Charlie Savage of The New York Times and Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post both grabbed the rhetorical fire extinguisher to cool down conservative outrage over the apparent spying on a presidential candidate and, after the election, a president in the White House.
The issue regards a government vendor that, in the words of a filing from special prosecutor John Durham, “exploited” domain name system (DNS) internet traffic at Trump Tower, the Central Park West apartment building of candidate Donald Trump and the Executive Office of the President.
Regarding the latter, Kessler rightly corrects some who said that the company, Neustar, which had a contract to manage government security, had “infiltrated” government servers. Kessler makes the point that if monitoring was part of the original contract, “that’s somewhat like hiring a security guard at the front gate to run a badge-scanning system, and then being shocked the security guard is keeping track of your comings and goings from the office. That’s not really the same as eavesdropping.”
Here is where the mainstream media shows its own biases.
Durham asserts that the Neustar tech executive responsible for this effort was working with a lawyer, Michael Sussmann, reported by Durham to be working for the Clinton campaign. Durham portrays this tech executive as seeking to establish “a narrative” about Trump-Russia collusion and to “please certain ‘VIPs’” in the Clinton campaign. So the situation Durham describes is more akin to Kessler’s badge company taking information it legitimately possesses and selling or giving it to an outside, hostile organization – with all the added civil liberties implications that go with a national political election.
Forget eavesdropping, how is that not spying?
The National Review reports that the tech executive who led this effort “was a Clinton supporter who was hoping to land a big national security post if Hillary Clinton were elected president in 2016.” A spokesperson for the tech executive counters that he was strictly non-political. The mainstream media is free to dismiss National Review’s assertion as conservative spin, but wouldn’t it be nice for the media to run down this discrepancy instead of flippantly ignoring it?
And could somebody please explain why it’s okay for a tech executive to access data for a lawyer hired by a national presidential campaign taken from an opposing presidential candidate’s office and home?
Savage quotes Sussmann’s lawyers that the accessing of White House data occurred before Donald Trump became president. But in Durham’s words, the tech executive and his associates “exploited” their contract “by mining the EOP’s DNS traffic and other data for the purpose of gathering derogatory information about Donald Trump.”
Why would this have happened when Barack Obama was president?
It is easy to agree that there is much that is unknown in the Delphic pronouncements of Durham’s filing. And it is easy to understand why the Trump-allergic don’t want to delve into a story that provides the former president with comfort. But there are far too many questions of critical importance to the national political process to simply wave away this story with another, “move along folks, nothing to see here.”