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Plausible deniability refers to circumstances where a denial of responsibility or knowledge of wrongdoing or embarrassing action can not be proved as true or untrue due to a lack of evidence proving the allegation. This term is often used in reference to situations where high ranking officials deny responsibility for or knowledge of wrongdoing or embarrassing actions or programs by lower ranking officials. In those situations officials can “plausibly deny” an allegation even though it may be true.
By Susan Jones | May 23, 2018 | 9:05 AM EDT
(CNSNews.com) – In media appearances to promote his new book, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is telling people that the FBI’s use of a secret informant to make contact with Trump campaign workers is “quite legitimate”; he’s sure that “no one” in the Obama White House knew about it; and neither did he, at the time, he says.
As Director of National Intelligence, Clapper was overseeing 16 intelligence agencies, including the FBI.
In an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Tuesday night, Clapper was asked about reports that the FBI sent a confidential informant to speak with members of the Trump campaign. Did it happen, and was it improper? Maddow asked him.
“Well, I wasn’t aware of it contemporaneously, nor was I aware of the identity of any informant, nor should I have been in my position as DNI,” Clapper responded.
“Because one of the things that’s important about this program — which is quite legitimate and is a very valuable source of information for the FBI — is confidentiality. And so if someone is going to cooperate and help the FBI, they need to know that their identity is going to be protected. So this (the outing of the FBI’s informant in the media) is going to have, I think, a chilling effect.
To call this an apples and oranges comparison would be too charitable, because at least apples and oranges are both fruits. This is more like an apples and gravel comparison. It’s one thing to use informants to gather information about drug smuggling or prostitution; it’s something entirely different to be gathering information on the opposition party’s presidential candidate.
“It’s deliberately shielded from political officials,” Clapper continued, referring to FBI informants. “So I am sure no one in the White House — I certainly didn’t know about it. It would be approved at, I’m sure, at a very high level within the FBI because this is a rigorously overseen program — it had rules and protocols that have to be adhered to manage an informant. And I just worry about the damage of what’s happened here is going to do.”
Really? Just what person, “at a very high level within the FBI” but still not a political appointee, thought that he had the authority, on his own, without informing his superiors, to authorize the use of an informant within the presidential campaign of the opposition party? That would be — at least as far as we know — wholly unprecedented. The closest similar situation was when President Nixon’s re-election campaign used a private group to bug the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate affair, and people went to prison behind that action. Yet James Claptrap thinks we are gullible enough to believe that the Director of the FBI, the Attorney General of the United States, and the President were never informed about this, never took any decisions about doing this?
Earlier Tuesday, in an appearance on “The View,” Clapper was asked if the FBI was “spying” on the Trump campaign:
“No, they were not,” Clapper replied. “They were spying on — a term I don’t particularly like but — on what the Russians were doing, trying to understand, were the Russians infiltrating, trying to gain access, trying to gain leverage and influence, which is what they do.
Yeah, right, I believe that!
If the former Director of National Intelligence “certainly didn’t know about it” at the time, how does he know now that the operation was limited in the manner he specified? He could have exercised no supervisory authority over an operation of which he was unaware, and any after-the-fact reports he saw could have been cleansed of any improper references.
But, if that really was the case, it ought to be easily proved. The implications of having the FBI investigate the campaign of the opposition party presidential candidate are so great that anyone, at any level, who was involved in this would have left a trail of documents to insure that his actions were legal and above board, unless he was just plain stupid, far too stupid to have ever been hired by the FBI. There should be files noting what information is sought, and directing the destruction of any information gathered which did not address the point in question.
I won’t hold my breath waiting for those documents to be produced.
Cross-posted on The First Street Journal.