Two roads have opened up in the Trump vs. his intelligence agencies drama, since Dir. Clapper and other top national intelligence officials doubled down on their position today that Russian hackers acted to interfere with the American election. Either we accept the narrative that Trump is simply “anti-intelligence” (with the full double meaning of the pun), shirking briefings and rifling off fiery tweets as a continuation of his ignorant egotism and general scumminess; or, we begin to question whether it’s possible that the American intelligence community *actually is* this corrupt, whether they would actually deliberately mislead the public from the very top-down, knowing that whatever evidence exists that could prove them right or wrong comes pre-sealed with a twenty-five year timestamp on their declassification, knowing that the elements already exist in the public discourse that are necessary to construe a compelling and cohesive narrative, and knowing that a broad swath of anti-Trump sentiment across the United States will suck in poison gas thanking you for whatever life you breathe into it.
Has James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, deliberately deceived the public? This isn’t a new question. This is the same James Clapper who bluntly lied before a Senate Select Committee about the data-collection practices of the NSA, just months prior to the Snowden revelations. The shock that Clapper hasn’t been indicted for perjury is only matched by the shock in Senator Ron Wyden’s voice as he, incredulously, gave Clapper the chance to amend his answer after knowingly being made to bite down on his bald faced lie about the NSA’s spying activities. Clapper doubled down then, and he did it again when Wyden gave him a third chance to revise his answer at the end of the hearing.
Clapper is no stranger to deception, nor to gambling on his luck – which is a good fortune afforded him by the established ruling elites. The house always wins. This hearing will likely be his last hurrah, as Clapper has already tendered his resignation, effective the day of Trump’s inauguration.
Has the CIA, the FBI, or any other National Intelligence organization in the United States deliberately deceived the public? This, also, is not a new question. As mentioned previously, any evidence that could attest the truth or falsity of the claims being made by American national intelligence won’t be declassified for thirty years. The common defense on being pressed for further evidence has been that the intelligence community can’t put themselves at the risk of exposing the inner apparatus of their intelligence gathering machine; to do so would be to put operatives, technological methods and developments at risk. Fortunately, due to the same rule, there is no shortage of declassified CIA documents coming out today from 25 years ago, which include (among other things) funding rebel groups, backing contras and coups; in short, interfering in and influencing the democratic processes of their enemies abroad. What did they do when the smell of the smoking gun reached American noses?
You can read up on this yourself in the daily briefings of the Nixon and Ford administrations, declassified in summer 2016 and on the CIA webpage, among others. Or read up on the contras in Nicaragua, in Chile, etc., under Reagan. These administrations, most assuredly, were not known for openness about their quasi- or outright illicit activities. Neither are the institutions that hold up their house.
The illusion is that we have to choose a side and stick with it. Is Trump a wanton, irrational buffoon? Or would the American National Intelligence community lie to the face of the American public? That “or” is an inclusive disjunction; the answer to both questions is a resounding *yes*.
Of course, there is one blip of new information. Added to the broad network of spying activities American intelligence is foisting on the Russians now is the alleged spreading of fake news to interfere with the U.S. election. Unless they mean the routinely propagandistic national news agency RT (what national news agency isn’t routinely propagandistic?), there doesn’t appear to be much substance on offer here, either. But “fake news” is on the public radar, it’s in the zeitgeist; something we’re keenly aware of, on guard for, something Facebook has recently been pressed by intelligence officials the world over into monitoring and scripting out (read: censoring). Wouldn’t it be the ultimate irony if the substance of this “fake news” talk, its alienated truth, turned out just to be the fake news itself reminding us to remain vigilant, to be sublimely wary of fakeness?
If so, that irony falls back double on us; because history is repeating itself, and we’ve been in this jam before. “It is the explosion of man’s face in laughter, and the return of masks.” So this time, if we laugh, rather than act, rather than organize to act, we will be laughing not at this great political-economic, cultural-ideological machine for which we have such contempt; but rather in the face of each other person who’s mired in this shit with us. We’ll be laughing not at the mechanics of repression, but on the faces of the repressed.
P.S. I do not doubt that there are Russian cyber-surveillance and cyber-attacks directed at the U.S., just as there are from the U.S. directed at many other countries in the world. But there are much more obvious, much more glaring and, I think, consequential truths to be gleaned from all this muck. The conditions of possibility for truth reveal themselves in the outlines of discourse itself; and discourse produces powers, sets the instruments of power into motion.