White House Seeks to Allay British Concerns Over Unfounded Wiretapping Claim
- Author: Leroy Wright Mar 18, 2017,
Mar 18, 2017, 8:58
The White House has offered no proof.
Soon after, the impact of Trump's words was felt, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer tried to redefine the word wiretap and stated to the media, "There is significant reporting about surveillance techniques that have existed throughout the 2016 election".
Trump has stood by his claim, repeating the allegation again Friday while standing next to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. It doesn't appear that Trump read the article closely, however, because it does not say Obama personally ordered a tap on his phones during the election, as Trump claimed in his tweet.
During a Thursday briefing, Spicer read a report by a Fox News legal analyst that claimed Obama used the GCHQ intelligence agency to surveil President Trump during the campaign, reading aloud from Andrew Napolitano's statement on-air. "You should be talking to Fox", the New York Times quoted him as saying.
"Mr Napolitano added: "[Mr Obama] didn't use the NSA, he didn't use the Central Intelligence Agency, he didn't use the Federal Bureau of Investigation and he didn't use the Department of Justice, he used GCHQ. "That's the initials for the British spying agency".
In a rare public statement, Britain's GCHQ, Britain's Government Communications Headquarters, the equivalent of the U.S. National Security Agency which monitors overseas electronic communications, said the claims should be ignored.
It said: "Recent allegations made by media commentator judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct "wiretapping" against the then president-elect are nonsense".
Asked by a reporter whether the subject of GCHQ's alleged involvement had raised between the two governments and whether it would affect the so-called "special relationship" between the US and the U.K., Spicer backtracked. We're not casting judgment on that.
"I didn't make opinion on it, that was statement made by a very talented lawyer on Fox [News]", he added, saying that reporters "shouldn't be talking to me, you should be talking to Fox".
The claim is all the more incendiary given the close intelligence-sharing relationship between the two countries.
"We have received assurances that these allegations won't be repeated", James Slack, a spokesman for May, said Friday. The U.S. and the United Kingdom, along with Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, form the Five Eyes - a decades-old intelligence cooperative in which the countries share much of their signals intelligence and pledge not to spy on each another.