Fox Throws Judge Napolitano under the Bus
Fox News anchor Bret Baier likes to end his Special Report broadcast with the claim that Fox News is “fair, balanced and unafraid.” Well, Fox News seems not to be fair when it throws contributor Judge Andrew Napolitano under the bus for linking surveillance of Team Trump to Team Obama’s links with British intelligence.
Apparently, Fox News isn’t as “fair and balanced” as it pretends to be. While it endlessly repeats totally unsubstantiated claims of Trump critics of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, as well as repeatedly dismissing Trump claims of Obama administration surveillance of Trump tower, they have dared to take Fox News contributor Judge Napolitano off the air for repeating what three intelligence agents told him -- that the Obama administration in fact had British intelligence conduct the surveillance so as not to leave a trail. As the Los Angeles Times reported:
The former New Jersey Superior Court judge, citing unnamed sources, said that the British foreign surveillance agency, the Government Communications Headquarters, “most likely” provided Obama with transcripts of Trump’s recorded calls.
“By bypassing all American intelligence services, Obama would have had access to what he wanted with no Obama administration fingerprints,” Napolitano wrote in a column on FoxNews.com.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer cited Napolitano’s charge last week when asked why President Trump continues to stand by his initial claim. The British spy agency sharply denounced Napolitano’s allegations, saying they are “utterly ridiculous and should be ignored."
Fox News, along with its brethren MSNBC and CNN, apparently has no trouble endlessly repeating reports from unnamed sources of collusion between Team Trump and Russian operatives. Yet it dumped Judge Napolitano for challenging the mantra of the herd that Team Trump is guilty and Obama is innocent. Napolitano raised the British connection in a Fox News Opinion column on March 16:
Sources have told me that the British foreign surveillance service, the Government Communications Headquarters, known as GCHQ, most likely provided Obama with transcripts of Trump’s calls. The NSA has given GCHQ full 24/7 access to its computers, so GCHQ -- a foreign intelligence agency that, like the NSA, operates outside our constitutional norms -- has the digital versions of all electronic communications made in America in 2016, including Trump’s. So by bypassing all American intelligence services, Obama would have had access to what he wanted with no Obama administration fingerprints.
Thus, when senior American intelligence officials denied that their agencies knew about this, they were probably being truthful. Adding to this ominous scenario is the fact that three days after Trump’s inauguration, the head of GCHQ, Robert Hannigan, abruptly resigned, stating that he wished to spend more time with his family.
Of course, American intelligence agencies, as well as the British, are denying the story. Either Judge Napolitano is doing some sloppy reporting or these agencies are lying. They have lied before, particularly about whether the American people were under surveillance by the NSA.
Trump has been skeptical of the conclusions of Clapper and the intelligence community and rightly so. Are we to believe the likes of James Clapper, who once reassured the Congress that the NSA wasn’t conducting surveillance of the American people?
As U.S. News and World Report noted, his recent resignation didn’t assuage critics who believe that Clapper, like other Obama administration personnel, dodged a perjury bullet when he testified before Congress on the issue of NSA surveillance of American citizens:
Some lawmakers reacted to the long-expected resignation announcement from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on Thursday by wishing him an eventful retirement, featuring prosecution and possible prison time.
The passage of more than three years hasn’t cooled the insistence in certain quarters that Clapper face charges for an admittedly false statement to Congress in March 2013, when he responded, “No, sir" and "not wittingly” to a question about whether the National Security Agency was collecting “any type of data at all” on millions of Americans.
About three months after making that claim, documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the answer was untruthful and that the NSA was in fact collecting in bulk domestic call records, along with various internet communications.
To his critics, Clapper lied under oath, a crime that threatens effective oversight of the executive branch. In an apology letter to lawmakers, however, Clapper said he gave the “clearly erroneous” answer because he “simply didn’t think of” the call-record collection.
Critics who say President-elect Donald Trump has no right to disparage our good and faithful intelligence servants or to be skeptical of the intelligence they gather might be willing to accept “least untruthful” answers but others are not. As Investor’s Business Daily editorialized in June 2013 after Clapper’s testimony:
...Director of National Intelligence James Clapper struggles to explain why he told Congress in March that the National Security Agency does not intentionally collect any kind of data on millions of Americans. "I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful, manner by saying 'no,'" Clapper told NBC News on Sunday.
Least untruthful? Lying to Congress and the American people is just that, except in Clapper's mind. And it seems to depend on the meaning of "collect," a reminder of President Bill Clinton's defense that charges of his lying depended on the meaning of the word "is."
Are blanket collections of data, even just phone numbers, on large swaths of America a good idea? In 2006, when George W. Bush was in office, Joe Biden, in a rare moment of lucidity, told Harry Smith on CBS' "Morning Show" of the pitfalls of what the NSA is doing now.
"Harry, I don't have to listen to your phone calls to know what you're doing," Biden said. "If I know every single phone call you made, I'm able to determine every single person you talk to, I can get a pattern about your life that is very, very intrusive.
"And the real question here is: What do they do with this information that they collect that does not have anything to do with al-Qaida?"
U.S. District Judge Richard Leon ruled that the NSA surveillance program was in violation of the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Ironically, it was Judge Andrew Napolitano who noted in Fox News Opinion:
In the first meaningful and jurisdictionally grounded judicial review of the NSA cellphone spying program, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon, a George W. Bush appointee sitting in Washington, D.C., ruled that the scheme of asking a secret judge on a secret court for a general warrant to spy on all American cellphone users without providing evidence of probable cause of criminal behavior against any of them is unconstitutional because it directly violates the Fourth Amendment.
Readers of this page are familiar with the purpose of that Amendment and the requirements it imposes on the government. The Framers intended it to prevent the new government in America from doing to Americans what the British government had done to the colonists under the king.
The British government had used general warrants -- which are not based on individualized probable cause and do not name the place to be searched or the person or thing to be seized -- to authorize British soldiers to search the colonists wherever they pleased for whatever they wished to seize.
Clapper defended and lied about an intelligence agency unconstitutionally spying on the American people. Shouldn’t we be skeptical about his conclusions and those of others on Russian hacking and Team Trump’s alleged collusion?
Clapper and others, including, apparently Fox News, may think that the Obama administration is incapable of such an act, the Obama administration that used the IRS in a way Richard Nixon only dreamed of, targeting the Tea Party movement that had arisen in opposition to Obamacare. Such an act would indeed make Watergate look like, well, a third-rate burglary. Clapper forgets as well how the NSA and the Obama administration spied on world leaders, starting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and reporters like Fox News’ own James Rosen:
President Barack Obama knew of the organization’s spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel -- and approved of the efforts, a National Security Agency official has reportedly told a German newspaper.
The Economic Times writes the “high-ranking” NSA official spoke to Bild am Sonntag on the condition of anonymity, saying the president, “not only did not stop the operation, but he also ordered it to continue.”
The Economic Times also reports the official told Bild am Sonntag that Obama did not trust Merkel, wanted to know everything about her, and thus ordered the NSA to prepare a dossier on the politician.
Of course, the Obama administration was not above surveillance of the press and treating respected reporters as, well, criminals. Take the case of Fox News reporter James Rosen, named by the Obama administration as a criminal co-conspirator in a case involving violations of the Espionage Act:
The Justice Department named Fox News's chief Washington correspondent James Rosen "at the very least, either as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator" in a 2010 espionage case against State Department security adviser Stephen Jin-Woo Kim. The accusation appears in a court affidavit first reported by the Washington Post. Kim is charged with handing over a classified government report in June 2009 that said North Korea would probably test a nuclear weapon in response to a UN resolution condemning previous tests. Rosen reported the analysis on 11 June under the headline 'North Korea Intends to Match UN Resolution With New Nuclear Test'. The FBI sought and obtained a warrant to seize all of Rosen's correspondence with Kim, and an additional two days' worth of Rosen's personal email, the Post reported. The bureau also obtained Rosen's phone records and used security badge records to track his movements to and from the State Department.
Judge Obama and the intel agencies by their illegal actions and their lying words. Judge Andrew Napolitano by his track record of impeccable credentials and unchallenged integrity. Judge Fox News by their action throwing Napolitano under the bus. Fox News – unfair, unbalanced, and very much afraid.
Daniel John Sobieski is a freelance writer whose pieces have appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, Human Events, Reason Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times among other publications.