Wiretapping Donald Trump
On March 4 President Trump tweeted that former President Obama had tapped his phone during the election campaign:
“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”
The New York Times’ skeptical headline reads, “Trump, Offering No Evidence, Says Obama Tapped His Phones.” A spokesman for the former president stated, “Neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false."
Could this be another example of Trump “fake news?
It seems unlikely. Former President Obama did not need to micromanage his minions. It is unlikely that he had to give a direct order to wiretap Donald Trump’s phone. So it is probably true that he did not order the surveillance. However, was Trump wiretapped under the Obama administration? The answer appears to be yes. Even the New York Times has reported this: “One official said intelligence reports based on some of the wiretapped communications had been provided to the White House.” The apparent justification for this conclusion is based on reports of a FISA warrant that was first requested in June 2016. FISA stands for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The warrant request is based on the belief that the target of the surveillance has acted as an agent of a foreign power. This original warrant was denied by the court, so it was reissued in October. The October warrant was approved. According to Andrew McCarthy, “The Obama Justice Department and the FBI spent at least eight months searching for Trump–Russia ties. They found nothing criminal, and clearly nothing connecting Trump to Russian hacking.”
However, the government did not need a FISA warrant to wiretap Donald Trump. The National Security Agency more than likely possesses all of that information. NSA Director James Clapper testified before Congress in 2013 that the agency did not collect "any type of data at all" on millions of Americans. Three months later, documents leaked by Edward Snowden revealed that Clapper had lied. It would be reasonable to believe that after this revelation, Congress would have increased its oversight of NSA. It would also be reasonable to believe that James Clapped would have been indicted for perjury. One of the major problems with press coverage of these events is that much of the information provided is provided by criminals. These reliable anonymous sources are by definition criminals.
This wiretap incident is all part of a larger unconstitutional government intrusion into the lives of its citizens. There is a long history of illegal government surveillance. It goes back before the J. Edgar Hoover sex tapes of Martin Luther King, Jr., for one. Congresswoman Maxine Waters commented on this database in 2013. She claimed,
“The president has put in place an organization that contains a kind of database that no one has ever seen before in life. That’s going to be very, very powerful.”
This is not simply a database developed by a political party to keep track of its donors. As Waters says,
“that database will have information about everything on every individual in ways that it’s never been done before.”
The federal government conducts millions of background investigations. Most of these are fairly routine. However, in certain cases, a more thorough investigation may be required. Some of these investigations may even require creating compromising situations. Highly respected politicians may be subject to pressure because of their past behavior. Dennis Hastert and Larry Craig have demonstrated that prominent politicians are vulnerable. When President Obama left the White House he took this database with him. This will be a “very, very powerful” tool.
John Dietrich is a freelance writer and the author of The Morgenthau Plan: Soviet Influence on American Postwar Policy, Algora Publishing, 2013.