Pentagon Papers Senator: “Constitutional Responsibility” Requires Congress Release FISA Memo

Comey lawyer up
It’s getting hot in Washington DC today.

A document summarizing activities of the Obama administration which allegedly included proffering false information to a federal court in order to obtain clearance to use data collected from illegal surveillance of President Trump was cleared for release last night by the House Intelligence Committee.

Former Democratic Senator Mike Gravel, who entered the then-classified “Pentagon Papers” into the Congressional Record in 1971, says that House Republicans should not shrink from releasing the document, called the “FISA memo” after the court where the Obama Department of Justice submitted the allegedly fabricated evidence.

According to Gravel:

Republicans on the committee would demonstrate “the height of cowardice” if they abandon efforts to release the memo after voting to do so Monday evening.

Gravel said lawmakers should be willing to unilaterally release classified documents if they feel it’s in the public interest, as he did with the secret Vietnam War study.

“The criteria for releasing anything is this: Is this something the people should know? If the Republicans feel this should be made public for the benefit of their constituents, fine, release it. The Democrats should do the same. But there is no argument to be made this stuff is secret and it’s too important for the people to know,” Gravel said after the committee voted along party lines for release….

“All this brouhaha between the executive and the legislative is ridiculous. It’s all because these people don’t understand their responsibility under the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause,” Gravel said. “There is no legal risk on their part for releasing information they feel the public should know. No risk. Period.”

Read the full story at The Washington Examiner.

Manichaeism Part Deux: Finding Allies

Picking up from the last post, let’s explore the hypothetical, fixing-the-corrupt-status-quo scenario a little further.

We realize that at certain levels, or certain extents, evil cannot be tolerated. Like a rotten fish in the refrigerator, it has to be removed, possibly amid a much broader cleaning operation. If you don’t do the hard thing and get it out of there and scrub down all the stuff that has absorbed the stink, you would need a new fridge. As it stands, you may have to pull out a drawer and clean that thing with bleach or even just toss it, if the bad fish had been sitting in there for too long.

You’re also going to need agreement of everyone who uses it to prepare for some disruption. Access may be limited briefly. Other items will probably be swept up in the process. Some of those familiar presences will disappear. Your chocolate syrup? Sorry, it absorbed the fish smell. Ten other condiments also went to the trash. Every perishable item not hermetically sealed, also, is gone.

On the scale of a government afflicted by rot, the cleanup would not be possible alone but would require certain critical people to help. A few underlings likely would be better off just leaving quietly rather than exposing themselves to the risk of whistleblowing, if they suspected their superiors were part of the problem. In certain parts of government, I hear, whistleblowing is hazardous to one’s health. No, prospective white knights would need big time allies. In particular, they would need an ally right at the top, ideally.

Then they would need to sell that hypothetical white hat/white knight ally on the righteousness of the cause. They would need to first find someone who could be swayed with the “argument from righteousness” and then they would need to lay out that argument for them. If the enemy were evil, the evil would need to be laid bare by those who knew, to try to get the ally to join in.

If the truth were terrible enough, some people likely would rather not know, because to know and to do nothing would be devastating for one’s conscience, yet to know and act would require resolve that few people could muster in today’s world where the highest good is often just to go along and allow everyone to enjoy themselves.

That person would need to be informed of the enormity of the task in advance, in order to brace themselves and their loved ones for what was to come. A long-term dive into the alligator swamp is probably nobody’s first life choice. That prospective white knight ally at the top might need to be someone from so far outside that while being clean, they would also be isolated—coming into a world where nobody usually does very well in isolation. Who would voluntarily submit themselves to that?

What if there were even a history of sorts, of people trying to clean up the evil within the institutions and then getting devoured by the alligators as thanks for their trouble? Who would say, “Sure, I’d like to give that a go!”

No, getting someone to come in and help clean the rot from government would be extremely difficult, and not only because the government tends to provide the means of self-perpetuation for those who want to keep their posts, even those who must be elected. Politics allows for the rewarding of friends. The hypothetical white knight would need to have certain personal qualities and an understanding of the political system.

And, at some point, that person would need to be able to look around and see where their own possible allies might later be found. Allies would be hard to come by and valuable once vetted. The allies would themselves need intelligence enough to see through the blizzard of misinformation that surely would be emitted by the evil factions to discredit anyone trying to expose all the wrong that had been done. Such allies would need to be fearless, actually, because they would be drawn into a fight that many of their predecessors, men and women of renown, had shrunk from.

Watching the allies come on board would be one of the more interesting aspects of the entire long series of events.

Judging A Hypothetical Misguided Opponent

One of the problems with Manichaeism is it gives too much room to evil.

In case you’ve forgotten your history of theology, the Manichaens believed that Good and Evil are equal supernatural forces, that we are under one type of god who is a good, loving god, and another who is bad and mean. Throughout history lots of instances of this sort of theology have popped up because it comes naturally to us to see the world in this way.

But evil brings with it a certain compulsion, an affront, that must be dealt with. Evil at every moment wants to deliver pain and misery and death and damnation, a complex of threats that make life very dark. If the bad force is as strong as the forces of good, then the forces of good aren’t good for much, now are they? It’s pretty hard to look on the bright side of life when the dark side cannot be vanquished, and in fact one might have to say life itself would be mainly dark as long as that equilibrium holds.

Born in the Middle East where Christianity and then Islam came to dominate, Manichaeism has been supplanted, for the most part, by religions that give much more primacy to good. This is not surprising because, instinctively, people don’t want to tolerate evil. Ultimately, they want to see evil done away with. For life to really have meaning, people need to believe good will prevail because evil is a menacing force, a lion seeking whom to devour. We are hard-wired to discern and root out threats.

When you have a box of oranges with one moldy orange, you would not want to rest easy knowing most of the box is ok, because mold spreads. What you have, in fact, is a moldy box of oranges which had better be cleaned out or the whole lot will be ruined.

A better analogy might be if you have a house and only a tiny corner of the basement is burning. You don’t have a house that is largely flame-free. You have a house on fire.

Now, let’s say you have a government that contains a significant amount of corruption, and by significant I mean in important places, carried by top people, and known by many other people. It is widespread, and the places it is rooted are the very seats of power meant to protect from corruption. The orange-cleaning crew have mold on their rags. The fire fighters have torches instead of extinguishers.

Fixing the problem government can’t be done with a few terminations, some personnel tweaks. A major part of the government would need to be dismantled—like a box of oranges that had to be emptied and scattered and re-gathered slowly and carefully to ensure none of the rot made it back in.

Let’s also say this corruption scenario was in place for a long time, multiple years, maybe multiple decades. It would actually be the status quo.

And going back to our lesson on Manichaeism, we know that an institution so beset by evil could not be thought of as “mainly good.” It would be integrally, ontologically darkened. The half-corrupt government is simply a corrupt government.

Your status quo, then, would be evil.

Going one step further with our hypothetical situation, let’s suppose there are parties interested in cleaning up that corruption, facing off against parties seeking to preserve the status quo and prevent any cleanup. How would we judge those opposing sides?

Well, the forces of good are the forces of good: they want to clean up the corruption, so judging them is easy. What’s hard is knowing what to think about the others.

If the champions of the status quo know they are battling for the forces of evil, then likely we’d just label them evil as well, and the judgment would be cut and dried, good versus evil. If the status quo team were ignorant, though, the question is more difficult. Are people who battle to keep corruption in place excused if it turns out they were unaware of the problems?

Personally, I think the misguided ones would be let off the hook, eventually. Some people aren’t inclined to change the status quo out of principle. Some don’t have the imagination to perceive evil when its presence is familiar.

But of course this is only a thought experiment: To really judge, we’d have to see a real-life situation unfold similar to that described above, and we’d have to weigh the actual costs of the status quo and the manner in which the battle was fought.