The question “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” written by Juvenal has come down to us in English as “Who guards the guards?” This question is one that may become relevant for President #Donald Trump in a period when he is facing increasing hostility from not only his own Party but also the intelligence community.
Naevius Cordus Sertorius Macro was the Commander of Roman Emperor Gaius Caesar’s Praetorian Guard and thus charged with his safety. Today we know the Emperor as #Caligula.
The young Emperor was unstable and the Empire’s Senate was so scared of his violent rages that its members were cowed by the son of Roman hero Germanicus. To show his contempt for the Senate Caligula even named his horse Incitatus as a Senator.
Macro too was not immune from the Emperor’s behaviour and Caligula use the ceremony of giving the daily password to take the mickey out of the soldier. Thus when Macro asked his Emperor that day’s password the phrase was nearly always either obscene or personally embarrassing.
Eventually the Praetorian commander and his troops lost patience with the behaviour of their Emperor. In 41AD thirty guards assassinated Caligula, murdered his children and placed a man that they thought they could control on the throne. The new Emperor Claudius had a stronger character than previously suspected and had the murderous guards executed.
In a sign of distension to the Senate Claudius retired Incitatus but with full honours as it would not be fitting to treat any Senator disrespectfully, even a horse...
While there is no likelihood that political assassination will occur in 21st century America, this story came to mind as I read the overnight reports of the British intelligence community to the #White House’s accusation that it had been involved in the alleged wiretapping of Trump Tower during the presidential campaign.
As reported in the BBC Britain’s GCHQ, the hub of UK intelligence, took the unusual step of making a direct reply and its comment of “utterly ridiculous” was a particularly strong comment by a normally discrete part of the British Establishment.
This accusation was part of the White House’s feud with the country’s intelligence community caused in part by its ongoing investigations into allegations of Russian hacking into the presidential race in favour of the now President and in particular due to suspicion that many of the leaks haunting the Oval Office have been coming from within the community.
Nobody can say how many of the leaks come from government agencies, just as nobody can say with any surety if some come from within the White House itself. Leaks have been part of government activities for many years, even long before Watergate’s famous “Deep Throat” and at times have even been used by Presidents as another means of releasing information to the public.
Yesterday’s comments about the British by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer only add more fuel to the fire of the ongoing disagreements with the intelligence community and with Republicans that openly express their dissent with President Donald Trump.
Considering the ongoing investigations by the intelligence community and also by committees of both the Senate and Congress into these allegations the White House would do well to rein in these high levels of conflict.
President Trump and his staff should heed the lesson that Caligula never learnt and treat its guards, the intelligence community and the Executive branch, with the respect that both deserve because the consequences may not be what they expect.
Modern day America will never tolerate the murder of its President but there are many means weapons available to the intelligence community and the Executive Branch to end a political career if they are pushed too far.
Without forgetting that Deep Throat ended up being W. Mark Felt, Deputy Director of the FBI... #Donald Trump