Trump Settles Score with Former US Intelligence Chiefs
A murky, undeclared war raging for months between President Donald Trump and parts of the US intelligence community turned sharply in a new direction in the past week.
Saturday, March 4, he alleged on Twitter that Barack Obama had ordered Trump Tower phones to be tapped. This was followed three days later by the WikiLeaks exposé of the “myriad ways” in which the CIA hacks popular smartphones like iPhone and Android devices and takes control off internet connection televisions to eavesdrop on conversations in our living rooms.
In fact, those capabilities by the CIA, which the National Security Agency possesses in an even greater measure, have been out in the public domain for years. More than one world leader has complained about US intelligence bugging their offices, homes and cars. Even vetted personnel employed in sensitive workplaces may be prohibited from entering “sterile areas” before surrendering personal electronic devices at the gate.
All the same, government hackers are not believed to be yet able to pierce secure messaging apps and read encrypted messages, unless they have access to the phone itself. Therefore, the use of a reliable encryption app is likely to protect communications from these vast surveillance nets.
Part of the fallout from the WikiLeaks disclosure was the discovery that US government hackers can operate in disguise as intruders of a foreign government or spy service. If the CIA did wiretap the phones of Trump Tower while Obama was still in the White House, it could have posed as Russian or Chinese intelligence hackers.
This discovery has wide connotations.
During the 2016 election battle, the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign and party accused WikiLeaks of obtaining from Russian intelligence hacked emails of her campaign chief John Podesta for damaging her candidacy.
The Trump campaign, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and Moscow all vehemently denied the charge.
In the ensuing months, a barrage of “intelligence sources” sensationally accused Trump associates of colluding with the Russians to tilt the election in his favor.
Neither allegation was supported by hard evidence, any more than the president’s charge of wiretapping ordered by his predecessor.
On March 6, former US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper chipped in by telling television interviewers that he was unaware of any evidence that the Russian government had colluded with the Trump campaign during the US election. Asked if such proof even existed, he said: “Not to my knowledge.”
But then, he was asked if he still believed the Trump-Russia collusion claims, and he said: “Yes, I do.”
Clapper went on to shoot down claims of wiretapping mounted against the President-elect. However his insistence that there was no electronic surveillance of Donald Trump or his presidential campaign was not a flat denial.
But who needs evidence when a flashy headline or timely tweet can skew the course of the national narrative?
The Heat Street news site (owned by News Corp.) carried a report in November, picked up by the BBC in January, of a secret surveillance order issued by a special court permitting the Obama administration’s Justice Department to investigate two Russian banks. They were suspected of supporting the Kremlin’s alleged efforts to hurt the Clinton campaign and tip the scales in favor of Trump.
The BBC added for good measure that the Justice Department had acted on a tipoff from one of the Baltic states, according to which those banks were feeding Russian funds into the US presidential campaign.
Both reports noted that, under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance act, the monitoring of the banks would also cover president-elect Trump. Were these reports the source of the president’s tweet?
They would certainly provide a precedent for monitoring Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn’s phone calls to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, which led to his downfall as national security adviser. Government agencies routinely tapping the ambassador’s phones would cover his conversations with Flynn, without recourse to a court order, and then carry on monitoring henceforth.
The battle between the president and past and present leftovers of the former administration in the intelligence community is far from over, although Trump will find that as president he has gained new weapons for fighting back.
One thought on “Trump Settles Score with Former US Intelligence Chiefs”
I know this article is old, but, I have to say…who doesn’t want a POTUS that stands his ground, takes everything his opposition fires at him, swings back…and wins! I may not agree with his, um, style or wording, and I do not agree with everything he’s doing, but-DAMN-he’s effective, and he’s winning for our Country. Maybe it does take a man like Trump to shake things up, fix whats broken, and right whats wrong. MAGA.
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