How Is Backdoor Searching Different From Ordering Surveillance?

Frank Camp,

Appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe Tuesday, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and The Washington Examiner‘s Timothy Carney got into a debate with the hosts over the Susan Rice scandal.

During the course of the discussion, they made several salient observations in an attempt to untangle President Trump’s unsubstantiated tweet alleging wiretapping, and the Susan Rice surveillance allegations.

Here are the three most important points:

1. Who knew what, and when did they know it?

SEN. PAUL: “Both myself, and a progressive, Ron Wyden, have been warning about these backdoor searches for years, and that they could be politicized. The facts will come out about Susan Rice, but I think she ought to be under subpoena, [and] she should be asked: ‘Did you talk to the present about it? Did President Obama know about this?’ So this is actually eerily similar to what Trump accused them of, which is eavesdropping on conversations for political reasons…”

2. Wiretapping or database searching?

SEN. PAUL: “The smoking gun is that President Trump said that he was wiretapped. We don’t have wires in our phones anymore. Nobody actually literally taps a wire - they might on occasion - but for he most part, they use the term ‘wiretapping’ to mean eavesdropping. So now we know that someone in the Obama administration was eavesdropping and specifically searching a databank looking for the Trump people. That’s a big deal…

You can order the specific listening device, or you can say: ‘You know what, we already have it,’ and it’s this amazing reverse-targeting, and we have millions of people in a database, and I can be Susan Rice, and I can type ‘Donald Trump’ or ‘General Flynn’ into a database and boom, up comes all this information. Is that not the same as ordering the surveillance?”

3. Differentiating the issues.

CARNEY: “The problem with Trump’s tweet was that it was false, but what we have now is a story that seems to be true…and again, what Senator Paul is saying is they have the ability - if you make any contact with overseas, if somebody you don’t even know they’re overseas contacts you - that our government has that ability to come after us is chilling precisely because it can be used for political purposes.

And when Bill is saying: ‘Oh, the national security advisor is not political,’ it’s somebody who serves at the pleasure of the president. And we know Susan Rice; we know her history.”