The Retro-Scope Scores Again

Does anyone still believe that it’s “just metadata” that the NSA is collecting and sharing with the FBI?

Michael Flynn doesn’t.

I did a google image search for "retroscope" and look at this beauty!

I did a google image search for “retroscope” and look at this beauty!

I don’t need to go back through all the implications of this news, except to observe that it’s a prime example of the retro-scope being used to do a political hit. Opinion: I’m not super happy about the NYT’s reporting on the case – it involves the usual anonymous high-placed government officials (i.e.: the knives are being planted in backs throughout the new administration)  I prefer my news to be attributed even if it’s only to a pseudonym like “Deep Throat.”

Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials. [nyt]

Interesting. The FBI had the personnel bandwidth to try to recover Hillary Clinton’s emails off her server, and to sweat Huma Abedin’s dickpublishing husband’s laptop, but they didn’t have time to mention this? If anyone had any doubt that the FBI was (and is) playing politics, lay them to rest.

I am, myself, uncomfortable with many aspects of this story: I don’t care if someone has “contacts” or even “repeated contacts” with intelligence officials. What matters is the substance and contents of the contact. If the FBI is working from NSA intercepts, they would have had that information all along, too: either this is substanceless scaremongering and the FBI was right to ignore it, or it wasn’t. But now that it’s blown up on the national stage, we have a right to know more.

I was a big non-fan of the endless Benghazi investigations, and (while I appreciate “sauce for the goose”) I would rather not see the Democrats try to repay Trump in kind. I thought it was shameful when the Republicans tried to de-legitimize Obama over “birtherism” (ironically: a Trumpism) and I think it’s shameful to try to de-legitimize Trump over scary nationalist ties. As usual, I hope the FBI doesn’t just sit there and wave their hands about russian cyberwhatever: present attributable evidence or crawl back under your rock. Government by leak and innuendo is as bad as government by incompetence and bluster.

We cannot deny that governments have been and will be overthrown by the retro-scope capabilities of the intelligence community. The problem is: it grants them way too much power, and they’re not exactly the most honest or competent branch of government to begin with.


More posts on the retro-scope [Retro Scope Engaged][A Security Question][Follow-up]


  1. Crimson Clupeidae says

    The hypocrisy of the right (various congresscritters) and several of the intelligence agencies that are obviously playing politics makes me wish that these allegations at least have some teeth and people get convicted/fired before it blows over.

  2. says

    salon, of all places, has a fairly sensible piece on this.

    The theory floated there is that the intelligence apparatus, or forces within it, or whatever, are actively seeking to re-ignite the cold war with the Russia, and to shut down any effort to make nice. It suggests perhaps a little too much conscious motivation behind the efforts.

    I suspect that the intelligence apparatus simply seems the Trump administration as easy pickings, and is blundering around seeking a dozen vaguely related, somewhat conflicting, fully emergent, agendas.

  3. says

    Andrew Molitor@#2:
    I am inclined to agree; the intelligence apparatus does not act as a unit; it’s probably more internally divided than not, and whatever comes out the other side is going to reflect an ongoing tension between agendas.