The Diamond and Silk affair is much more than a distraction

Diamond and Silk aren’t terrorism, and the sisters don’t advocate violence. But if the comediennes got caught up in a content-constricting algorithm, they got caught up in it for a reason: They’ve pushed conspiracy theories from Uranium One to Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) supposed secret “gay lifestyle,” and during the campaign they stumped for Trump in an interview with a neo-Nazi Holocaust denier who insists that “Jews Did 9/11.”

.. Perhaps this messy history doesn’t mean Diamond and Silk deserve for Facebook to restrict their posts’ reach or prevent them from alerting their followers to new videos. Or perhaps it does. It’s a test case for a quandary that Facebook has been muddling through since last summer, when the world and Web exploded with revelations that Russia had harnessed the platform’s reach to sow discord with destructive propaganda

.. Facebook has struggled with the contradictory onus of remaining a “platform for all ideas” while filtering out ideas it deems too dangerous. But there’s little reason to think government would do better. And there’s a lot of reason to wonder whether it even ought to try.

Here’s Why Republicans Stopped Talking About a Uranium One “Whistleblower”

The guy they hoped would implicate Hillary Clinton doesn’t appear too reliable.

A former FBI informant who GOP lawmakers have claimed could implicate the Clintons in the so-called Uranium One scandal failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoing by the Clintons or anyone else during a February 7 interview with staffers of three congressional committees

.. For months Republicans have said the informant, a former lobbyist named William D. Campbell, had explosive information regarding the sale of Uranium One

.. They claimed that Campbell could shed light on how Russians exerted influence over then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—allegedly steering money to her family foundation—in order to win approval of the sale.

.. During the meeting, Campbell admitted that he lacked knowledge of the interagency review process through which the sale was approved. Campbell said he “looked on Google to see” how the process worked, according to Democrats, who also note that he “identified no evidence that Secretary Hillary Clinton, President Bill Clinton, or anyone from the Obama Administration took any actions as a result of” Russian influence.

.. Campbell confirmed that account during his February interview, Democrats say. He told Hill staffers he “did not recall telling his FBI handlers about any statements regarding attempts to influence the Clintons.”

He also said that after bouts with cancer and alcohol problems, “I find today there are times when I remember things very clearly and there are times when my memory is hazy.”

.. Campbell’s new claims came after he hired Victoria Toensing, a conservative pundit known for virulently anti-Clinton views, as his attorney.

.. Last year, Campbell began asserting through Toensing that Tenex officials had told him they had leverage over Clinton and claiming they hired a lobbying firm, APCO, which also did work for the Clinton Foundation, to influence her.

But Campbell told Hill staffers last month that he “did not take seriously” those comments at the time. He said he considered them “vodka-arrogant talk.”

We Don’t Need a Special Counsel to Investigate the Clinton Foundation

A group of House Republicans has taken up this cause and is pushing for the appointment of a special counsel. In essence, it is a tit-for-tat maneuver: There is a special-counsel probing Trump ties to Russia, they reason, so why not a special-counsel to probe Clinton ties to Russia?

.. This suggests a basic misunderstanding about what triggers a special-counsel investigation: There must be potential offenses that warrant investigation as to which the Justice Department has a conflict of interest that would make its conducting the investigation inappropriate.

.. Recall that Robert Mueller was appointed to take over a counterintelligence investigation, not to investigate specific crimes.

.. There is no structural reason to believe the Justice Department is unable to conduct a fair investigation of the Clinton Foundation. (There may be a credibility problem, which we’ll get to momentarily.)

.. It was widely reported a year ago that the FBI was looking into Clinton Foundation activities — I wrote about it, here, when it was reported that the Obama Justice Department was blocking the bureau from access to key evidence.

.. As the Times points out, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from matters related to the 2016 election, and that recusal is apparently being expansively construed to include matters related to the Democratic nominee, Mrs. Clinton,

.. In the event, such conflicts have little bearing on how cases are handled because the investigation is led by the FBI with the assistance of a district U.S. attorney’s office that does not have a conflict.

.. All of that said, there is a problem here — just not a problem that requires a special counsel. It’s that the president and congressional Republicans are ratcheting up political pressure for prosecutorial action. Ultimately, this will undermine — perhaps fatally — any investigation the Justice Department may be doing. Inadvertently, the president and his congressional allies are giving any eventual defendants a powerful claim that they were charged because of political considerations rather than evidence of wrongdoing.

.. the president’s foolish commentary has already negatively affected the court-martial of Bowe Bergdahl, and it has complicated the possible filing of capital murder charges against Sayfullo Saipov, the West Side Highway jihadist. When political officials prod law-enforcement officials on individual cases, they hurt the prosecution.

Void the Non-Disclosure Agreements That Conceal Congressional Misconduct

They serve no legitimate purpose and function to protect wrongdoers.

..But this is why the last clause of Tapper’s tweet is the most important: so their survivors can talk if they wish.

There is no legal or policy reason to refrain from legislation that would out the lawmakers involved in misconduct settlements — regardless of the type of misconduct (I wouldn’t limit it to sexual episodes).

to the extent that these existing non-disclosure arrangements guarantee confidentiality, it ought to be up to the victim whether or not to remain anonymous.

.. I also thought complaints about the shroud under which the Trans-Pacific trade pact was being negotiated were bogus. If agreements could not be negotiated confidentially, many if not most of them would not happen. As long as the final agreement is available to be examined, there is no public “right to know” the negotiating positions of governments.

.. Private citizens do not get to withhold information from the government on the ground that it was provided under a non-disclosure agreement.

.. So why should the government, in a matter not involving national security or public safety, be able to withhold information about the actions of public officials from the public those officials like to tell us they “serve”?

.. Specifically, the FBI had evidence of crimes by Rosatom’s American subsidiary, the timely disclosure of which would have made it politically impossible for the Obama administration to approve Rosatom’s acquisition of Uranium One’s U.S. uranium-mining rights. Yet when Congress sought to look into this matter, it emerged that government’s informant witness had been induced by the FBI and Justice Department to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Reportedly, he was threatened with retaliation under this NDA if he shared what he knew with congressional committees.

.. Secrecy in government has its place — a very important place when it comes to intelligence that keeps the nation safe and promotes the rule of law. But the need for secrecy in some government operations is the smokescreen under which public officials often conceal government behavior that is embarrassing, incompetent, corrupt, reckless, dangerous, illegal, or even criminal. Particularly when a matter is outside the realm of national security or law enforcement, and when it involves the behavior of public officials, there should be a strong presumption against confidentiality.