The New York Times and the rest of the media were miffed by Attorney General William Barr daring to call spying by its proper name during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, referring to the electronic surveillance, FISA warrants, and the use of informants like Cambridge University academic Stefan Halper on Trump campaign aides.
The media’s amusing aversion to the word “spy” was obvious on the front page of Friday’s Times, which came up with this wonderful euphemism: “F.B.I. Sent Cloaked Investigator To Question Trump Aide in 2016," reported by Adam Goldman, Michael Schmidt, and Mark Mazzetti (click “expand”):
The conversation at a London bar in September 2016 took a strange turn when the woman sitting across from George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign adviser, asked a direct question: Was the Trump campaign working with Russia?
The woman had set up the meeting to discuss foreign policy issues. But she was actually a government investigator posing as a research assistant, according to people familiar with the operation. The F.B.I. sent her to London as part of the counterintelligence inquiry opened that summer to better understand the Trump campaign’s links to Russia.
The American government’s affiliation with the woman, who said her name was Azra Turk, is one previously unreported detail of an operation that has become a political flash point in the face of accusations by President Trump and his allies that American law enforcement and intelligence officials spied on his campaign to undermine his electoral chances. Last year, he called it Spygate.
The decision to use Ms. Turk in the operation aimed at a presidential campaign official shows the level of alarm inside the F.B.I. during a frantic period when the bureau was trying to determine the scope of Russia’s attempts to disrupt the 2016 election, but could also give ammunition to Mr. Trump and his allies for their spying claims.
You don’t say.
Goldman actually provided a hint about Turk in a May 2018 story with another strained headline: “F.B.I. Used Informant to Investigate Russia Ties to Campaign, Not to Spy, as Trump Claims.” Have you ever seen a liberal outlet fight so hard for the integrity of a domestic surveillance organization? They continued:
Mr. Papadopoulos accepted the offer and arrived in London two weeks later, where he met for several days with the academic [Stefan Halper] and one of his assistants, a young woman.
That “young woman” that Goldman flicked an intriguing spotlight on is of course “Azra Turk.”
Back to Friday’s damage-control story: Goldman, et al., rehashed the media’s horror over Barr’s accurate claim about “spying”:
Mr. Barr again defended his use of the term “spying” at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, saying he wanted to know more about the F.B.I.’s investigative efforts during 2016 and explained that the early inquiry most likely went beyond the use of an informant and a court-authorized wiretap of a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page, who had interacted with a Russian intelligence officer.
The Times gave the FBI the benefit of the doubt: They were being secret so as not to damage the Trump campaign:
Secrecy was paramount for the F.B.I. officials because of the sensitivities of investigating campaign advisers during a presidential race. Had the investigation into Trump advisers’ contacts with Russia become public, it could have devastated the Trump campaign. And top bureau officials were enduring fresh attacks over their handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
And perhaps Trump’s outlandish accusation of British involvement didn’t emerge out of thin air after all:
British intelligence officials were also notified about the operation, the people familiar with the operation said, but it was unclear whether they provided assistance. A spokeswoman for the British government declined to comment.
Mr. Trump has repeatedly claimed that British intelligence spied on his campaign, an accusation the British government has vigorously denied. Last month, the president quoted on Twitter an accusation that the British had spied on his campaign and added: “WOW! It is now just a question of time before the truth comes out, and when it does, it will be a beauty!”
Goldman has been a recipient of pro-FBI leads in the past and often gives the domestic surveillance organization a friendly reception. The Trump administration got no similar benefit of the doubt, with Goldman telling the New Yorker magazine:
....It’s my understanding that, if they hadn’t opened this, it would have been an abdication of their duty. If you are a law-enforcement official and you have evidence that perhaps suggests that the President himself may be acting as a foreign agent, either wittingly or unwittingly, isn’t it your duty to run this to the ground?