The most outrageous acts by prosecutors seldom get more than a slap on the wrist. Outright peeing on the Constitution by officials is increasingly blessed, such as the out-of-control theft by police misleadingly called “civil forfeiture“.
Hence my willingness to cut Mueller and his peers considerable slack in how they do their jobs, however imperfectly. They are unruly dogs at the heels of the President, but pretty much all that we sheep have to restrain the unlimited exercise of executive power.
Don’t complain about special prosecutors. Blame the people responsible
I suggest that we have low expectations from the dysfunctional machinery the US government has become. Instead let’s focus our anger on the people responsible: us. The citizens of the United States, whose neglect of their responsibilities has allowed the America to decay to this point.
Here are some ideas about ways to start the reform of American politics. Pick one that appeals to you. Or do something else. Are you Left, Right, or other in your politics? That’s wonderful. You qualify to participate!
For More Information
If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about Trump and the new populism, about the Trump years in America, about ways to reform America, and especially these…
- Is Trump a tool of Putin? See the story & the debunking.
- Here are the facts so far about the Trump-Russia file.
- Deciphering the scandalous rumors about Trump in Russia.
- Exposing the farcical claims about Russian hacking of the election.
- What Trump told Russia, why it matters, and why journalists ignore the smartest man in Washington.
- Trump and the Democrats stumble into a ‘Wilderness of Mirrors’.
- Important: The GOP might impeach Trump, changing our politics forever – for the better.
A book about impeachment in America – and the case against Trump.
One of the best introductions to impeachment in modern American politics is The Age of Impeachment: American Constitutional Culture since 1960 (2008) by the historian David E. Kyvig (deceased). For more background see these five books about the process and history of impeachment in America.
The latest and most provocative book on this subject is Allan Lichtman’s The Case for Impeachment, released in April. He is a professor of history at American University. From the publisher…
“In the fall of 2016, Lichtman made headlines when he predicted that Trump would defeat the heavily favored Democrat, Hillary Clinton. Now, in clear, nonpartisan terms, Lichtman lays out the reasons Congress could remove Trump from the Oval Office: his ties to Russia before and after the election, the complicated financial conflicts of interest at home and abroad, and his abuse of executive authority.
“The Case for Impeachment also offers a fascinating look at presidential impeachments throughout American history, including the often-overlooked story of Andrew Johnson’s impeachment, details about Richard Nixon’s resignation, and Bill Clinton’s hearings. Lichtman shows how Trump exhibits many of the flaws (and more) that have doomed past presidents. As the Nixon Administration dismissed the reporting of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as “character assassination” and “a vicious abuse of the journalistic process,” Trump has attacked the “dishonest media,” claiming, “the press should be ashamed of themselves.”
“Historians, legal scholars, and politicians alike agree: we are in politically uncharted waters—the durability of our institutions is being undermined and the public’s confidence in them is eroding, threatening American democracy itself. Most citizens—politics aside—want to know where the country is headed. Lichtman argues, with clarity and power, that for Donald Trump’s presidency, smoke has become fire.”