Posts Tagged ‘NSA’

Nunes-White House question — minute-by-minute

March 29, 2017
March 29 at 4:03 PM
The Washington Post
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Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) is under fire from Democrats who say the House intelligence committee chair should recuse himself from the committee’s investigation into Russia, because he’s too close to President Trump. Can Nunes retain his credibility as the investigation plays out? (Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza laid out a compelling case on Tuesday evening for why he thinks that the White House was likely aware of what Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) was up to last week.

Nunes, as you probably now know, is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and, in that role, in charge of one of the investigations into how Russia may have tried to influence the 2016 election and, further, if anyone associated with President Trump’s campaign was involved. Over the course of the past week, though, Nunes has imperiled that position. On March 22, he suddenly told the press that he’d seen intelligence suggesting that some Trump associates had been caught up in government surveillance — which, we were left to assume, might mean that Trump’s March 4 tweets about having been wiretapped by former president Barack Obama had some validity.

Since Nunes didn’t actually share that intelligence, since he later amended his description of what he’d seen and since the manner in which he alerted the public to what he’d discovered can at best be described as unorthodox, the story quickly became about Nunes instead of what he alleges he learned. As reporters dug into the story, we learned that Nunes actually reviewed those documents within the White House complex (though not at the White House itself).

Lizza’s piece fleshes out the timeline further, including a conversation Lizza had with an administration staffer at the beginning of last week suggesting that the White House and Nunes would offer the same argument in defense of Trump’s (false) assertion.

Here are the key points of what Nunes and the White House said and did.

Saturday, March 4. Trump tweets.

Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!

Wednesday, March 15. While answering question from reporters about his committee’s investigation, Nunes — who served on the executive committee of Trump’s presidential transition team — tells NBC’s Kasie Hunt that “it’s very possible” that associates of Trump’s may have been swept up in what’s called “incidental collection.” That would mean that their communication was inadvertently observed as authorities were surveilling someone else. Imagine if you’re reading through someone’s email looking for information. Emails sent to or from other people from that account would be viewed by you incidentally.

This is apparently what happened to former national security adviser Michael Flynn. His communications with Russia’s ambassador were revealed because the ambassador was under surveillance, not, it seems, because Flynn was.

March 15, evening. In an interview with Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, Trump explains how he “learned” about the wiretapping after “reading about things” and having “been seeing a lot of things.”

He then makes a comment that’s more resonant after the Nunes mess.

Now, for the most part, I’m not going to discuss it, because we have it before the committee and we will be submitting things before the committee very soon that hasn’t been submitted as of yet. But it’s potentially a very serious situation.

He later adds:

But, we will be submitting certain things and I will be perhaps speaking about this next week, but it’s right now before the committee, and I think I want to leave it. I have a lot of confidence in the committee. … I think you’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.

This sort of “you’ll see” argumentation from Trump is not uncommon. Consider his allegations that millions of people voted illegally, a claim that’s patently false. Trump’s method of rebutting the fact that he has no evidence for the claim is to suggest that more will come out eventually. But here Trump says specifically that “we will be submitting certain things,” which is a slightly different assertion.

Monday, March 20, morning. “[S]hortly before the start of the hearing,” Lizza writes, “a senior White House official told me, ‘You’ll see the setting of the predicate. That’s the thing to watch today.” The predicate, Lizza writes, was incidental collection. “The White House clearly indicated to me that it knew Nunes would highlight this issue,” Lizza writes, adding that he was told, “It’s backdoor surveillance where it’s not just incidental, it’s systematic. Watch Nunes today.”

March 20, 10 a.m. The hearing begins. There don’t appear to have been any documents submitted by the president.

Nunes’s second question addresses the issue of incidental collection of intelligence.

Were the communications of officials or associates of any campaign subject to any kind of improper surveillance? The Intelligence Community has extremely strict procedures for handling information pertaining to any U.S. citizens who are subject even to incidental surveillance, and this Committee wants to ensure all surveillance activities have followed all relevant laws, rules, and regulations. Let me be clear: we know there was not a wiretap on Trump Tower. However, it’s still possible that other surveillance activities were used against President Trump and his associates.

Nunes also encouraged “anyone who has information about these topics to come forward and speak to the Committee.”

Tuesday, March 21, afternoon or evening. According to the Daily Beast, Nunes and a staffer are traveling in an Uber when Nunes gets a “communication on his phone” — an email or text message, presumably — and the congressman suddenly exits the car. The precise timing on this isn’t clear; in later interviews, Nunes says that it was still daylight. It’s also not clear where exactly he got out of the car.

What is now clear is where he went: The Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the grounds of the White House.

To gain access to the building, Nunes would need to have been cleared by a White House staffer. It’s not clear who that was; on Wednesday, press secretary Sean Spicer said he is looking into who it may have been — something that those familiar with the process suggest should only take a few moments of effort. It’s also not clear with whom Nunes met,although he described his source for the information to Bloomberg‘s Eli Lake as an “intelligence official” and not a White House staffer.

Nunes was there, he says, to view sensitive information in a sensitive compartmented information facility, or SCIF — a room that offers special protections against electronic or other forms of surveillance. In total, he said he saw “dozens” of reports.

He was doing so within the White House grounds, he said, because the information he was viewing was coming from the executive branch; namely, it seems, an intelligence agency. While there is an SCIF available to the House Intelligence Committee, it’s part of the legislative branch and, Nunes says, therefore wasn’t a place where the documents could be reviewed. “[T]he source could not simply put the documents in a backpack and walk them over to the House Intelligence Committee space,” a spokesman for Nunes told the Huffington Post.

Wednesday, March 22. Nunes first offered a brief statement to reporters on Capitol Hill before heading to the White House and briefing Trump on what he’d learned.

I recently confirmed that on numerous occasions, the intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition. Details about persons associated with the incoming administration — details with little apparent foreign intelligence value — were widely disseminated in intelligence community reporting. I have confirmed that additional names of Trump transition team members were unmasked. To be clear, none of this surveillance was related to Russia, or the investigation of Russian activities, or of the Trump team.

After meeting with Trump, he answered questions from the White House driveway. Asked why he told the possible target of his investigation about information potentially related to that investigation, Nunes reiterated that what he’d seen was unrelated to Russia. “The president needs to know that these intelligence reports are out there, and I have a duty to tell him that,” Nunes said. He indicated that the information he’d seen may have come from confidential Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants, which, if true, may open him up to an ethics probe.

Nunes’s Democratic colleagues on the House Intelligence Committee expressed their anger at Trump being informed before they were. For his part, Trump said that he felt “somewhat” vindicated by what Nunes had told him.

Thursday, March 23. Answering a question during his daily news briefing, Spicer says that it “doesn’t really seem to make a ton of sense” that Nunes would have gotten information from the administration on Tuesday and come back on Wednesday to share it with the president. “I don’t know why he would come up to brief the president on something that we gave him,” Spicer said.

Monday, March 27. Spicer changes his tune.

“Can you say factually, absolutely flatly, that it is not possible that Chairman Nunes came to brief the president on something that he obtained from the White House or the administration?” a reporter asks.

“I can’t say 100 percent that I know anything what he briefed him on,” Spicer replied. “What I can tell you through his public comments is that he has said that he had multiple sources that he came to a conclusion on. So to the degree to which any of those sources weighed on the ultimate outcome of what he came to a decision on, I don’t know. And that’s something that, frankly, I don’t even know that he discussed with the president.”

“So it’s possible?” the reporter asked. “As far as you know right now, it’s possible?”

“Anything is possible,” Spicer said.

Tuesday, March 28. After nearly a week during which most of the timeline above is revealed — and after scheduled Intelligence Committee hearings are canceled — Nunes says that he would “never” tell his colleagues on the committee who his source was.

House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes DOES NOT recuse himself from Russia probe

March 29, 2017

Democrats like Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi are calling for the recusal of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes over possible coordination with the Trump administration.

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WASHINGTON — Rep. Devin Nunes, besieged by Democrats demanding he recuse himself or step down as leader of the investigation of Russian meddling in last year’s presidential campaign, said Tuesday that his GOP colleagues “are perfectly fine” with him remaining chairman of the House intelligence committee.

“Why would I not?” said Nunes when asked whether he would remain chairman as a scrum of reporters followed him through the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday morning.

Nunes, a California Republican, also defended his decision to postpone Tuesday’s scheduled hearing with former Obama national security officials, saying that, until FBI Director James Comey comes in for a closed session with the committee, it would be “hard to move forward” with other evidence.

The ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, said it would be “very difficult” to carry out a credible investigation without the chairman recusing himself in light of confirmed reports that Nunes looked at documents at the White House that he says showed proof that Trump campaign officials were caught up in “incidental” surveillance by intelligence agencies during the transition.

The No. 2 Democrat in the House, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, said Nunes had forfeited his ability to lead an investigation and called for creation of a special commission.

Told press @DevinNunes disqualified himself from presiding over House Intelligence Cmte investigation. We need an independent commission.

President Trump has said he feels “somewhat vindicated” by Nunes’ evidence of surveillance. Trump tweeted on March 4 that President Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower, which Comey and others have said is not accurate.

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former CIA drector John Brennan and former acting attorney general Sally Yates were scheduled to testify in an open session Tuesday until Nunes announced Friday that the hearing would be postponed.

 

Clapper was the first national security official to say Trump’s wiretap allegation had no basis in fact and could have been expected to say so at the hearing. Yates informed White House counsel Don McGahn that former national security adviser Michael Flynn had misled Vice President Pence about his conversations during the transition with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Yates was fired by Trump after she told U.S. attorneys around the nation not to defend the president’s first travel ban that restricted the entry of residents from seven mostly Muslim nations.

Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was asked about Nunes at a meeting Tuesday morning after he met with the House Republican conference.

“Should Devin Nunes recuse himself from Russia investigation and do you know the source” of his information, he was asked. Said Ryan: “No and no.”

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/03/28/devin-nunes-under-pressure-recuse-himself-trump-campaign-probe/99727372/

Top Democrats call for Devin Nunes to recuse himself from Trump-Russia inquiry — Devin Nunes Cancels House Intelligence Committee Meetings

March 28, 2017

and in New York and in Washington

Nancy Pelosi joined Adam Schiff in demanding Nunes step aside from inquiry into 2016 election interference ‘in interest of a fair and impartial investigation’

Devin Nunes speaks to reporters outside the White House.
Devin Nunes speaks to reporters outside the White House. Photograph: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Leading Democrats have escalated the controversy over the erratic behavior of Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, calling on him to recuse himself from the investigation into alleged links between the president’s associates and Russia.

Both Adam Schiff, Nunes’ counterpart on the committee, and Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader of the House of Representatives, demanded that he step aside from the ongoing Russia affair that has become an enduring sore for the young Trump administration.

The intervention of senior Democrats takes the dispute to a new level of intensity, raising the prospect of the governing party being forced to make a second humiliating concession after US attorney general Jeff Sessions was forced this month to stand back from all Russian inquiries after he failed to disclose meetings with Moscow’s ambassador to Washington.

Schiff was the first to wade into the fray on Monday night, calling on Nunes to recuse himself in the wake of mounting controversy about his handling of the Russian inquiry. The ranking Democrat on the committee drew a parallel with the Sessions recusal and said in a statement: “I believe the public cannot have the necessary confidence that matters involving the president’s campaign or transition team can be objectively investigated or overseen by the chairman.”

Less than an hour later, Pelosi came out with a similarly weighed statement, saying that her equivalent in the House, Paul Ryan, should lean on Nunes to make him stand aside. “Speaker Ryan must insist that chairman Nunes at least recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation immediately. That leadership is long overdue.”

The top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, also added his voice to the growing chorus for a Nunes recusal. The senator accused the Republican chairman of being “more interested in protecting the president than in seeking the truth. You cannot have the person in charge of an impartial investigation be partial to one side.”

The open partisan split within the powerful intelligence committee came as Schiff complained that members of the panel continue to wait for Nunes to present them with documents ostensibly relating to intelligence collected on Trump days after he had briefed the president. The embattled committee chairman raised further questions when he said he had no choice under classification rules except to view the sensitive intelligence at the White House, a statement likely to intensify speculation that the Trump administration fed Nunes the material.

The source who made the materials available to Nunes “could not simply put the documents in a backpack and walk them over to the House intelligence committee space”, Nunes’ office said on Monday.

In his statement on Monday night, Schiff tore into the chairman’s explanation. “There was no legitimate justification for bringing that information to the White House instead of the committee,” he said, adding: “That it was obtained at the White House makes this departure all the more concerning.”

Adam Schiff.
Adam Schiff. Photograph: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Further pressure on Nunes to stand down from the Russian investigation came from the top Democrat on the CIA subcommittee of the House intelligence committee, Eric Swalwell. The chairman should “no longer be anywhere near this investigation, let alone leading it”, he said.

Swalwell added that “too many people in the White House and administration, and now, the chairman of the House intelligence committee, have betrayed their duty to conduct an independent, bipartisan inquiry into the Trump team’s ties with Russia”.

Spicer repeatedly refused to offer any details about why Nunes was on the White House grounds and whom the California congressman was meeting with. “I’m not going to get into who he met with or why,” he said, while insisting the White House “was not concerned” over the possibility of classified information being leaked to Nunes.

Nunes, a member of Trump’s national security transition team, has come under sustained criticism that he is obstructing a high-profile investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia that he is running – a charge likely to intensify over the coming days.

On Wednesday, he stunned Washington by suggesting that communications from Trump’s associates were incidentally collected as part of “lawful” surveillance, with their identities insufficiently masked.

Contradicting testimony from the FBI and NSA directors, Trump claimed Nunes’ remarks provided a modicum of vindication for the president’s baseless claim that Obama placed Trump Tower under surveillance, something even Nunes continues to deny. Nunes has said the intelligence collection that “alarmed” him did not concern Russia.

Before making his statement calling for Nunes’ recusal, Schiff had publicly doubted the impartiality of the House inquiry. Those concerns escalated after Nunes abruptly canceled a public hearing scheduled for Tuesday into the Trump-Russia question.

Nunes has dodged questions, primarily from CNN, that his source came from the White House, and intimated that whistleblowers from the intelligence agencies brought the surveillance documents to him. Nunes told Bloomberg View on Monday that his source was an intelligence official and not a White House staffer.

But Nunes’ office has acknowledged that the chairman viewed whatever surveillance documents he has acquired on the White House grounds, apparently at the Eisenhower executive office building, where the national security council staff works.

Viewing the documents at the White House came under immediate scrutiny, since the House committee possesses secure facilities where it frequently accesses classified information as part of its routine responsibilities.

But Jack Langer, Nunes’ spokesman, told the Guardian that Nunes saw at the White House “executive branch documents” that Congress does not have.

“The White House grounds was the best location to safeguard the proper chain of custody and classification of these documents, so the chairman could view them in a legal way,” Langer said.

It remained unclear why, if Nunes’ source did not originate from the White House, viewing the documents had to occur at the White House complex. His explanation to Bloomberg was that the White House was the closest available location to access a classified computer network hived off from Congress. Nunes appears not to have paid visits to intelligence agency locations where the information would be accessible, including the offices of the director of national intelligence, FBI and NSA.

Langer did not immediately respond to a follow-up question about whether Nunes had in effect confirmed that his source for the documents came from the White House itself.

Read the rest:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/27/devin-nunes-white-house-intelligence-source-trump

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Devin Nunes Cancels House Intelligence Committee Meetings Amid Growing Questions

The chairman is in hot water.

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03/28/2017 09:13 am ET

WASHINGTON ― Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) on Tuesday abruptly canceled all House Intelligence Committee meetings scheduled for this week, according to committee members, raising further questions on whether its investigation into ties between President Donald Trump’s administration and Russia can proceed.

“Not only [has] this investigation sort of had a shadow cast on it, but the committee has been put into suspended animation,” committee member Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) said on MSNBC, confirming previous reports that Nunes, the committee chair, had canceled the meetings.

The move comes amid growing scrutiny over whether Nunes can lead an independent investigation into ties between Trump’s team and Russian officials.

Nunes claimed last week that members of the president’s team were subject to “incidental” surveillance. One day before making these allegations, however, he met with a source on White House grounds. Nunes said he needed a secure location to view sensitive information, but the visit raised further doubts about the transparency of the investigation and whether Nunes is coordinating with the White House.

After holding a press conference about his findings, Nunes also briefed Trump, whose team is under FBI investigation for alleged ties to Russian officials who may have interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.

Himes said Tuesday that Nunes had not shared his information with the rest of the committee.

“No member of the committee, Republican or Democrat, has seen, after a full week, this stuff that caused Nunes to make himself famous nationally,” Himes said Tuesday. “Not a single member of the committee. I don’t even think anybody on his own staff has any idea what caused him to do this sort of musical chairs thing with the White House.”

Democrats have called for Nunes, who served on Trump’s transition team, to recuse himself from the investigation or even to be replaced as head of the committee, with some speculating that the chairman wants to protect Trump.

“Chairman Nunes is falling down on the job and seems to be more interested in protecting the president than in seeking the truth,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Monday.

Several Democratic members of the committee said Nunes had lost their trust.

“In the interest of a fair and impartial investigation, whose results will be respected by the public, the Chairman’s recusal is more than warranted,” the committee’s ranking member, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), said Monday.

I think that the writing is on the wall. It might make a good spy novel. It doesn’t make a good investigation.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.)

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), another member of the committee, said Nunes’ White House meeting was “the last straw.” She suggested he had “colluded in a desperate attempt to salvage the president’s credibility, after the president’s bogus wiretapping claims were debunked by his own FBI director.”

She told CNN on Tuesday that she believes “there is an effort under way to shut this committee down, by the president.”

“I don’t think he can just recuse himself and still chair the committee,” Speier said of Nunes. “I think that the writing is on the wall. It might make a good spy novel. It doesn’t make a good investigation.”

But Nunes said in interviews Monday night that he has no intention of stepping down.

“I’m sure the Democrats do want me to quit because they know that I’m quite effective at getting to the bottom of things,” he told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/devin-nunes-trump-intelligence-committee_us_58da50dbe4b00f68a5caa9cd

Alleged Obama administration spying on Trump team — Is there a potential ‘smoking gun’?

March 24, 2017

By

Nunes: Surveillance reports I’ve seen are ‘concerning’

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Republican congressional investigators expect a potential “smoking gun” establishing that the Obama administration spied on the Trump transition team, and possibly the president-elect himself, will be produced to the House Intelligence Committee this week, a source told Fox News.

Classified intelligence showing incidental collection of Trump team communications, purportedly seen by committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and described by him in vague terms at a bombshell Wednesday afternoon news conference, came from multiple sources, Capitol Hill sources told Fox News. The intelligence corroborated information about surveillance of the Trump team that was known to Nunes, sources said, even before President Trump accused his predecessor of having wiretappedhim in a series of now-infamous tweets posted on March 4.

House Intelligence chief Devin Nunes says the FBI provided no evidence on Friday of a warrant to wiretap Trump Tower

Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the panel, accused Trump of leading Congress on a 'wild goose chase' in a competing interview on NBC's Meet the Press

House Intelligence chief Devin Nunes says the FBI provided no evidence on Friday of a warrant to wiretap Trump Tower (top). Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the panel, accused Trump of leading Congress on a ‘wild goose chase’ in a competing interview on NBC’s Meet the Press (bottom)

The intelligence is said to leave no doubt the Obama administration, in its closing days, was using the cover of legitimate surveillance on foreign targets to spy on President-elect Trump, according to sources.

The key to that conclusion is the unmasking of selected U.S. persons whose names appeared in the intelligence, the sources said, adding that the paper trail leaves no other plausible purpose for the unmasking other than to damage the incoming Trump administration.

The FBI hasn’t been responsive to the House Intelligence Committee’s request for documents, but the National Security Agency is expected to produce documents to the committee by Friday. The NSA document production is expected to produce more intelligence than Nunes has so far seen or described – including what one source described as a potential “smoking gun” establishing the spying.

Some time will be needed to properly assess the materials, with the likely result being that congressional investigators and attorneys won’t have a solid handle on the contents of the documents – and their implications – until next week.

Because Nunes’s intelligence came from multiple sources during a span of several weeks, and he has not shared the actual materials with his committee colleagues, he will be the only member of the panel in a position to know whether the NSA has turned over some or all of the intelligence he is citing. However, Fox News was told Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., had been briefed on the basic contents of the intelligence described by Nunes.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo is also sympathetic to the effort to determine, with documentary evidence, the extent of any alleged Obama administration spying on the Trump team, sources said.

At a dramatic Wednesday news conference, Nunes claimed to have seen evidence that members of the Trump transition team, possibly including the president-elect, were subjected to “incidental surveillance” collection that Nunes characterized as legal but troubling.

“What I’ve read bothers me,” he told reporters, “and I think it should bother the president himself, and his team because I think some of it seems to be inappropriate.”

Schiff blasted Nunes for not coming first to the Intelligence Committee with the information.

“If accurate, this information should have been shared with members of the committee, but it has not been,” Schiff said in a Wednesday statement.

James Rosen joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 1999. He currently serves as the chief Washington correspondent and hosts the online show “The Foxhole.” His latest book is “A Torch Kept Lit: Great Lives of the Twentieth Century” (Crown Forum, October 4, 2016).

Includes video:

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/03/23/potential-smoking-gun-showing-obama-administration-spied-on-trump-team-source-says.html

Related:

Anonymous U.S. government officials accuse Trump aides of giving Russians the ‘thumbs up’ for election hacks — ‘This is deeply troubling along many levels.’

March 23, 2017
  • US officials say FBI has information suggesting Trump campaign aides coordinated release of damaging info about Hillary Clinton with Russia
  • Other officials, however, say the evidence is circumstantial and it is premature to infer that collusion took place between Trump campaign and Moscow
  • The new information adds to statements made Wednesday by Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee
  • Schiff told MSNBC that the evidence into alleged links between Russia and the Trump campaign is ‘more than circumstantial’ 
  • Earlier Schiff ripped GOP chairman Devin Nunes for going to the White House with new information about ‘incidental’ surveillance of Trump associates 
  • Nunes stunned Washington by saying that President Donald Trump was right – sort of – when he said his calls were monitored by Obama 
  • Intelligence collected on his transition team was ‘incidental,’ meaning neither Trump nor campaign insiders were targeted
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow. AFP photo

The bitter dispute over President Trump’s claims he was wire-tapped by the Obama administration and counter-accusations that his aides colluded with Russia during the election took another twist on Wednesday night.

A CNN report said the FBI believes President Donald Trump’s associates were in communication with suspected Russian operatives possibly to coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton during the election campaign.

The cable news network quotes anonymous US government officials as saying that the bureau has information that suggests links between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government, though the sources stress that the evidence unearthed so far is ‘not conclusive.’

The fact that the claims are being made on CNN is only likely to intensify the president’s conflict with the network he has called ‘fake news’ and lead to further accusations that it is acting as the opposition to Trump.

And they come against the background of a bitter and now nakedly partisan dispute on the House Intelligence Committee over interactions with Russia which boiled over on Wednesday afternoon into an ugly public dispute between the Republican chair and the Democratic ranking member.

One source is cited by CNN as saying that this information is what FBI Director James Comey was referring to in his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on Monday.

Comey told lawmakers on Monday that the FBI had come across ‘a credible allegation of wrongdoing or reasonable basis to believe an American may be acting as an agent of a foreign power.’

The bureau is now sifting through phone records, travel documents, and human intelligence material in an effort to conclusively determine if laws were broken by individuals with links to Trump’s campaign.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said on Wednesday that there is 'more than circumstantial' evidence of links between the Trump campaign and Russia - a statement backed up by anonymous US officials who told CNN that new information suggests possible collusion

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said on Wednesday that there is ‘more than circumstantial’ evidence of links between the Trump campaign and Russia – a statement backed up by anonymous US officials who told CNN that new information suggests possible collusion

The White House has denied any wrongdoing by the campaign.

‘People connected to the campaign were in contact and it appeared they were giving the thumbs up to release information when it was ready,’ CNN quoted one source as saying.

But other officials threw cold water on the circumstantial evidence, saying that it was premature to make inferences from the information gathered.

US intelligence agencies believe that the Russian government was behind the hacking and release of emails belonging to senior Democratic Party officials, including the senior echelons of Clinton’s campaign.

There is consensus among US intelligence officials that the aim of the hacks was to aid Trump’s candidacy.

Thus far, four individuals involved in Trump’s campaign – former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, foreign policy adviser Carter Page, national security adviser Michael Flynn, and confidante Roger Stone – have been investigated by the FBI for alleged ties to Russia.

All of them deny any wrongdoing.

Paul Manafort 

Paul Manafort  CREDIT: AP

The latest revelations by CNN appear to bolster statements made earlier on Wednesday by the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

Rep. Adam Schiff told MSNBC’s MTP Daily that the evidence currently in the hands of intelligence officials are ‘more than circumstantial’ and ‘very much worthy of investigation,’ though he said he could not get into specific.

Schiff blasted his GOP counterpart, asking whether the panel’s Russia probe can function after chairman Rep. Devin Nunes briefed Trump on new snooping developments.

Schiff, a California Democrat who works closely with Nunes, called the Republicans’ debrief of Trump at the White House Wednesday ‘deeply troubling,’ and demanded the creation of an independent Russia probe.

House Democrats condemn Nunes for ‘undermining’ intel probe
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Schiff was blindsided when Nunes went to tell Trump that intelligence intercepts picked up Trump transition members – as well as Trump himself – seeming to substantiate the president’s claims this month.

‘The chairman will need to decide whether he is the chairman of an independent investigation into conduct which includes allegations of potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians, or he is going to at as a surrogate of the White House – because he cannot do both,’ Schiff fumed at a Capitol Hill press conference.

‘This is deeply troubling along many levels. The most significant level is it really impedes our ability to do this investigation the way we should,’ he added.

He declined to get into specifics about the documents Nunes saw – because he said Nunes hadn’t shared them with him or with Republican members of the committee yet.

‘We have no idea where these documents came from, whether they even show what they purport to show,’ he said. He raised the possibility that Nunes brought up the information as a way to help Trump back up his Twitter claim of 19 days ago that President Obama had his phones ‘tapped’ at Trump Tower – something the head of the FBI and Nunes himself has said didn’t happen.

His admonishment was a departure from the normally collegial panel, where the leaders are known as ‘chairman’ and ‘vice chairman’ and share the nation’s top secrets.

Nunes confirms intelligence was collected on Trump transition team

Earlier on Wednesday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. David Nunes (R-Cal) told President Trump that there was ‘incidental’ surveillance of Trump aides unrelated to Russia

Nunes would not say how Trump transition officials were caught up in the surveillance - and whether any of them work at the White House

Nunes would not say how Trump transition officials were caught up in the surveillance – and whether any of them work at the White House

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‘But even if they do, on the basis of what the chairman said, the underlying fact is still the same: There’s no evidence to support the president’s contention that he was wiretapped by his predecessor,’ said Schiff.

‘So I’m not sure what the point of this extraordinary process is. And I have to hope that this is not part of a broader campaign by the White House aimed to deflect from the [FBI] director’s testimony earlier this week.’

Schiff suggested that the House Intelligence could be a casualty of Trump’s tweets – bringing up an angry clash with the British government over alleged spy cooperation that the British say didn’t happen.

HAPPIER TIMES? Chairman Devin Nunes of California (R) and Ranking Member Adam Schiff listen to testimony during hearings on Russia's involvement in the 2016 Presidential Election and alleged hacking allegations during a House Intelligence Committee hearing Monday

HAPPIER TIMES? Chairman Devin Nunes of California (R) and Ranking Member Adam Schiff listen to testimony during hearings on Russia’s involvement in the 2016 Presidential Election and alleged hacking allegations during a House Intelligence Committee hearing Monday

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‘If the incident today is an indication that, after making the baseless claim, the president then aggravated the damage by implicating the British in a potential plot to have the British surveil him on behalf of President Obama, and now is attempting to interfere in the congressional investigation – again, with the effort of trying to provide some substance to a claim without substance – then the damage the wrecking ball of this allegation has just claimed another victim, that being our own committee,’ he said.

‘I only learned about this the way that all of you did, when the chairman briefed the press in advance of briefing his own committee members,’ said Schiff.

The president told White House reporters that he feels ‘somewhat’ vindicated after hearing what Nunes had to say this afternoon. The congressman came to the White House this afternoon to give Trump an in-person briefing

Schiff also blasted Nunes in a blistering written statement. ”If accurate, this information should have been shared with members of the committee, but it has not been,’ Schiff said.

‘The Chairman also shared this information with the White House before providing it to the committee, another profound irregularity, given that the matter is currently under investigation. I have expressed my grave concerns with the Chairman that a credible investigation cannot be conducted this way.’

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Nunes defended himself from the charges he might have acted improperly in an appearance on CNN about an hour before Schiff spoke.

He said the information ‘concerned me enough to have to notify the president because it was him and his transition team that were involved in this,’ he said.

‘It’s not fair for him not to know what’s in these reports,’ added Nunes.

‘President-elect Trump and his team were put into intelligence reports,’ Nunes told the network. He mentioned ‘dozens’ of intercepts. ‘Clearly there was surveillance that was conducted.’

But he didn’t back off his earlier statement that Trump was not subjected to wiretapping at Trump Tower.

FBI Director James Comey. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

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Schiff’s frustration followed Republican committee chairman Devin Nunes’ decision to brief the House speaker; the CIA, NSA and FBI chiefs; the White House; and the Washington press corps about a cache of intelligence reports in his possession – without sharing them with fellow committee members.

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Nunes told reporters on Capitol Hill that the US Intelligence Community collected ‘incidental’ information about President Donald Trump and his transition team during the three months following the 2016 election.

He said the information collected was ‘legally collected’ pursuant to a warrant issued by a FISA judge in a federal court, and concerned ‘foreign’ surveillance.

But that ‘did not involve Russia or any discussions with Russians,’ and there’s no reason to believe anyone in Trump’s circle was the target of an investigation.

The president told journalists that he feels ‘somewhat’ vindicated after hearing what Nunes had to say.

Trump has been fighting Democrats’ charges that he lied on March 4 when he claimed Barack Obama ‘wire tapped’ him last year.

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President Obama’s Director of national Intelligence James Clapper

‘I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found. I somewhat do,’ he said shortly after a meeting with Nunes.

Nunes told NBC he wasn’t currently able to show the information to Schiff because he and the committee don’t have the documents in their possession.

He said he was waiting for an intelligence official to send over the reports, which he said he was shown by a ‘source.’

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said Nunes’ statements ‘would appear to have revealed classified intelligence.’

Schiff refused to make the same charged when asked whether Nunes had revealed classified information.

FBI investigating ties between Russia and Trump campaign

March 20, 2017

AFP and The Associated Press

© Nicholas Kamm, AFP | FBI Director James Comey (pictured left) and NSA Director Mike Rogers on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. on March 20, 2017

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-03-20

FBI Director James Comey confirmed Monday that the bureau is investigating possible links and coordination between Russia and associates of President Donald Trump as part of a probe of Russian interference in last year’s presidential election.

The extraordinary revelation came at the outset of Comey’s opening statement in a congressional hearing examining Russian meddling and possible connections between Moscow and Trump‘s campaign. He acknowledged that the FBI does not ordinarily discuss ongoing investigations, but said he’d been authorized to do so given the extreme public interest in this case.

“This work is very complex, and there is no way for me to give you a timetable for when it will be done,” Comey told the House Intelligence Committee.

Earlier in the hearing, the chairman of the committee contradicted an assertion from Trump by saying that there had been no wiretap of Trump Tower. But Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican whose committee is one of several investigating, said that other forms of surveillance of Trump and his associates have not been ruled out.

Comey was testifying at Monday’s hearing along with National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers.

Trump, who recently accused President Barack Obama of wiretapping his New York skyscraper during the campaign, took to Twitter before the hearing began, accusing Democrats of making up allegations about his campaign associates’ contact with Russia during the election. He said Congress and the FBI should be going after media leaks and maybe even Hillary Clinton instead.

“The real story that Congress, the FBI and others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!” Trump tweeted early Monday as news coverage on the Russia allegations dominated the morning’s cable news.

Trump also suggested, without evidence, that Clinton’s campaign was in contact with Russia and had possibly thwarted a federal investigation. U.S. intelligence officials have not publicly raised the possibility of contacts between the Clintons and Moscow. Officials investigating the matter have said they believe Moscow had hacked into Democrats’ computers in a bid to help Trump’s election bid.

The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!

Monday’s hearing, one of several by congressional panels probing allegations of Russian meddling, could allow for the greatest public accounting to date of investigations that have shadowed the Trump administration in its first two months.

The top two lawmakers on the committee said Sunday that documents the Justice Department and FBI delivered late last week offered no evidence that the Obama administration had wiretapped Trump Tower, the president’s New York City headquarters. But the panel’s ranking Democrat said the material offered circumstantial evidence that American citizens colluded with Russians in Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the presidential election.

“There was circumstantial evidence of collusion; there is direct evidence, I think, of deception,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ”There’s certainly enough for us to conduct an investigation.”

The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign. Big advantage in Electoral College & lost!

Nunes said: “For the first time the American people, and all the political parties now, are paying attention to the threat that Russia poses.”

“We know that the Russians were trying to get involved in our campaign, like they have for many decades. They’re also trying to get involved in campaigns around the globe and over in Europe,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee has scheduled a similar hearing for later in the month.

It is not clear how much new information will emerge Monday, and the hearing’s open setting unquestionably puts Comey in a difficult situation if he’s asked to discuss an ongoing investigation tied to the campaign of the president.

At a hearing in January, Comey refused to confirm or deny the existence of any investigation exploring possible connections between Trump associates and Russia, consistent with the FBI’s longstanding policy of not publicly discussing its work. His appearances on Capitol Hill since then have occurred in classified settings, often with small groups of lawmakers, and he has made no public statements connected to the Trump campaign or Russia.

Any lack of detail from Comey on Monday would likely be contrasted with public comments he made last year when closing out an investigation into Clinton’s email practices and then, shortly before Election Day, announcing that the probe would be revived following the discovery of additional emails.

(AP)

Related:

FBI Director Comey: Justice Dept. has no information that supports President Trump’s tweets alleging he was wiretapped by Obama

March 20, 2017

James Comey. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images (File Photo)

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The Washington Post
March 20 at 11:27 AM
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FBI Director James B. Comey acknowledged on Monday the existence of a counterintelligence investigation into the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, and said that probe extends to the nature of any links between Trump campaign associates and the Russian government.
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Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee, Comey said the investigation is also exploring whether there was any coordination between the campaign and the Kremlin, and “whether any crimes were committed.”
.The acknowledgment was an unusual move, given that the FBI’s practice is not to confirm the existence of ongoing investigations. “But in unusual circumstances, where it is in the public interest,” Comey said, “it may be appropriate to do so.”

Comey said he had been authorized by the Justice Department to confirm the wide-ranging probe’s existence.

He spoke at the first intelligence committee public hearing on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, along with National Security Agency head Michael S. Rogers.

Comey: No information to support Trump’s wiretapping tweets

FBI Director James B. Comey said at a House Intelligence Committee hearing that he has no information that Trump Tower was wiretapped by former president Barack Obama. (Reuters)

The hearing comes amid the controversy fired up by President Trump two weeks ago when he tweeted, without providing evidence, that President Barack Obama ordered his phones tapped at Trump Tower.

Comey says there is “no information’’ that supports Trump’s claims that his predecessor Barack Obama ordered surveillance of Trump Tower during the election campaign.

“I have no information that supports those tweets,’’ said Comey. “We have looked carefully inside the FBI,’’ and agents found nothing to support those claims, he said. He added the Justice Department had asked him to also tell the committee that that agency has no such information, either.

Under questioning from the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif,), Comey said no president could order such surveillance.

Committee chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said in his opening statement, “The fact that Russia hacked U.S. election-related databases comes as no shock to this committee. We have been closely monitoring Russia’s aggressions for years…However, while the indications of Russian measures targeting the U.S. presidential election are deeply troubling, one benefit is already clear – it has focused wide attention on the pressing threats posed by the Russian autocrat. In recent years, Committee members have issued repeated and forceful pleas for stronger action against Russian belligerence. But the Obama administration was committed to the notion, against all evidence, that we could ‘reset’ relations with Putin, and it routinely ignored our warnings.”

Nunes said he hoped the hearing would focus on several key questions, including what actions Russia undertook against the United States during the 2016 election and did anyone from a political campaign conspire in these activities? He also wants to know if the communications of any campaign officials or associates were subject to any improper surveillance.

“Let me be clear,” he said. “We know there was not a wiretap on Trump Tower. However, it’s still possible that other surveillance activities were used against President Trump and his associates.”

Finally, Nunes said he is focused on leaks of classified information to the media. “We aim to determine who has leaked or facilitated leaks of classified information so these individuals can be brought to justice,” he said.

In his opening statement, Schiff said, “We will never know whether the Russian intervention was determinative in such a close election. Indeed it is unknowable in a campaign in which so many small changes could have dictated a different result. More importantly, and for the purposes of our investigation, it simply does not matter. What does matter is this: the Russians successfully meddled in our democracy, and our intelligence agencies have concluded that they will do so again.”

He added: “Most important, we do not yet know whether the Russians had the help of U.S. citizens, including people associated with the Trump campaign. Many of Trump’s campaign personnel, including the president himself, have ties to Russia and Russian interests. This is, of course, no crime. On the other hand, if the Trump campaign, or anybody associated with it, aided or abetted the Russians, it would not only be a serious crime, it would also represent one of the most shocking betrayals of our democracy in history.”

Just hours before the start of the hearing, Trump posted a series of tweets claiming Democrats “made up” the allegations of Russian contacts in an attempt to discredit the GOP during the presidential campaign. Trump also urged federal investigators to shift their focus to probe disclosures of classified material.

“The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information,” Trump wrote early Monday. “Must find leaker now!”

Republican members pressed hard on the subject of leaks to the media that resulted in news stories about contacts between Russian officials and the Trump campaign or administration officials. Nunes sought an admission from the officials that the leaks were illegal under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court act, the law that governs foreign intelligence-gathering on U.S. soil or of U.S. persons overseas.

“Yes,” Comey answered. “In addition to being a breach of our trust with the FISA court.”

One story in particular that apparently upset the Republicans was a Feb. 9 story by The Washington Post reporting that Trump’s national security advisor, Michael Flynn, discussed the subject of sanctions with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, in the month before Trump took office. The Post reported that the discussions were monitored under routine, court-approved monitoring of Kislyak’s calls.

Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) pressed Rogers to clarify under what circumstances it would be legitimate for Americans caught on tape speaking with people under surveillance to have their identities disclosed publicly, and whether leaking those identities would “hurt or help” intelligence collection.

“Hurt,” Rogers noted.

Rogers stressed that the identities of U.S. persons picked up through “incidental collection” – that being the way intelligence officials picked up on Flynn’s phone calls with Kislyak – are disclosed only on a “valid, need to know” basis, and usually only when there is a criminal activity or potential threat to the United States at play.

Rogers added that there are a total of 20 people in the NSA he has delegated to make decisions about when someone’s identity can be unmasked.

The FBI probe combines an investigation into hacking operations by Russian spy agencies with efforts to understand how the Kremlin sought to manipulate public opinion and influence the election’s outcome.

In January, the intelligence community released a report concluding that Russian President Vladi­mir Putin wanted to not only undermine the legitimacy of the election process but also harm the campaign of Hillary Clinton and boost Trump’s chances of winning.

Hackers working for Russian spy agencies penetrated the computers of the Democratic National Committee in 2015 and 2016 as well as the email accounts of Democratic officials, intelligence official said in the report. The material was relayed to WikiLeaks, the officials said, and the anti-secrecy group began a series of damaging email releases just before the Democratic National Convention that continued through the fall.

On Friday, the Justice Department delivered documents to the committee in response to a request for copies of intelligence and criminal wiretap orders and applications. Nunes, speaking Sunday, said the material provided “no evidence of collusion” to sway the election toward Trump and repeated previous statements that there is no credible proof of any active coordination.

But Schiff, also speaking Sunday, said there was “circumstantial evidence of collusion” at the outset of the congressional investigations into purported Russian election meddling, as well as “direct evidence” that Trump campaign figures sought to deceive the public about their interactions with Russian figures.

The concerns about Moscow’s meddling are also being felt in Europe, where France and Germany hold elections this year. “Our allies,” Schiff said, “are facing the same Russian onslaught.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/fbi-director-to-testify-on-russian-interference-in-the-presidential-election/2017/03/20/cdea86ca-0ce2-11e7-9d5a-a83e627dc120_story.html?utm_term=.2b44421224ec

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The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – FBI Director James Comey confirmed Monday that the bureau is investigating possible links and coordination between Russia and associates of President Donald Trump as part of a broader probe of Russian interference in last year’s presidential election.

The extraordinary revelation came at the outset of Comey’s opening statement in a congressional hearing examining Russian meddling and possible connections between Moscow and Trump’s campaign. He acknowledged that the FBI does not ordinarily discuss ongoing investigations, but said he’d been authorized to do so given the extreme public interest in this case.

“This work is very complex, and there is no way for me to give you a timetable for when it will be done,” Comey told the House Intelligence Committee.

Earlier in the hearing, the chairman of the committee contradicted an assertion from Trump by saying that there had been no wiretap of Trump Tower. But Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican whose committee is one of several investigating, said that other forms of surveillance of Trump and his associates have not been ruled out.

Comey was testifying at Monday’s hearing along with National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers.

Trump, who recently accused President Barack Obama of wiretapping his New York skyscraper during the campaign, took to Twitter before the hearing began, accusing Democrats of making up allegations about his campaign associates’ contact with Russia during the election. He said Congress and the FBI should be going after media leaks and maybe even Hillary Clinton instead.

“The real story that Congress, the FBI and others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!” Trump tweeted early Monday as news coverage on the Russia allegations dominated the morning’s cable news.

Trump also suggested, without evidence, that Clinton’s campaign was in contact with Russia and had possibly thwarted a federal investigation. U.S. intelligence officials have not publicly raised the possibility of contacts between the Clintons and Moscow. Officials investigating the matter have said they believe Moscow had hacked into Democrats’ computers in a bid to help Trump’s election bid.

Monday’s hearing, one of several by congressional panels probing allegations of Russian meddling, could allow for the greatest public accounting to date of investigations that have shadowed the Trump administration in its first two months.

The top two lawmakers on the committee said Sunday that documents the Justice Department and FBI delivered late last week offered no evidence that the Obama administration had wiretapped Trump Tower, the president’s New York City headquarters. But the panel’s ranking Democrat said the material offered circumstantial evidence that American citizens colluded with Russians in Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the presidential election.

“There was circumstantial evidence of collusion; there is direct evidence, I think, of deception,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” `’There’s certainly enough for us to conduct an investigation.”

Nunes said: “For the first time the American people, and all the political parties now, are paying attention to the threat that Russia poses.”

“We know that the Russians were trying to get involved in our campaign, like they have for many decades. They’re also trying to get involved in campaigns around the globe and over in Europe,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee has scheduled a similar hearing for later in the month.

It is not clear how much new information will emerge Monday, and the hearing’s open setting unquestionably puts Comey in a difficult situation if he’s asked to discuss an ongoing investigation tied to the campaign of the president.

At a hearing in January, Comey refused to confirm or deny the existence of any investigation exploring possible connections between Trump associates and Russia, consistent with the FBI’s longstanding policy of not publicly discussing its work. His appearances on Capitol Hill since then have occurred in classified settings, often with small groups of lawmakers, and he has made no public statements connected to the Trump campaign or Russia.

Any lack of detail from Comey on Monday would likely be contrasted with public comments he made last year when closing out an investigation into Clinton’s email practices and then, shortly before Election Day, announcing that the probe would be revived following the discovery of additional emails.


PUBLISHED: MARCH 20, 2017, 8:01 A.M. 

Claims GCHQ wiretapped Trump ‘nonsense’ — U.S. National Security Agency source says

March 18, 2017

BBC News

People sit at computers in the 24 hour Operations Room inside GCHQ, Cheltenham on 17 November, 2015.
GCHQ, a British intelligence agency, wholly denies it helped wiretap Donald Trump

The claim that GCHQ carried out surveillance on Donald Trump during the election campaign is “arrant nonsense”, Rick Ledgett, the number two at the US National Security Agency (NSA) has told the BBC in an exclusive interview.

A commentator on Fox News had claimed that GCHQ had carried out the activity on America’s behalf, but Mr Ledgett said the claim showed “a complete lack of understanding in how the relationship works”.

Each side, he said, was prohibited from asking the other partner to carry out acts that they were prohibited from doing.

He also said the huge risks to the UK in carrying out such an act would completely outweigh any benefits.

“Of course they wouldn’t do it. It would be epically stupid,” he told me.

GCHQ had also dismissed the allegation as nonsense.

Mr Ledgett’s comments came in a wide-ranging – and long-scheduled – interview in his office at NSA headquarters at Fort Meade. He acknowledged that these were unusual times when it came to the political maelstrom surrounding America’s intelligence agencies and their relationship with the new administration.

“Our job in the intelligence community is to be apolitical. Our job is to speak truth to power,” he emphasised.

The origins of much of the tension lie in the assessment by the US intelligence community that Russia interfered in the presidential election, and the subsequent reaction from Donald Trump.

Mr Ledgett said the evidence of Russian involvement was “extraordinarily strong” and “irrefutable” and that the NSA had played a key role in establishing the case.

Mr Ledgett said he was “dead solid 100% confident” that the Russian state was behind the attempts – although he said it was not for the intelligence community to evaluate the actual impact of those attempts on the vote itself.

Russian President Vladimir Putin pictured on 16 March, 2017.
President Vladimir Putin insists that Russia did not interfere in the US election. AP photo

There has been speculation that Russia will interfere in upcoming European elections, but the NSA deputy director said it was hard for him to talk about any evidence supporting that.

There has been a shift towards more aggressive action in cyberspace in recent years – from Russia but also other states – with some commentators claiming that “cyber war” is breaking out.

Low-intensity conflict rather than war is a better description, Mr Ledgett said.

“Cyber war is going to look very different – you are going to see massive failures of key infrastructure systems in the countries that are being targeted in a way we have not seen yet.”

The problems in attributing attacks and the lower barriers for entry mean that this trend may well continue, though.

The US last week indicted a group of Russian hackers as part of a broader strategy of trying to develop layered deterrence. Chinese and Iranian hackers have been indicted in the past.

“Our assessment is that it does cause actors to pause,” Mr Ledgett said, while acknowledging it did not provide absolute deterrence.

The spread of internet-connected devices in the home is another concern.

“It’s a truism that the more things you connect to a network, the more vulnerabilities you introduce,” Mr Ledgett argued, adding that he did not have what are called “Internet of Things” devices in his own home.

Last week there were claims that the CIA – along with Britain’s MI5 – had found vulnerabilities in some “smart” TV sets which allowed them to be turned into bugging devices.

CIA logo
It has been claimed that the CIA devised a spyware attack for Samsung TVs. Getty Images

Mr Ledgett emphasised that the mission of the NSA was to focus on foreign intelligence and not domestic.

He said that 90% of vulnerabilities in systems that the NSA spotted were reported to companies so they could fix them. And any vulnerabilities that the agency sought to leave in place to exploit for intelligence gathering needed to be approved by other government agencies.

“There’s a fringe narrative out there that the US and UK and all these other governments are willy-nilly just exploiting every vulnerability in every device they can in order to gather information into a big pile and then root through it for interesting things. That’s not what we do at all.”

He acknowledged that the debate around the NSA’s power was healthy, but said the way it came about was bad, referring to the Edward Snowden revelations.

He said that while he would not point to specific terrorist attacks or deaths as a result of disclosures, the NSA had seen one thousand “entities” (such as terrorist groups or foreign military units) which had tried to change behaviour to avoid surveillance.

An aerial view shows the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters in Ft. Meade, Maryland, US on 29 January, 2010.
Mr Ledgett spoke to the BBC at the NSA’s headquarters in Fort Meade. Reuters photo

Mr Ledgett is due to step down in the coming months after a 40-year career in national security. Twenty-nine of those years were spent at the NSA, where he ended up as its most senior civilian.

He acknowledged that the current environment – with the intelligence agencies drawn into political debate – was unprecedented.

“It is an uncomfortable place to be,” he said. “Intelligence needs to not be politicised to be at its best.”

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39312176

Related:

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British intelligence: ‘Allegations … about GCHQ being asked to conduct “wiretapping” against the then president-elect are nonsense.’

March 17, 2017

British intelligence agency responds to allegations – repeated by White House press secretary Sean Spicer – that it helped Barack Obama

GCHQ

GCHQ, Britain’s intelligence centre, seen from the air CREDIT: GCHQ

British intelligence officials have denied an allegation that the UK helped former president Barack Obama “wiretap” Donald Trump during the 2016 election.

The claim was repeated by the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, on Thursday and dismissed as “utterly ridiculous” by a GCHQ spokesperson.

The spokesperson added in a statement: “Recent allegations made by media commentator judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct ‘wiretapping’ against the then president-elect are nonsense. They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored.”

This week, Napolitano, Fox News judicial analyst, claimed during an interview on the network that three intelligence sources confirmed to him that the Obama administration used GCHQ to spy on Trump so that there would be “no American fingerprints on this”.

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, quoted Napolitano’s allegation in an effort to validate Trump’s unfounded claim that Obama tapped his phones last year.

Sean Spicer: Trump stands by ‘wiretap’ claim
Spicer

Sean Spicer, White House communications director CREDIT: AP

British and American intelligence agencies cooperate closely. Along with their counterparts from Australia, New Zealand and Canada, they are members of the Five Eyes, which all work together on intelligence. According to documents released by the whistleblower Edward Snowden, British officials allowed their US counterparts to store and analyse British citizens’ internet and email records. And Snowden also revealed that America’s National Security Agency paid £100m to GCHQ in secret.

Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats – the junior partner in the last British coalition government – said Trump was “compromising the vital UK-US security relationship to try to cover his own embarrassment”.

Trump started the political firestorm in a series of tweets in early March, when he accused Obama of tapping his phones and called his predecessor a “bad (or sick) guy”. US officials called the allegation groundless.

Read the rest:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/16/gchq-denies-wiretap-claim-trump-obama

Related:

US makes formal apology to Britain after White House accuses GCHQ of wiretapping Trump Tower

March 17, 2017

By 
The Telegraph

The US has made a formal apology to Britain after the White House accused GCHQ of helping Barack Obama spy on Donald Trump in the White House.

Sean Spicer, Mr Trump’s press secretary, repeated a claim on Thursday evening – initially made by an analyst on Fox News – that GCHQ was used by Mr Obama to spy on Trump Tower in the lead-up to last November’s election.

The comments prompted a furious response from GCHQ, which in a break from normal practice issued a public statement: “Recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct ‘wiretapping’ against the then president-elect are nonsense. They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored.”

US President Donald J. Trump greets British Prime Minister Theresa May as she arrives at the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 27 January 2017
US President Donald J. Trump greets British Prime Minister Theresa May as she arrives at the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 27 January 2017 CREDIT: EPA

Intelligence sources told The Telegraph that both Mr Spicer and General McMaster, the US National Security Adviser, have apologised over the claims. “The apology came direct from them,” a source said.

Mr Spicer had earlier repeated claims that Barack Obama used GCHQ to spy on Mr Trump before he became president.

“He’s able to get it and there’s no American fingerprints on it,” Mr Spicer said of the intelligence supposedly provided to Mr Obama by Britain.

“Three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command – he didn’t use the NSA, he didn’t use the CIA, he didn’t use the FBI and he didn’t use the Department of Justice – he used GCHQ.”

GCHQ
GCHQ, Britain’s intelligence centre, seen from the air CREDIT: GCHQ

Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, described Mr Spicer’s comments as “shameful”.

“Trump is compromising the vital UK-US security relationship to try to cover his own embarrassment,” he said. “This harms our and US security.”

Susan Rice, National Security Adviser for former president Barack Obama, tweeted: “The cost of falsely blaming our closest ally for something this consequential cannot be overstated.”

The president is under increasing pressure to justify his claims, which his opponents charge calls the whole integrity of his administration into question.

Spicer
Sean Spicer, White House communications director CREDIT: AP

In an attempt to provide credibility to the claims, Mr Spicer quoted from a series of articles which discussed surveillance.

He referenced comments made earlier this week on Fox News TV by former judge Andrew Napolitano in relation to Mr Trump’s controversial claim that wiretaps had been installed at his New York residence:

Last on Fox News, on March 14th, Judge Andrew Napolitano made the following statement, quote, ‘Three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command. He didn’t use the NSA, he didn’t use the CIA, he didn’t use the FBI and he didn’t use the Department of Justice. He used GCHQ. What is that? It’s the initials for the British intelligence finding agency. So, simply by having two people saying to them president needs transcripts of conversations involving candidate Trump’s conversations, involving president-elect Trump, he’s able to get it and there’s no American fingerprints on this. Putting the published accounts and common-sense together, this leads to a lot.

British officials were quick to rubbish Mr Napolitano’s claims earlier this week. A government source reportedly said the claim was “totally untrue and quite frankly absurd”.

The British official told Reuters that under British law, GCHQ “can only gather intelligence for national security purposes” and noted that the US election “clearly doesn’t meet that criteria”.