The National Security Apparatus Is Now the Enemy | Opinion

Monday's FBI raid on former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home makes an obvious mockery of equal application of the law. Even disgraced Democrat Andrew Cuomo, displaying a hitherto undetected capacity for shame, expressed unease regarding the raid.

If reports are true that the raid has to do with an ongoing negotiation between Trump's legal team and the National Archives over the retention of classified documents, odious comparisons immediately present themselves. The most obvious such comparison involves Hillary Clinton herself, Trump's defeated 2016 rival. As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton conducted official business on a personal email address and her own private server, where she improperly stored classified information—some of which was labeled "top secret." Then-FBI Director James Comey scandalized Democrats and the broader commentariat with his October 2016 announcement that the FBI was looking into some of these emails, though the FBI ultimately concluded Clinton was only guilty of "extreme carelessness" and didn't do anything remotely resembling a search warrant-executed raid the likes of which we saw on Monday. Ironically, then-candidate Trump galvanized his rallies with chants to "lock her up," based on these Clintonian improprieties, prompting myriad media comparisons to third-world dictators. At the time, a panoply of top Democrats, including current Biden Chief of Staff Ron Klain, decried the "weaponization" of the Justice Department.

For better or for worse, Trump's allegedly "dictatorial" calls to imprison Clinton for her illegal acts never rose beyond campaign rally applause line bluster. Trump's detractors, on the other hand, set about re-purposing the entire national security apparatus against Trump and his supporters, starting before Trump even set foot in the White House. We now know the FBI was directly complicit in the fraudulent "Steele dossier" that became the basis of the Russia-collusion hoax, designed from the outset to brand Trump's very presidency a national security threat. We know that FBI agents inappropriately pushed to classify certain events as "domestic terrorism" in order to reinforce a false narrative designed to portray Trump supporters as a national security threat. And we know that the alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, the highest-profile "domestic terrorism" case in years, turned out to be a scandalous and farcical entrapment operation and a monumental embarrassment for the FBI—for which zero people were convicted.

Supporters of former President Donald Trump
Supporters of former President Donald Trump stand outside his residence in Mar-A-Lago, Palm Beach, Florida on August 8, 2022. GIORGIO VIERA/AFP via Getty Images

We could go on, but the point is there are many very legitimate grievances against the FBI—and Republicans, for that matter, would be remiss to forget that. Indeed, it is crucial for all concerned Americans not to let Republicans pass the buck with empty fundraising appeals to "drain the swamp," impotent finger-pointing toward Hunter Biden, and useless "what if the roles were reversed" mental gymnastics. Instead, Republicans need to arrive at a serious plan to defund, expose, and delegitimize the FBI and the national security apparatus generally, and to commit to this plan.

With a Republican-controlled Congress, this could begin with counter-investigations into Russiagate and January 6, complete with subpoena power and legal consequences for any current or former government official who refuses to fully cooperate. Any senior-level FBI employees found to have abused their positions in the course of such investigations would be criminally indicted, and any rank-and-file members found to have inappropriately colluded in such misbehavior would be fired, stripped of pension, and disgraced. If the GOP really wanted to get creative, it could allocate 50 or 60 million dollars to create a fund that would protect and support whistleblowers within the FBI, CIA, NSA, and the upper echelons of the Justice Department. This would offer an opportunity for national security bureaucrats to safely and comfortably come forward and begin a much-needed reconciliation process with the American people.

Finally, the GOP needs to strengthen and drastically update its messaging regarding the national security state. As a matter of political psychology, conservatives are generally inclined to venerate just and well-functioning institutions of authority—especially those ostensibly connected with national security. The shadow of former President Ronald Reagan and the mythology of the Cold War only reinforces an anachronistic reverence for the national security apparatus. The fact that all of these institutions are not only not aligned with, but vigorously and existentially hostile to conservatives, means that a dramatic software update is in order.

Unless and until a radical change occurs, conservatives must treat the FBI and the rest of the national security apparatus as the hostile and partially illegitimate institutions that they are, and not run back into the arms of their national security tormenter whenever the uniparty regime saber-rattles about the threat from some hostile entity overseas. The real threat to the American way of life is not Russia, or even China—it is the corrupt and illegitimate ruling class that runs America. The national security apparatus, together with the corporate media, has become the ruling class' most potent weapon. It's time the ruling class be held accountable for its corruption, and it's time that all Americans understand our politics will be nothing but fake and performative until the national security apparatus is brought to heel.

Darren Beattie, Ph.D., is the founder of Revolver News, a former policy aide to President Donald Trump, and a former instructor of political science at Duke University. Follow on Twitter: @DarrenJBeattie.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.