The Trump administration is twisting itself into knots attempting to prove or justify the President’s tweets about Barack Obama and his former administration officials’ “wiretapping” Trump Tower between November and Inauguration Day, while some of those high ranking Obama officials are once again using their twitter accounts to fire back at Trump
“When will Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd and @NBCNews start talking about the Obama SURVEILLANCE SCANDAL and stop with the Fake Trump/Russia story?” Trump fired off from Twitter early Saturday morning. Former Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, fired back, as he is prone to do with little self awareness, “There is no Obama SURVEILLANCE SCANDAL even when you capitalize the words.”
As the facts about who surveilled whom during the transition get sorted out, it is useful to remember why Trump’s team and his supporters have reason to be suspicious, thanks to a long documented history of Obama using shady surveillance tactics on both political opponents and international allies. Rhodes himself knows this history but that doesn’t seem to matter as he once again attempts to make people believe he fell out of the sky and onto Twitter on January 21st, 2017.
To help jog Rhodes’ memory, below are all the documented instances of the Obama administration using and in some cases abusing surveillance.
1. Fox News reporter James Rosen
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In 2013 the news broke that Eric Holder’s Justice Department had spied on James Rosen. Obama’s DOJ collected Rosen’s telephone records as well as tracked his movements to and from the State Department from where he reported. Rosen was named as a possible co-conspirator in a Justice Department affidavit. Rosen claims that his parents phone line was also swept up in the collection of his records and DOJ records seem to confirm that. Despite the targeting of Rosen, there were no brave calls to boycott the White House Correspondents Dinner.
2. Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA
CIA officers penetrated a network used to share information by Senate Intel committee members, including Sen. Diane Feinstein, the committee’s Democrat chair. The bombshell New York Times report went on to disclose:
The C.I.A. officials penetrated the computer network when they came to suspect that the committee’s staff had gained unauthorized access to an internal C.I.A. review of the detention program that the spy agency never intended to give to Congress. A C.I.A. lawyer then referred the agency’s suspicions to the Justice Department to determine whether the committee staff broke the law when it obtained that document. The inspector general report said that there was no “factual basis” for this referral, which the Justice Department has declined to investigate, because the lawyer had been provided inaccurate information. The report said that the three information technology officers “demonstrated a lack of candor about their activities” during interviews with the inspector general.
The Obama White House defended CIA director John Brennan’s actions and response. Imagine that.
3. Prism In 2013, it was revealed how the Obama administration and NSA were facilitating a secret government mass surveillance program called Prism, because the name Orwell would have been too obvious, I guess.
Prism was created to access private communications of internet subscribers through several IP providers. This was done without the knowledge (or at the very least, the denial) or permission of the leaders of the targeted companies, including Google, Yahoo and Facebook. Defenders of the program, including President Obama suggested that Americans were not intentionally being caught up in Prism’s net and that the program was only to monitor actively from outside the united states coming into the country as part of the FISA authorization.
This is the same claim that is being made in the Flynn case. Director of Intelligence James Clapper while under oath denied any American citizens were currently under surveillance. When pressed again, Clapper hedged his answer by saying “Not intentionally.” The Washington Post hammered Obama himself for a misleading claim in a press conference he gave post discovery, titled “Remember when Obama said the NSA wasn’t “actually abusing” its powers? He was wrong.”
4. Angela Merkel and German Foreign Press
Every country spies on every country. This is not exactly a shocking revelation, be it ally or enemy. When, using information provided by Edward Snowden, Wikileaks revealed in Der Spiegel that Obama’s NSA had possibly targeted German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s private communications however, it was a direct black eye to the President. Jake Tapper, not exactly known for his hackneyed loyalty toward the Trump administration wrote in 2015, “Obama administration spied on German media as well as its government.” Tapper reported:
Less observed this week was news that the NSA was eavesdropping not only on Merkel, but also in some capacity on Germany’s free press, specifically Der Spiegel. CNN has learned that in early summer 2011, the CIA station chief in Berlin (also representing the NSA at the U.S. Embassy) met with Heiss and his assistant Guido Müller. The CIA station chief urged the two men to take action against Heiss’ deputy, Hans-Josef Vorbeck, who he said was leaking classified information to journalists.
That the U.S. government thought it appropriate to spy on journalists doing their jobs is controversial enough. But why would it be appropriate for U.S. officials to use these tools—given to save lives and protect U.S. national security—to notify the German government about officials talking to reporters in the normal exercise of a free press?”
Merkel was not alone. French President Francois Hollande was skeptical of the Obama administration and NSA’s explanation as was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, when members of Congress were swept up in intelligence gathering while targeting top Israeli officials.
5. Associated Press Phone Records
Much like James Rosen and his shady al Qaeda looking parents, Obama’s Justice Department secretly obtained months of phone records belonging to AP journalists while investigating a failed terror attack. And much like the Rosen spying, this was personally approved by Attorney General Holder.
Mass surveillance and expansion of such under the Patriot Act is one of the most historically prevalent things about the Obama administration. There’s even a Wikipedia page dedicated to that alone. So why do the media and former administration officials act shocked and surprised when someone points the finger in their direction and asks if targeting an incoming President is possible?
There is a long, decorated history of questionable—even unconstitutional—surveillance from the Obama administration none of which proves Trump’s twitter ravings to be true. But it certainly is enough to raise suspicions among Trump’s supporters and even some of this critics that he could be perfectly correct.