Did Obama Spy on Mitt Romney?

by on November 6, 2013 at 7:14 am in Current Affairs, Law, Political Science | Permalink

Did Obama spy on Mitt Romney? As recently as a few weeks ago if anyone had asked me that question I would have consigned them to a right (or left) wing loony bin. Today, the only loonies are those who think the question Daniel_Ellsberg_psychiatrist_filing_cabinetunreasonable. Indeed, in one sense the answer is clearly yes. Do I think Obama ordered the NSA to spy on Romney for political gain? No. Some people claim that President Obama didn’t even know about the full extent of NSA spying. Indeed, I imagine that President Obama was almost as surprised as the rest of us when he first discovered that we live in a mass surveillance state in which billions of emails, phone calls, facebook metadata and other data are being collected.

The answer is yes, however, if we mean did the NSA spy on political candidates like Mitt Romney. Did Mitt Romney ever speak with Angela Merkel, whose phone the NSA bugged, or any one of the dozens of her advisers that the NSA was also bugging? Did Romney exchange emails with Mexican President Felipe Calderon? Were any of Romney’s emails, photos, texts or other metadata hoovered up by the NSA’s break-in to the Google and Yahoo communications links? Almost certainly the answer is yes.

Did the NSA use the information they gathered on Mitt Romney and other political candidates for political purposes? Probably not. Will the next president or the one after that be so virtuous so as to not use this kind of power? I have grave doubts. Men are not angels.

The Nixon administration plumbers broke into the offices of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist in order to gather information to discredit him. They busted into a single file cabinet (pictured). What a bunch of amateurs.

The NSA has broken into millions of file cabinets around the world.

Nixon resigned in disgrace. Who will pay for the NSA break-ins?

Ben November 6, 2013 at 7:24 am

Cute.

Was Obama spied on? Would that change your opinion?

Keith November 6, 2013 at 7:34 am

By whom? Mitt Romney? Or the NSA gone rogue? I don’t understand your comment.

Ben November 6, 2013 at 7:43 am

By the NSA. I think there’s decent evidence that they’re acting with little supervision.

Wimivo November 6, 2013 at 8:22 am

The NSA seems to be even more independent than the Fed :\

F. Lynx Pardinus November 6, 2013 at 8:24 am

I think the NSA is getting exactly the amount of oversight Obama wants it to get.

albatross November 6, 2013 at 10:15 am

Perhaps. On the other hand, the NSA clearly has the power to do significant oversight on Obama as well. Have they used that power to limit the amount of oversight they get? Has the existence of that power intimidated some would-be opponents of their programs into silence? We don’t know, but it’s hard to imagine a more important question.

Jeff November 6, 2013 at 1:22 pm

What evidence is that? And if so is it because the one who should be supervising them has no real interest in the nuts and bolts of management?

Jim Sweet November 6, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Actually, that’s a sensible question, even to this Republican. There have always been elements within governments that don’t acquiese to the legal officeholders. Those who remember J. Edgar Hoover should agree. Obama himself would be wise to account for this possibility.

Careless November 6, 2013 at 8:52 pm

I think there’s decent evidence that they’re acting with little supervision.

Not something that makes a big difference when the people who are supposed to supervise aren’t stopping it

Barry November 7, 2013 at 8:46 am

The legend about Hoover is that he had files on *everybody* with any power or influence in the US, with dirt on them, their spouses, siblings, parents, in-laws, business partners, etc. The legend also states that Hoover had an immense amount of clout due to this.

The NSA makes Hoover look like an amateur.

Claude Emer November 6, 2013 at 9:23 am

It seems clear from Keith’s question that he doesn’t understand how the NSA (and the CIA, the IRS) is setup.
But I suspect Alex does. Hence he’s just trying to give pro/anti Obama people a way to fight their battle by proxy.

There are more interesting questions from all the Snowden revelations like whether the U.S. wants/needs to remain THE superpower. This is what is done to get to and remain on top of the world. We’ve mostly deluded ourselves into believing our virtuous nature helped us to float to the top of the world, but this is what has always been happening in the shadows. Now if we want to be nicer, it has to come with the acceptance of a different role in the world. Are we ok with it? What if we did return to the principles that founded the nation and the EU and China pass us by, would we accept it?

http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/140155/henry-farrell-and-martha-finnemore/the-end-of-hypocrisy

Captain Nemo November 6, 2013 at 3:37 pm

I would. I like to think I wouldn’t be the only one.
You see, living a life of artificially sustained prosperity by allowing a shadow government to enact acts of terrorism against weaker nations is (to my mind) morally reprehensible.

I would rather live in a 3rd world nation with some integrity than be complicit in the crimes of the “intelligence” (read: criminal) division of the U.S. Government.

albatross November 6, 2013 at 3:41 pm

What is the evidence that our sociopathic foreign policy, full of spying and bombing and running secret armies in many foreign countries all over the world, is actually making us richer? My guess would be that, rather like colonialism, it makes a small subset of people in our country richer and gives another small subset the opportunity to gather a huge amount of power, while making the country as a whole worse off.

Punslinger November 6, 2013 at 5:31 pm

Claude Emer. I absolutely agree with you. I too would rather you live in some 3rd world nation.

epimetheon November 6, 2013 at 10:04 am

An NSA agent has already claimed that they spied on Obama as far back as 2004. http://www.businessinsider.com/the-nsa-spied-on-barack-obama-2004-russ-tice-2013-6 This article is kinda useless because the issue is not about political parties.

Rahul November 6, 2013 at 9:10 am

Interestingly wouldn’t Alex’s contrived logic also imply that Bush spied on Obama?

Was NSA an innocent babe pre-2009? I doubt it.

Ad Nauseum November 6, 2013 at 11:55 am

While the NSA may not have ever been “innocent” and the patriot act could always be seen as a bad deal. It was Obama who signed and implemented the NDAA, which expanded the powers of the NSA. The agency was more restrained under Bush.

Rahul November 6, 2013 at 12:26 pm

Fair enough. I’m not at all justifying what NSA does. Nor denying they’ve gotten worse lately.

I just feel it’s silly to use the “did Obama spy on Romney” argument.

JWatts November 6, 2013 at 2:19 pm

I just feel it’s silly to use the “did Obama spy on Romney” argument.

Silly and probably pointless. A far better question is, “Did Obama use the IRS to target his political rivals?”.

Anthony November 6, 2013 at 3:37 pm

The agency was more restrained on paper under Bush.

It would be interesting to know if they explicitly collected and analysed data on Hilary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Ron Paul, and to see what the anaylses said.

Barry November 7, 2013 at 8:48 am

“The agency was more restrained under Bush.”

Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

So far, we know two things about the NSA:

1) Every previous reasonable, ‘sensible’ belief was in error, radically underestimating that they could and did do.

2) They have not been punished for any violations of the law, even at the level of a senior official resigning ‘in disgrace’ (and becoming a well-paid private sector consultant).

mextea November 6, 2013 at 3:09 pm

actually kieth…Obama changed the rules allowing the nsa to get more info with less oversight….and we have EVIDENCE that this administration has spied on others…and used nsa and irs to gather info on others…we have NO EVIDENCE that the bush administration was doing the same things…so please stop making insinuations that ALL OTHER administration did it too!!!…they did NOT!

Ralph Gizzip November 6, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Be careful there. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. However, based on what we’ve seen to date I would say the Obama administration is much more likely to use governmental surveillance for political purposes – as opposed to security purposes – than any previous administration.

Steve3 November 6, 2013 at 4:41 pm

From everything I’ve read, the office of the president and the president himself are pretty much under 24-hour surveillance, even if only from the Secret Service. And yes, the presidents are aware of it, couldn’t help but be aware of it. So yes Obama was under observation, but no, “spying” would entail he has an expectation of privacy.

Micha Elyi November 6, 2013 at 9:19 pm

Cute. Was Obama spied on?
–Ben

If so, he did it to himself.

Try again, bub.

CBBB November 6, 2013 at 7:40 am

It’s a bit too simplistic, I don’t think you have to worry so much about Presidents spying on their political rivals. What you should worry about, and what is coming soon (or already here), is the intelligence agencies acting completely independently in elections and using their powers to destroy any candidate they think will threaten their positions. Think more along the lines of the Praetorian Guard or Janissaries.

F. Lynx Pardinus November 6, 2013 at 7:43 am

On the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy presidency, it’s also useful to look at the relationship between JFK, Attorney General RFK, and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

8 November 6, 2013 at 8:20 am

Or imagine a group of people decide that the way to take power is to work for the NSA.

Mark Thorson November 6, 2013 at 10:07 am

Hey, it worked in Russia!

Kendall November 6, 2013 at 1:10 pm

In Soviet Russia, Government votes on the people…

zbicyclist November 6, 2013 at 10:47 am

Good comments. We can easily imagine a modern J Edgar as an important figure in the NSA.

Probably a good time to rent “J Edgar” again, or maybe “All the Kings Men”, to see what happens to well-meaning people who get a sniff at power.

derek November 6, 2013 at 10:20 am

Already there. Fannie Mae.

Jan November 6, 2013 at 8:02 am

Is making someone pay for this the solution? Was it the solution for the 2008 financial crisis?

Ad Nauseum November 6, 2013 at 11:59 am

Are you proposing a “free lunch” for the NSA?

Ad Nauseum November 6, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Or are you implying that the 2008 financial crisis somehow violated people’s privacy like the NSA?

Edward Burke November 6, 2013 at 8:10 am

To paraphrase Alex: “Is the current president . . . so virtuous so as to not use this kind of power? I have grave doubts.”

albatross November 6, 2013 at 3:45 pm

The process by which we select presidents does not, in general, choose people who will refuse to accept more power to win elections, reward friends, or punish enemies.

Uninformed Observer November 6, 2013 at 8:26 am

A more interesting question for me is, “For how much longer will those who propose to limit the power and authority of centralized government be considered paranoid?”

Bob November 6, 2013 at 1:33 pm

This is not really about centralized government, although being in government certainly helps. It’s not as if Germany can blame it on centralized government that the US can spy on Merkel, Google has the money and the resources to do the same kind of thing, if they felt like it. If there are vulnerabilities for the NSA to exploit, China could use them just as well.

So when it comes to domestic systems, you can either protect them from all attempts at intelligence gathering, or keep them open. You can’t make sure your guys can do something that is impossible for everyone else.

Marian Kechlibar November 6, 2013 at 2:05 pm

“You can’t make sure your guys can do something that is impossible for everyone else.”

THIS x 100.

Boonton November 6, 2013 at 3:11 pm

And so can any other country. Does anyone really think that if the US was taken over by a Rand Paul type who gutted intelligence and the NSA that other countries would respect data privacy? For that matter does anyone really think countries like the UK, France, and Germany (let’s not even talk about China) refrain from spying on their fellow ‘friendly’ nations?

Ralph Gizzip November 6, 2013 at 3:40 pm

I have no compunction about my government spying on people in other countries but I have a serious problem with my government spying on me. And I’m sure people in other countries feel exactly the same way.

mulp November 6, 2013 at 11:25 pm

If you don’t post foreign nationality papers on your facebook page, you are a US citizen and can’t be spied on?

Of if your driver’s license name does not agree exactly with your SS record name, you are not a citizen and subject to being spied on?

The problem is the same as demanding the police never demand papers from citizens proving they are citizens because few people carry proof of US citizenship, and probably a million have no means to prove US citizenship except by a probate court ruling, or equivalent.

Libertarians demand absolute rights for citizens but totally oppose even a national record of citizens much less a requirement citizens must have a government issued citizenship ID. I live in NH which was the first State to explicitly reject the Bush administrations call for States to turn State issued driver licenses into citizenship paper proxies.

Rich Berger November 6, 2013 at 8:39 am

Given what we know about the IRS preventing the Tea Party groups from using their resources in the 2012 election, the sharing of donor lists with opposition groups and the lies by Obama about Obamacare, the answer is what would have stopped him? These are leftists – the end justifies the means.

Boonton November 6, 2013 at 3:13 pm

The IRS charges at this point are more or less debunked. You have a rule that a group can be tax exempt provided it isn’t ‘political’. How do you want the IRS to enforce such a rule if not look for keywords like, duh, ‘Tea Party’ in their applications.

Anyway:
from using their resources in the 2012 election

If they were using their resources to swing an election then they shouldn’t have been granted exempt status to begin with.

Rich Berger November 6, 2013 at 4:28 pm

So much for debunking (which is what they all say). For a compendium, please see the following:
http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2013/11/the-irs-scandal-4.html

And if there was no scandal, why did Lois Lerner take the fifth, go on administrative leave and then retire? Seems like a lot of evasion for a debunked scandal.

Rich Berger November 6, 2013 at 4:36 pm

You might also read the following:
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/05/14/irs-tea-party-progressive-groups/2158831/

Apparently the IRS defined primarily political as less than 49% of the group’s activities and then 39%, so your statement is false.

Pasha November 6, 2013 at 10:23 pm

Deliciously avoiding the point.

Rich Berger November 7, 2013 at 5:49 am

Another thing I remembered last night: you know a couple of other nonpolitical groups who are c4 organizations? Organizing for America and Acorn. These were both approved by the IRS, no problemo.

Jim November 6, 2013 at 8:44 am

One break in is a scandal. One hundred million is a statistic

Marie November 6, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Da, comrade.

Claude Emer November 6, 2013 at 8:50 am

The same logic would imply Obama was spied on too. For that matter, Bush spied on Kerry and on MCCain and Obama (and probably Hillary Clinton).
And Bush was spied on himself!

Is the NSA spying for a president or is it because Congress gave it the power (and immunity) to do so thinking spying would protect us from another 911?

Looks like Alex has sunk to TC’s level of creating polemic for polemic’s sake.

Kendall November 6, 2013 at 1:12 pm

Yes, everyone was spied on. But between Obama and Romney, only Obama potentially had access to the data stream being collected. So it’s irrelevant that Obama was also spied on.

Claude Emer November 6, 2013 at 1:55 pm

uh?? Bush didn’t have access to the data the NSA collected while he was the president but Obama does?

How about the larger point? “Is the NSA spying for a president or is it because Congress gave it the power (and immunity) to do so thinking spying would protect us from another 911?”

Bill November 6, 2013 at 8:55 am

Actually, Tyler raises an interesting point.

What if a political candidate were in conversations with a foreign leader, and what if that foreign leader, aka Netanyahu, used his intelligence service to gather political intelligence and share it with the candidate?

I think you would want the NSA to know about communications by a candidate with foreign intelligence services or foreign leaders. Or, at least scare candidates enough so that they would not even consider forming a political alliance with a foreign government in order to gain information from their intelligence service.

Bill November 6, 2013 at 9:08 am

By the way, you might want to look at the Logan Act:

“The Logan Act (1 Stat. 613, 30 January 1799, currently codified at 18 U.S.C. § 953) is a United States federal law that forbids unauthorized citizens from negotiating with foreign governments. It was passed in 1799 and last amended in 1994. Violation of the Logan Act is a felony, punishable under federal law with imprisonment of up to three years.

The text of the Act is broad and is addressed at any attempt of a US citizen to conduct foreign relations without authority. [1][2]” From Wiki

Douglas Knight November 6, 2013 at 11:06 am

Two presidents were elected by violating the Logan act. Did the incumbents know?

Bill November 6, 2013 at 11:22 am

You mean Reagan’s negotiation with Iran? Even if an incumbent knows it would be difficult to arrest your opponent.

Bill November 6, 2013 at 11:28 am

But, it would still be valuable, and legitimate, to know what negotiations a non authorized civilian was negotiating or what coordination with a foreign government that candidate was taking, particularly if your intelligence agency were targeting the foreign leader and picked up the information without specifically targeting the candidate.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find that presidential candidates are briefed on the Logan Act and warned about negotiating deals with foreign governments.

Douglas Knight November 6, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Reagan and Nixon, the second example being given at your source. I’ve heard a lot of versions of the Nixon story.

Boonton November 6, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Strictly speaking that would not prohibit a presidential candidate (or any citizen for that matter) from meeting with a foreign leader. To convict you would have to show Romney both spoke with and conducted negotiations with a foreign leader (i.e. “I’ll support lifting trade sanctions on you if you support the US attacking Iran”). This would seem to allow communication that is either fact finding (“tell me Mr. Prime Minister, what are Israel’s biggest concerns with its relationship with the US?”) or simply communication (“I support your proposed pipeline”).

Bill November 6, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Disagree. The statute is pretty clear, as are instances where elected Senators, and even former Presidents, are reminded of the law.

I will invade x country if I can have your assistance in the following ways, and let’s discuss how I can lead my party to achieve these results for you. Also, what can your intelligence service tell me about candidate y’s financial support or phone calls. I have negotiated a peace agreement which will come into effect if elected.

Okay Boonton?

DonM November 6, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Like Pelosi conducted foreign relations with Assad? Like Obama in Germany? That kind of violation of logan act? I am sure Eric Holder will get right on it.

Bill November 6, 2013 at 3:58 pm

I don’t know about Pelosi or if she was an approved emissary, know nothing about Obama and Germany, other than that he traveled there, gave a speech but that is not negotiation. Go to the beginning of the thread to see what is being discussed

Bill November 6, 2013 at 4:09 pm

DonM, I would also add that it would be Bush’s Attorney General, not Obama’s, that would have had the opportunity to challenge the activity if it had occurred. I don’t think giving a speech counts as negotiating with a foreign government, although you could envision a unilateral announcement and acceptance, but then it would have to be public if it were a speech, and then the AG of your opponent would get a chance to whack you..

F. Lynx Pardinus November 6, 2013 at 9:09 am

“Actually, Tyler raises an interesting point.”

This is a Tabarrok post.

Bill November 6, 2013 at 9:34 am

No wonder.

Josh B November 6, 2013 at 9:22 am

It’s worth noting that Mitt Romney is actually one of the very few people on the planet to have had the privilege to explicitly opt-in to far more extensive surveillance than Tarbarrok discussed. The electronic infrastructure of a potential president is both attractive to other nation states, and relatively poorly defended. If memory serves, the Romney campaign accepted an NSA offer of security assistance. This would necessarily have entailed granting the NSA rather extensive access to the campaign’s communications. As such, Mitt Romney (at least in his capacity as a candidate) may be one of the few Americans we can confidently say was not spied on (at least, not without his consent).

clayton November 6, 2013 at 9:23 am

This site needs a block-poster feature so I can only see the posts by Cowen.

Douglas Knight November 6, 2013 at 11:08 am

Go here instead of the main page.

MikeDC November 6, 2013 at 9:39 am

The vast number of documented interactions between the White House and the IRS, combined with the vast number of documented cases of IRS abusing political opponents of the White House makes makes focusing on the NSA seem like a complete red herring. It’s still spying and using government information to control the political process. The fact that nobody gives a shit guarantees it’ll keep happening too.

Boonton November 6, 2013 at 10:00 am

From what I understand the NSA collects and copies ‘metadata’ because huge data companies like Yahoo and Google regularly delete such data.

So let me try to map this out. Let’s say I sent you an email that says “Hi, let’s meet at the bar tonight” from my gmail account. I then delete it from my sent file and you delete it from your inbox. If this turns into a court case, a warrant may get Google to recover that deleted email and turn it over as evidence. But what if Google deletes the deleted emails at the end of each month (even with huge server capacity, this is still a lot of data)?

So the NSA’s answer is get a copy of Google’s data before it deletes. If a few years from now the CIA learns I’m really a KGB agent, the NSA can look in my deleted emails to see who my contacts might have been.

But is this really spying on everyone’s email or just my own? What if the NSA simply told Google to never delete the data so that while it may not be on NSA servers, it’s out there somewhere and the NSA could get to it? Sooner or later the cost of digital space will get so low that nothing will ever get deleted. In fact didn’t Tyler or Alex once predict that in the near future everything a person ever speaks or writes in their entire lifetime will be indexed and searchable by Google? On one hand that’s scarey, on the other hand it would be a ‘singularity moment’ for historians. Imagine if a historian had access not just to all of Lincoln’s papers, but even the drafts of stuff he threw in the wastepaper basket, everything he ever read, every drunk conversation he had with anyone anywhere.

In other words are we really talking less about spying and more about a new normal?

F. Lynx Pardinus November 6, 2013 at 10:42 am

“huge data companies like Yahoo and Google regularly delete such data”

Google’s Privacy Policy says “Because of this, after you delete information from our services, we may not immediately delete residual copies from our active servers and may not remove information from our backup systems.” It’s possible that everything that was ever sent from Gmail is on a offsite backup system somewhere, deleted by the user or not.

Boonton November 6, 2013 at 10:48 am

Reading that carefully it sounds like they are saying something like “look, just because you delete something doesn’t mean we delete it”. That doesn’t mean that they are saying they are keeping everything that’s deleted. Information is lost in this digital age just as information was lost in the pre-digital age.

But considering how cheap server space is getting, we are veering towards an age where little or no information is ever lost. That means your deleted emails will be out there forever but that’s just the beginning. How about every time you hit the backspace key? Every draft? Your click history?

zbicyclist November 6, 2013 at 10:54 am

Sure, but storing data has a cost. Google will only keep the information so long as it has a potential business purpose (or if keeping it is cheaper than getting rid of it). Remember, Google is a commercial enterprise and is motivated by potential profit, something that we can all understand. And as a large public company it would be hard for them to make money by blackmail.

These same constraints are not clearly applicable to secret agencies within the government.

Boonton November 6, 2013 at 2:16 pm

The business purpose is data mining which means the more data the better. Maybe there’s a relationship between things men search for when they are in their 20’s and what they are inclined to buy online when they are 60. As the cost of storing information gets cheaper, Google and other data companies will have less and less reason to ever throw anything away.

Komori November 7, 2013 at 8:44 am

https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2013/09/metadata_equals.html

Metadata recording is spying. Anyone familiar with the technical side of intelligence work understands just how much you can do with traffic analysis.

Dave Barnes November 6, 2013 at 10:08 am

“hovered up”
No, hoovered up. From the vacuum cleaner name.

Chris S November 6, 2013 at 10:13 am

Rookie pendantry. Does that affect the content of the post?

Ed November 6, 2013 at 10:52 am

Its becoming increasingly obvious that Nixon’s defenders were right. What he was doing was the same crap every modern President (possibly excepting Carter) has been doing.

AD November 6, 2013 at 10:55 am

“I imagine that President Obama was almost as surprised as the rest of us when he first discovered that we live in a mass surveillance state in which billions of emails, phone calls, facebook metadata and other data are being collected.”

He might not have known they were listening to Merkel’s phone calls (although, I’ve seen other sources that say it’s common for allies to spy on each other; it’s just that it’s not normally known publicly, and once that happens, elected leaders have to act betrayed to save face with the voters), but he surely knew they were tracking lots of metadata. He gets the intelligence reports each day. We all knew the NSA was building a huge data center in Utah, just off a major freeway along the main corridor where everyone in the state lives.

Trimegistus November 6, 2013 at 10:59 am

Did President Obama misuse government power for political advantage?

To ask the question is to answer it. He has never done anything else. Every policy, every act, every statement is geared entirely toward his own and his party’s advantage.

Of course he spied on Romney. The question is, why hasn’t he been arrested and put in jail for such flagrant violations of his oath of office?

Boonton November 6, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Those who make up their own facts on the fly have no need to collect any type of data.

DonM November 6, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Obama bragged that he would use the IRS to go after his enemies.

Don’t need to make up facts.

Herb November 6, 2013 at 11:12 am

So you’re saying Obama looked at Romney’s tax returns and kept them under wraps?

Ad Nauseum November 6, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Sure, why not? If he released them, everyone might have known that Romney was clean.

prior_approval November 6, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Well, except for this –

‘Mitt Romney’s campaign is amending the financial disclosure form he filed in 2011 to acknowledge that a Romney trust earned interest income from a Swiss bank account, a detail that had been missing from the report.

———————————————

“An amendment is being filed to address this minor discrepancy,” a campaign official told ABC News in an email Thursday in response to questions about the apparent omission.

The discovery that the Romneys had $3 million in an account with the Swiss bank UBS came only after the Republican presidential candidate released his tax returns for 2010 on Tuesday. The campaign had maintained that it was not necessary to disclose the Swiss account because Romney’s money manager, Brad Malt, had shuttered it in early 2010.

——————————————

Romney also decided to amend the report from his 2007 run for president, a decision first reported by the New York Times. That form identified a UBS money market account, but did not clarify that it was held by his wife’s trust. UBS has branches in the United States, so it would not have been readily apparent that the account was in Switzerland. Those who track the finances of presidential candidates said they found the failures to disclose these key financial details distressing. Bill Allison, editorial director of the non-profit watchdog group the Sunlight Foundation, said the whole purpose of the disclosure reports is for candidates to provide an honest look at their finances to voters.’ http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/romney-failed-disclose-swiss-bank-account-income/story?id=15447680#.UAco9zFYtXc

And there is still the publicly undisclosed federal tax return from 2009 – speculation ranges from the Romneys taking advantage of an IRS amnesty program concerning non-compliance revolving around putatively secret accounts accounts at Swiss bank UBS (my personal favorite based on how Germans do it), or equally speculative, that through well paid advice, the multi-millionaire Romneys paid no federal income tax that year.

chuck martel November 6, 2013 at 6:50 pm

Obviously, the most qualified candidate for the presidency or any other elected office is the one with least money, the one groveling in the most abject poverty. We all know that poor people are rich in virtue and rich people are by necessity evil.

Herb November 7, 2013 at 12:43 am

Careful now….

You’re close to arguing that the president operated with (gasp) integrity. Which kind of moots all the Nixonian hand-wringing.

FTWAI November 6, 2013 at 11:40 am

For those who are interested, understanding of this subject would be helped by a familiarity with what is known about the actual events of the last years of the Nixon administration, including the executive office’s stated defenses of the president’s actions and Mark Felt’s admissions of his unusual attempts to bring down a president from a position of trust.

Sebastian B.O. Buniontoe, Esq November 6, 2013 at 11:56 am

Maxine Waters (D-Uranus) – on TV One’s Washington Watch with Roland Martin (February 2013)

“Well, you know, I don’t know. And I think some people are missing something here. The president has put in place an organization that contains the kind of database that no one has ever seen before in life. That’s going to be very, very powerful. That database will have information about everything on every individual in ways that it’s never been done before.”

Mogden November 6, 2013 at 12:13 pm

You so funny! Like anyone gives a damn about the law any more.

Obvious November 6, 2013 at 1:05 pm

You fools. The NSA itself didn’t have to pass along information to Obama as an organization. There just had to Obama fans in-house to do that. Like what has happened with the IRS.

Astro November 6, 2013 at 1:21 pm

It’s a half-truth to say Obama didn’t know ‘about the full extent of NSA spying’. Does anyone know the FULL extent, even in the NSA? Not likely.
There are many important questions that ought to be asked, such as: Did he think the NSA had overstepped its authority? Did he care that the NSA was collecting data on private citizens without cause? Did he ever receive any of this information and use it to help a political ally or harm a political enemy?

Agoraphobic Plumber November 6, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Many on the Left made fun of the fact that in 2008 it came to light that McCain didn’t use email. They were shown to be the shallow gits that they are when it was explained that McCain didn’t use a computer much at all due to lingering problems stemming from Polio.

But McCain, that sly dog, was simply avoiding the NSA.

LogicalSC November 6, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Obama seldom “knows” anything of the events which follow around his successful ploys to power….

Obama didn’t “know” anything about the shenanigans used to get his opponent thrown off the ballot when he was elected to the State legislature, allowing him to run unopposed.

Obama didn’t “know” anything about the criminal release of the divorce records of his opponent that just happened to be released coincidently close to the election…which allowed him to go to Congress against a last minute place holder opponent.

Obama didn’t “know” anything about the IRS targeting his political opponents during his 2012 re-election nor the amazingly confidential tax information which just happened to begin to be released on Romney.

Obama is just a real, real, real, real “lucky” candidate who always seems to have behind the scenes help….the question is why for his incompetent bozo?

mrsizer November 6, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Who will pay for the NSA break-ins?
LOL of the day! Someone will get a promotion (Fast & Furious) or early retirement (IRS) with pension, perhaps. No one in the government is accountable. Sad, but true.

If we can’t stop them from collecting it, why not make it public? If anyone can search the database(s), then there is no blackmail potential.

Eric Lucas November 6, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Watch the movie Enemy Of The State with Will Smith and Gene Hackman. (great movie BTW.)

After that movie came out a co-worker asked me if I thought the type of intrusive spying and rogue activity shown in the movie was possible. I said: “not only possible, but likely.” I know believe that I underestimated.

Eric Lucas November 6, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Ha, type once, read twice…. “I *now* believe that I underestimated.”

Ryan Vann November 6, 2013 at 5:21 pm

Interesting movie that. The most interesting thing about it is the consultants that were used were primarily CIA dudes. So what you had was ostensibly an anti-NSA movie underwritten by the CIA. There is a theory going about that the CIA and NSA are not found of one another, and have an internecine battle going on.

Ryan Vann November 6, 2013 at 5:19 pm

Yes, of course. Political sabotage/blackmail is pretty much the only purpose of the NSA “big data” scheme.

Marie November 6, 2013 at 6:18 pm

On an unrelated note, I find the recent news that some unknown *Huntsman* donor took out the only other black candidate in the election completely credible.

Craig November 6, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Did Obama spy on Justice Roberts is a better question.

Jim B. November 6, 2013 at 7:29 pm

This is an irresponsible and disturbing post. Asking the question without any sort of proof feeds the tinfoil-hat right-wing conspiracy theorists with more red meat, and your position of authority as a respectable economist gives their suspicions credibility it wouldn’t otherwise receive. Stating that you do not believe Obama actually spied on political opponents does not absolve the author of floating the accusation out there (even if in the form of a non-question question). You’re better than this, Alex.

Seb November 7, 2013 at 7:43 am

The US government is bugging the Pope and illegally spying on huge swaths of the world population and you find this post irresponsible and disturbing? This is why we are truly screwed.

albatross November 7, 2013 at 2:03 pm

No, you’ve got it backwards. It is irresponsible *not* to ask questions like this.

The massive domestic spying operation that keeps being revealed, more and more, thanks to the Snowden disclosures, is the biggest threat that faces US democracy right now. Al Qaida cannot possibly hope to put an end to democratic government in the US, but whomever controls the spying apparatus *can*.

R Lange November 6, 2013 at 8:39 pm

More interesting and challenging — Did he wiretap John G. Roberts, Jr. and use the information to influence decisions by the SCOTUS?

drjohn November 6, 2013 at 8:49 pm

You don’t really wonder. You know.

schmuck281 November 7, 2013 at 2:29 am

It is extremely unlikely that Obama would have ordered the NSA (or the IRS) to spy on people for political gain.

That is not the way the game is played since Watergate.

Now it is more of the “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” kind of deal.

There is never a direct order and there is an effort to maintain “plausible deniability” for the President.

He may know what is going on but he has to maintain the fiction that he doesn’t.

prior_approval November 7, 2013 at 6:45 am

‘Who will pay for the NSA break-ins?’

Snowden.

Floccina November 7, 2013 at 10:09 am

I would think that politicians have long known enough to not to say anything strategic on the phone, in emails or in a government office.

albatross November 7, 2013 at 2:04 pm

You mean like Anthony Weiner?

Floccina November 7, 2013 at 10:11 am

BTW there is way too much spying and secrecy in Government.

chuck martel November 7, 2013 at 12:33 pm

According to Henry Jacoby in his “The Bureaucratization of the World”, secrecy is fundamental in bureaucracies.

MrJest November 10, 2013 at 11:55 am

“As recently as a few weeks ago”… Honestly, is ANYONE really that naive?? I mean, seriously, you are shocked by this idea??? How do you manage to cross the street safely, or walk and chew gum at the same time?!?

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