Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said on Sunday that he would have been aware of any FISA court-ordered surveillance of Trump Tower and the Trump surrogates within during the campaign by the Obama Administration., He says he was not, implying there was none:
A former top intel official under President Obama asserted Sunday that President Trump's phones were not tapped, contradicting a claim made by the current president."Obviously, I can't speak officially anymore, but I will say that for the part of the national security apparatus that I oversaw as [Director of National Intelligence], there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president-elect at the time or as a candidate or against his campaign," James Clapper said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."Clapper maintained that he would've been told of there was a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court order to survey Trump's phones on "something like this.""I can deny it," Clapper said, asserting that an order related to Trump or Trump Tower does not exist to his "knowledge."
Clapper may think that the Obama administration is incapable of such an act, the same Obama administration that used the IRS in a way Richard Nixon only dreamed of in targeting the Tea Party movement. 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:
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.
The Obama administration spied on many world leaders and, speaking of interfering in elections, interfered in the Israeli election in an attempt to unseat Benjamin Netanyahu.
The State Department paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayers grants to an Israeli group that used the money to build a campaign to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in last year's Israeli parliamentary elections, a congressional investigation concluded Tuesday.
Some $350,000 was sent to OneVoice, ostensibly to support the group's efforts to back Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement negotiations. But OneVoice used the money to build a voter database, train activists and hire a political consulting firm with ties to President Obama's campaign - all of which set the stage for an anti-Netanyahu campaign, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations said in a bipartisan staff report.
Of course, the Obama administration was not above surveillance of the press and treating respected reporters as 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 con
demning 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.
The James Clapper who denies Obama administration spying on the Trump campaign is the same James Clapper who once lied to Congress, saying 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 James 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.
Clapper later told MSNBC he considered the question akin to asking, "When did you stop beating your wife?" and so gave the "least untruthful" answer.
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."
The record of James Clapper and the Obama administration on truthfulness is suspect. The Obama administration has spied on world leaders, American citizens, and the press. It is said that Trump has provided no proof of Obama administration surveillance, which is hard to do in a tweet. But Breitbart's Joel Pollak has put together an interesting timeline of the surveillance scenario, including not one, but two FISA requests with such items as:
1. June 2016: FISA request. The Obama administration files a request with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) to monitor communications involving Donald Trump and several advisers. The request, uncharacteristically, is denied…
4. October: FISA request. The Obama administration submits a new, narrow request to the FISA court, now focused on a computer server in Trump Tower suspected of links to Russian banks. No evidence is found -- but the wiretaps continue, ostensibly for national security reasons, Andrew McCarthy at National Review later notes. The Obama administration is now monitoring an opposing presidential campaign using the high-tech surveillance powers of the federal intelligence services….
7. January: Times report. The New York Times reports, on the eve of Inauguration Day, that several agencies -- the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Treasury Department are monitoring several associates of the Trump campaign suspected of Russian ties. Other news outlets also report the existence of "a multiagency working group to coordinate investigations across the government," though it is unclear how they found out, since the investigations would have been secret and involved classified information.
Yes, that's the same Brietbart Trump adviser Steve Bannon ran. But if there's a credibility contest between Clapper, the Obama administration, and Team Trump, my money is on the latter.
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.