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Monday, March 06, 2017

Did Obama spy on Trump? Glenn Reynolds

So President Trump set off a firestorm over the weekend with a series of tweets alleging that Obama had tapped Trump Tower. But getting hung up on imprecise language in the president's tweets isn't the right way to look at things. What seems to be at true is that the Obama administration spied on some of Trump's associates and we don't know exactly how much information was collected under what authority and who was targeted.

As former prosecutor Andrew McCarthy summarizes in National Review, the Obama Justice Department considered a criminal investigation aimed at a number of Trump’s associates. When they didn’t find anything criminal, they converted the investigation into an intelligence probe under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Elements of that story have been confirmed by The New York Times, the BBC and McClatchy newspapers.

FISA surveillance has to be approved by a special court, which almost always allows the government to spy on people when asked. But when the Justice Department asked to spy on several of Trump's associates, the court refused permission, according to the BBC. As McCarthy writes, this is notable because “the FISA court is notoriously solicitous of government requests to conduct national security surveillance.”

Not taking no for an answer, the Obama administration came back during the final weeks of the election with a narrower request that didn’t specifically mention Trump. That narrower request was granted by the court, but reports from the Guardian and the BBC don't mention the tapping of phones..

Former Obama officials issued denials that the former president had anything to do with it, which McCarthy calls “disingenuous on several levels.” Others have characterized them as a "non-denial denial.”

Of course Team Obama spied on Trump. They spied on everyone.

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