Donald Trump’s Fascist Hypocrisy on Unmasking
Donald Trump has spent the last week complaining about legitimate, lawful efforts by the Attorney General of the United States to unmask the identities of Americans who were communicating with agents of foreign governments suspected of engaging in criminal attacks against the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Why? Trump claims to have information that the people who were unmasked as communicating with criminal foreign agents were members of his own presidential campaign and transition team.
If it’s true that the Attorney General at the time unmasked members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and transition team as communicating with criminal foreign agents, then it’s a totally legitimate use of federal surveillance powers. The question in this matter is why so many members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and transition team were in secret communication with foreign agents. Neither Trump nor his aides were targeted in the surveillance. They just happened to be in secret communication with foreign targets of surveillance.
However, in another matter, Donald Trump is using his power to have the Department of Homeland Security force Twitter to unmask the identity of an American who is neither a criminal suspect nor in communication with any criminal suspects.
The target of Donald Trump’s unmasking effort is the person behind the Twitter account @ALT_uscis. The Twitter account has not been used for any illegal activity. The only grounds that Donald Trump has come up with for demanding that @ALT_uscis be unmasked is that the account posts messages criticizing Donald Trump.
Twitter is resisting the order from Trump, issued through the Department of Homeland Security, to reveal the secret identity of @ALT_uscis, and rightfully so. The White House does not have the right to know the identity of everyone who dares to criticize President Trump. In America, we have freedom of speech and freedom of the press. We have the right to petition the government for redress of grievances. We also have, under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, the right to withhold information from the government unless the government has a search warrant, gained after identification of probable cause to believe that a specific person has committed a specific crime.
Criticizing Donald Trump is not a crime.
In his hypocrisy on unmasking, Donald Trump’s understanding of the law is turned upside down. Trump believes that he and his associates should be protected from by-the-book government investigation, even though there is a large and growing body of evidence establishing probable cause to believe that he has been involved in grave criminal conspiracies. Yet, at the same time, Trump believes that he ought to be able to investigate American citizens for no other reason than that they express political dissent.
These are the attitudes of a fascist. If Donald Trump wins in his effort to turn the law upside down, American democracy will not survive.