Hamilton: Electronic surveillance: I spy. You spy. (column)
March 28, 2017
Recently, in open congressional hearings, the admiral in charge of the National Security Agency (NSA), and even FBI Director James Comey, stated that they have yet to find any evidence of collusion between members of Team Trump and the Russians. But to have arrived at those conclusions means that the NSA and the FBI must have had Candidate Trump and President-Elect Trump's campaign staff and, later, President Trump's transition team under NSA and FBI surveillance — electronic and/or physical, as in "wiretapping."
But wait. There's more! FBI Director Comey says he is still investigating Team Trump. Yet, for some reason, is no longer looking at Team Hillary or at the Democratic National Committee and their ties to Russian nationals. So was President Trump off base when he tweeted on March 4, 2017, that the Obama Administration had his campaign staff and his transition staff "wiretapped?" Granted, he should have said "placed under electronic surveillance."
Recall, just seven days into the Trump Administration, the details of a telephone conversation between President Trump and the President of Mexico were published in certain US newspapers and on TV. Who asked the NSA for that? Who approved it? Who leaked it to the media? Six days later, the details of a telephone conversation between President Trump and Australian Prime Minister were made public. Who asked NSA for that? Who approved it? Who leaked it to the media?
Back on March 13, 2017, we wrote: "…there are some bureaucrats in what is called the Administrative State or Deep State (take your pick) who are waging a War of Sedition versus the Trump Administration. Someone in the Executive Branch, which includes the intelligence community (IC) and the FBI, asked a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (aka FISA Court) for a warrant to monitor Candidate Trump's internal communications. That was refused. A non-FISA request from President Obama's Department of Justice was approved, allowing the Trump Tower and his campaign staffers to be bugged. On March 5, 2017, James Clapper, President Obama's former Director of National Intelligence, stated that the surveillance of President-Elect Trump by the IC and the FBI found zero evidence of unlawful communications between Trump's staffers and the Russians…" (I should have explained that "bugged" includes both electronic and physical means of surveillance.)
By law, when the NSA intercepts communications between foreign nationals and U.S. citizens — unless it is apparent that the U.S. citizen is engaged in traitorous or criminal activity — the citizen's name is redacted (blanked out) and the dissemination is restricted to the NSA and to the requesting agency. But just three days before he left office, President Obama issued a directive allowing all 17 agencies of the Intelligence Community, which includes the FBI, to have access to any and all of this raw information and, worst of all, the names of the U.S. citizens involved were left open for all to see. Ergo: presumably innocent people were "unmasked." Whoever did that can be subject to criminal sanctions.
Despite the old-fashioned imprecision of President Trump's allegation of being "wiretapped," as Dr. Henry Kissinger famously said, "Just because you are paranoid doesn't mean they're not after you."
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Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame, and is a recipient of the University of Nebraska 2015 Alumni Achievement Award. He was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.