Trump’s wiretap claim is anything but “baseless”
The pernicious lie that President Trump’s claim he was wiretapped by President Obama is “baseless” is being regurgitated in the mainstream media virtually nonstop in the 24/7 news cycle.
These people are so desperate to hang Trump that they embraced the ridiculous “piss-gate” dossier promoted by political hack Ben Smith's cat-video website Buzzfeed.
At the same time as we are assured by Never Trumpers that Trump is making things up, the so-called evidence of Team Trump’s allegedly nefarious connections and collusion with the Russian government to subvert the American electoral process is treated as Holy Writ. The Left and the mainstream media – but I repeat myself – gravitate to the evidence that hurts Trump, ignoring the rest.
It's that simple. And there is an impressive evidentiary double-standard at work in the weighing of evidence, much of which apparently has been politicized.
But as far as I can tell, nobody has clearly pointed out the seeming arbitrariness in the media taking the word of one group of spies over the other.
We know that the evidence supporting both the anti-Trump and pro-Trump claims reportedly comes from unnamed sources within the same U.S intelligence community (IC). If anyone with direct personal knowledge of evidence backing either claim has gone on the record, I’ve missed it (and I spend all day long on the Internet).
Why should we believe one set of anonymous IC sources over another? We don’t know who these people are – on either side -- and what axes they may have to grind. And we shouldn’t blindly trust these intel people, either. There may be plenty who are honest and honorable, but there are plenty who aren’t. (See McMullin, Evan, and Rice, Susan.) At this point at least, we’re in no position to assess the evidence. All we have so far is one set of faceless spooks anonymously providing evidence that contradicts what the other spook cohort reportedly said.
We’ve just come out of the roughest, nastiest presidential transition in my lifetime, made so by Barack Obama, the most despotic, overreaching president since the great proto-fascist Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat like Obama. While Obama smiled for the television cameras and pretended to be cooperating with the Trump people, behind the scenes he worked zealously to lay minefields to safeguard his destructive, anti-American legacy.
There is no parallel in American history for the Obama administration’s not-so-metaphorical war against the incoming Trump administration. Obama has even taken the extremely unusual step of staying behind in the nation’s capital to vex and harass his successor. He has rented an Embassy Row mansion not far from the White House, built a wall around it to keep prying eyes away, and arranged for his senior White House advisor, Valerie Jarrett, to live there. He is also using his well-funded nonprofit, Organizing for Action, to do his dirty work.
Obama’s strategy is working. The constant drumbeat about Russian meddling has helped to keep Trump’s approval numbers low enough that he can’t get his agenda through Congress.
But let’s go over how we got here.
President Trump published a series of tweets on his @realDonaldTrump account March 4, 2017.
At 6:35 a.m. he wrote, “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”
At 6:49 a.m. he wrote, “Is it legal for a sitting President to be ‘wire tapping’ a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!”
He tweeted again at 6:52 a.m., writing, “I'd bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!” At 7:02 a.m. he added, “How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”
Here Trump was referring to two instances last year when the FBI applied to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for warrants related to his activities. The June application to monitor communications between Trump and some of his advisers was refused, something that almost never happens. According to a Heat Street article citing anonymous sources, in October, a second, narrower application for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant was granted “after evidence was presented of a server, possibly related to the Trump campaign, and its alleged links to two banks; SVB Bank and Russia’s Alfa Bank.” The server was reportedly located in the Trump Tower in Manhattan but other reports suggested it was located in Philadelphia.
The granting of the warrant was also reported independently by BBC News on Jan. 12 in an article citing anonymous sources.
On Jan. 19, the New York Times published an article online with the headline, “Intercepted Russian Communications Part of Inquiry Into Trump Associates.” The item, which examines the wiretapping of the Trump team, relies on anonymous sources.
American law enforcement and intelligence agencies are examining intercepted communications and financial transactions as part of a broad investigation into possible links between Russian officials and associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, current and former senior American officials said.
A note at the bottom of the web page states, "A version of this article appears in print on January 20, 2017, on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Wiretapped Data Used in Inquiry of Trump Aides.” (Note the Old Gray Lady’s use of the word “Wiretapped.”)
So there is evidence out there in media outlets that left-wingers accept as credible that supports Trump’s wiretapping allegation against Obama. Whether that evidence is trustworthy or relevant will be decided at some point in the future – but it does exist regardless of the increasingly strident posturing of Fox News Channel’s worst anchor, Shepard Smith.
Some hairsplitting left-wingers pillory Trump for tweeting that President Obama, as opposed to the FBI, wiretapped him. This is semantic goalpost-shifting. Although the FBI enjoys great independence from the White House, it remains part of the Department of Justice in the administration of the sitting president.
And in colloquial American speech, that is, expression outside of legal documents and formal writing, people commonly attribute actions by federal employees to their ultimate overseer, the president of the United States of America. George H.W. Bush is commonly said to have raised Americans’ taxes in 1990, even though all he did in the legislative process – apart from being a RINO coward and betraying his political base – was minimal as he signed into law a bill that the people’s representatives in the House and Senate had sent him.
So according to this longstanding linguistic convention, because Barack Obama was president when the FBI sought the warrants against the Trump people, Barack Obama sought the wiretapping warrants, just as Donald Trump tweeted.
Some of the other intellectuals on the Left even attack Trump for supposedly using the verb “wiretap” incorrectly.
David Jackson of USA Today accuses Trump in a March 16 piece of “trying to alter the meaning of the term ‘wiretap.’” He adds, “[f]or days, Trump aides have tried to shift the term ‘wiretapping’ to ‘surveillance.’”
If true, Trump aides under pressure from the media have been wasting their time. Their boss got it right the first time, using the verb correctly on Twitter.
This is confirmed by the authoritative textbook, Introduction to Computer Security, by Matt Bishop, a professor of computer science at the University of California at Davis.
“Wiretapping, or passive wiretapping, is a form of snooping in which a network is monitored. (It is called ‘wiretapping’ because of the ‘wires’ that compose the network, although the term is used even if no physical wiring is involved.)”
There is the apparent admission of the existence of an Obama-era IC conspiracy by Dr. Evelyn N. Farkas to MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski on March 27. Farkas left her post as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia/Ukraine/Eurasia in 2015 and went on to serve as a foreign policy advisor to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Then there’s the March 16 allegation by Fox News contributor Andrew Napolitano who, citing unnamed sources, claimed President Obama may have used British intelligence to spy on Trump.
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.
Although Napolitano, who was briefly suspended by Fox News management for this statement, has been ridiculed for this claim, it isn’t as far-fetched as it may initially seem.
As my intrepid Capital Research Center colleague, Dr. Steven J. Allen, informed me, the United States and United Kingdom are parties to a multilateral intelligence cooperation pact. This five-way intelligence alliance among the U.S., United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada is called Five Eyes (FVEY). It obligates the countries to work together in the area of signals intelligence (SIGINT). SIGINT is the gathering of intelligence related to communications between individuals (COMINT) and or from electronic signals not directly used in communication (ELINT).
Her Majesty’s Government has allowed the U.S. to spy on Britons.
The Independent reported in 2013 that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government “gave America permission to store and analyse the email, mobile phone and internet records of potentially millions of innocent Britons” and that there “is no evidence that the practice has been discontinued.” The report added, “US intelligence uses a practice called ‘contact chaining’ – gathering data not just on surveillance target, but that of their friends and their friends, too.”
So if Napolitano’s sources are correct, British spymasters may very well have had no good reason to turn down a request from Obama or his subordinates to spy on Trump’s people
This is not an exhaustive compilation of evidence that bolsters Trump’s claim.
But it is enough to show that the president isn’t making a “baseless” accusation against his predecessor.
Matthew Vadum is senior vice president at Capital Research Center, a think-tank in Washington, D.C., and editor-in-chief of its new Bombthrowers blog. He is also an investigative reporter and author of the ACORN/Obama exposé Subversion Inc.: How Obama's ACORN Red Shirts are Still Terrorizing and Ripping Off American Taxpayers. Follow him on Twitter. E-mail him at matthewvadum [at] gmail.com.