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May 20, 2020

As Whoopi Goldberg Might Say, Unmasking is Lawful, just not "Lawful Lawful"

You’ve likely heard about the controversy over the unmasking of former Trump security advisor and three-star general Michael Flynn and are probably asking yourself, “mmbbf mmf mmbb?”

That's because you forgot to take your mask off when you got inside. It’s okay now, you’re perfectly safe inside your own home.

But, that’s not the kind of unmasking we’re talking about.

By law, the identity of Americans who are not the target of any investigation and who get caught up in the monitoring of foreign individuals have their names “masked” or hidden so as to preserve their fourth-amendment rights against such government intrusions.

However, those names can be “unmasked,” or revealed, if requested by administration officials such as the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, a position you can’t even be considered for unless you have demonstrated an ability to commit to memory really long job titles.

Many Trump supporters are outraged that this was done as an end-run around the Constitution permitting the government to examine the private phone calls and other communications of General Flynn without obtaining a properly adjudicated warrant.

But rest assured, there’s really nothing to see here at all. You see, it’s “completely routine,” and “not an unusual practice.”

In fact, on average, about two dozen such requests are made every single day!  The Trump administration itself has made thousands of requests a year!

Before we go any further, we should probably point out that those last two points were intended to be comforting. We don’t know about you, but we sure are feeling comforted. But then we’ve been drinking gin all day.

In addition to being purely routine, there are of course many layers of protection in place assuring that when thousands of Americans’ inalienable Constitutional rights are being routinely violated, they are being routinely violated in a thoroughly lawful manner. (Just not, as Whoopi Goldberg might put it, “lawful lawful.”)

First of all, only “senior” administration officials have the authority to unmask someone, like the aforementioned Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Mike Neufeld. You can tell he how senior he is, as he reported directly to the Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis, who reported to the Under Secretary for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes, who reported to the Deputy Secretary who then reported to the Secretary.

Basically, if the federal government were a bank, he was the supervisor overseeing ATM maintenance. 

Sorry, “Acting” supervisor.

Second, it’s not like you can just “unmask” someone whenever you want. In order to request an unmasking of a US citizen, this very senior member of the administration must first submit a form (which we have on good authority consists at least in part of essay questions) and turn it in to another member of that same administration for approval.

Consider it less “checks and balances,” and more “checks and checks!”

So, as you can see, there is no need to concern yourself that Americans are being routinely surveilled without a warrant or any judicial overview. The legal argument for unmasking is well-founded with decades of precedent behind it in the successful settlement of disputes among middle-school-aged children and their parents:

“But everyone is doing it.”


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May 20, 2020 at 09:30 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink


So good to see you back again!

Posted by: bluebird of bitterness | May 20, 2020 4:00:30 PM

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