With the House debating impeachment of President Trump based on a complaint from a whistleblower within the intelligence community, we run the risk of partisan positions about surveillance only becoming more embedded.
When special Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutor John Durham soon completes his investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation, a Republican senator almost surely will question reported FBI surveillance of Trump campaign officials and consultants in 2016. A Democrat will express concern about the ability of the government to stop Russians from targeting Democratic presidential candidates in 2020.
A strange role reversal has occurred. For decades, when intelligence agencies and their operations were publicly denounced, Republicans invoked national security concerns and leapt to their defense. The Democrats were the civil libertarians, dragging secret surveillance into the disinfecting light of day.
Now a Republican president and his defenders hurl accusations against intelligence agents and agencies while Democrats scurry to defend the former leadership of the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency (NSA). In this reversal, Democrats remain so focused on the battle lines of 2016 that we risk missing the real dangers of potential surveillance abuse under the current president.