Congressman Nunes Accuses Obama Admin of Spying on Congress

May 16th, 2013

When the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 first passed, civil libertarians like Ron Paul warned that future administrations might use those unconstitutional powers to spy on and thus intimidate members of Congress. When the executive branch has the power to sift through legislators’ text messages and emails, the presidential administration also has the ability to use information found therein to intimidate and manipulate the legislature. This is a problem that directly conflicts with an American political principle known as the separation of powers.

Associated Press reporters first felt the sting of lost liberty when their phones were recently spied on by the Department of Justice. Many members of the media are feeling enraged and violated after learning that their private communications were read by the very officials they’re entrusted to hold to account. However, it doesn’t just stop there. HotAir is reporting on shocking new allegations by California Congressman Devin Nunes that the Department of Justice also tapped the phones of elected officials in the House of Representatives. Let’s discuss checks-and-balances and the separation of powers after the jump.

The Threat of Blackmail

Almost everyone has private information that they are uncomfortable sharing with strangers. Such information doesn’t necessarily have to be of a criminal or unethical nature. Sometimes embarrassing details can be used to bully someone into complying with the demands of a blackmailer.

By spying on the phones of reporters, administration officials sent a signal to the media that any of them could be targeted at any time. Most journalists will now assume that targets are chosen based on who is reporting negative information on the White House. This could cause some reporters to choose other assignments, thus interfering with the media’s responsibility to keep an eye on the actions of the government.

Spying on Congress Takes This Problem to the Next Level

When asked on the Hugh Hewitt show whether he trusts the Department of Justice, Republican Congressman Nunes said, “No, I absolutely do not, especially after this wiretapping incident, essentially, of the House of Representatives. I don’t think people are focusing on the right thing when they talk about going after the AP reporters. The big problem that I see is that they actually tapped right where I’m sitting right now, the Cloak Room.” If what he said is true, then the Obama administration crossed a dangerous line.

An independent legislature keeps presidential administrations from becoming dictatorships. When the executive branch has the power to spy on all Americans, it also has the power to spy on, intimidate, and manipulate Congress into doing its bidding. Without these and other critical separations of power, the Republic is lost.

If Representative Nunes’ allegations prove to be truthful, then the Obama administration will either have to take swift, decisive action to send the signal that this can never happen again or else impeachment proceedings will probably take place. Politically-speaking, the administration may have to fire someone as prominent as Eric Holder to prevent that outcome.

Shortly after 9/11, many civil libertarians warned Bush Republicans that the USA PATRIOT Act may someday be used by a Democrat administration to spy on Republican congressmen. If only they had listened then, maybe this wouldn’t be an issue now.

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About the Author: Barry Donegan

is a singer for the experimental mathcore band , a writer, a self-described "veteran lifer in the counterculture", a political activist/consultant, and a believer in the non-aggression principle.