Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump, by Andrew G. McCabe (author, narrator)

Macmillan Audio, February 2019

Andrew McCabe, at the time he Acting Director of the FBI, was fired on March 16, 2018, 26 hours before his scheduled retirement. The claimed reason was "lack of candor" in the Clinton email investigation. Even discounting McCabe's own account, it would appear that McCabe's "lack of candor" mostly consists of not being willing to pledge personal loyalty to Trump and support his preferred story in the face of the evidence, while not immediately rushing to say so while continuing to do his job properly, i.e., in compliance with the law, the Constitution, and FBI and DOJ policy, so that he could be more efficiently sidelined and forced out.

This is McCabe's story, of his career, and of the roughly the first eighteen months of the Trump administration and its scandals and creeping horrors. It's not really a book to enjoy. The sheer cruelty of firing McCabe 26 hours before his retirement--hard to defend even if the "lack of candor" ethical violations were real, given that they weren't a basis for prosecution--is just another example of who Trump is. Serious investigation of terrorism and organized crime compete for resources with Trump's attempts to use the FBI as his personal defensive operation and tool against his perceived enemies. McCabe gives us a fascinating look inside the FBI. At the same time, sometimes I was cheering him on and other times wanting to give him a whack upside the head. For instance, his own experiences ought to tell him that law-abiding citizens really do have sensible reasons for not being sanguine about federal law enforcement scooping up all of everyone's communications metadata (which is not, in fact, the content of your phone calls and messages, as he points out) or built-in backdoors to your phone and computer security software. Yes, there are times the government really does have legitimate reason to access your communications, and yes, good security hampers that, and yes, sorry, Mr. McCabe, but you were yourself struggling under the entirely legal supervision of people who should absolutely never be rusted with that kind of access. There's a real conflict between the legitimate needs of law enforcement, and the legitimate rights and concerns of ordinary, law-abiding Americans.

And that's before we even take note of the unavoidable reality that a built-in backdoor would, not might, but would be hacked by nefarious operators even if law enforcement were 100% composed of saints. Which, unfortunately, it not only isn't, but can't be. Nothing humans create is perfect.

But the meat of this book is of course the Clinton and Trump investigations, and the steadily increasing horror of fworking for a President who has no interest in and no understanding of the Constitution. It's not a fun book, but it is interesting and valuable.


I bought this audiobook.

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