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Hoisted on His Own Petard: Flynn Was Brought Down by the Very Spying Machine He Helped to Build

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Official DIA portrait of Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn

Official DIA portrait of Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn

There’s a delicious irony in the downfall of Michael Flynn, President Trump’s National Security Advisor, who resigned his post just 24 days after his appointment.

A retired three-star Lt. General, Flynn had previously been director of the Defense Intelligence Agency during the Obama administration. In that role since 2012, he was a key player in the leadership of the sprawling $50-billion US intelligence apparatus that has increasingly been spying not just on Americans but on US allies and, to the extent possible, on the entire world.  Flynn, as DIA director, was the top guy in charge of the so-called “Five Eyes” group of intelligence agencies– all English-speaking nations including the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada — which has coordinated spying on citizens of those nations as well as on the citizens and leaders of such supposed NATO allies as Germany, France, Italy, Spain etc.

Knowing all this, it’s simply astounding to learn that Flynn himself was using apparently unencrypted email, phones and texting to communicate with, of all people, the Russian Ambassador to the US, discussing such issues as potentially lifting sanctions imposed on Russia by the sitting president of the United States, Barack Obama.

His political implosion is doubly ironic because Flynn was one of those who was loudly condemning Trump’s presidential opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for her use of a private server for her official State Department business, and for her general lax security standards (he actually led a “Lock her up!” chant at one Trump rally!).  Because clearly Flynn was not using secure communications in his own conversations with the Russian ambassador — communications that are now widely circulating in complete transcript form courtesy of US spy agencies like the National Security Agency.

Talk about someone being hoist upon his own petard!

You’d think that seeing the kind of trouble the NSA’s “collect it all” motto can wreak even for the powerful and seemingly invincible, Washington’s elite might rethink what the NSA is doing?

But nah, I wouldn’t count on that happening. There’s more likely to be a lot of schadenfreude among those, both Democrats and traditional Cold War Republicans, who want to see Trump and his band of bozos go down, but hubristic to a fault, they’re not going to go so far as to think, “Hey, this could as easily happen to me!”

And yet, what we’re seeing here, besides the exposé of a thoroughly inept and out-of-his-depth President Trump, is the workings of the so-called “deep state” — the permanent power structure the really runs things in the US — which is taking advantage of its vast powers to rein in the efforts of a loose cannon trying to steer things off on an unorthodox course.

That should, when you think about it, be a scary notion, and a major cause for concern. After all, one big thing that Trump campaigned on, quite openly and consistently, was the very rational and commendable idea of de-escalating the years of anti-Russia fear-and-war mongering that had been going on under the Obama Administration, and of moving the country’s foreign policy away from the chaos and regime-change-promoting policies of both the Bush and Obama years, to a more isolationist live-and-let-live stance.

I mean, let’s face it: Trump is a dangerously narcissistic and sociopathic individual, wildly unsuited to be running a country that has the capability to destroy the earth many times over, whether militarily or by rampaging climate change. And Gen. Flynn was a nut job who was pushing for a US confrontation with Iran. How could the downfall of such whackos, and hopefully chief political advisor Steve Bannon, be a bad thing?

Well, if the manner in which they’re brought to heel is by having secret government forces such as the intelligence services, which are unanswerable to anyone and which, clearly, have dirt on everyone, making them effectively immune from criticism and democratic control, handle the job, that means that we no longer live in anything approaching a democracy. It’s all just secret power games among elites in Washington, with the American people as simply spectators.  Say what you want about Trump, but he was elected by voters the United States under the arcane rules laid down by the founders. If he’s going to be removed, it should be by an open process of impeachment, with charges brought publicly, debated publicly, and voted upon publicly by members of Congress who themselves are elected by the people. It should not be done by the strategically timed release of secret spying efforts by the intelligence agencies.

Good riddance to Flynn. He deserves to endure a fate that he helped to make possible. But let’s also see this as a warning that the national security state has crossed a major line and needs to be unravelled, scaled back tremendously, and put on a very short leash held by genuine Congressional defenders of the Bill of Rights.

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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