Was President Trump’s Administration undermined by President Obama?
This article will focus on the possibilities of surveillance of President Trump during his campaign. The goal is to review the available evidence that has been presented so far along with the laws that authorize the collection of such intelligence. This article is a follow-up from our previous article; “Oversight Report: The Presidents Surveillance Authority,” and will mainly focus on the intelligence collection disclosed by Rep. Nunes which was not related to the hacking investigation involving Russia.
Three points will be reviewed to try to establish the plausibility of the claim that the Trump administration was under surveillance. Further, was the intelligence properly collected, protected and not used to undermine his administration? We will not be looking at the Russian hacking interference investigations and the leaks that sprung from the intelligence gathered in them including those affecting General Flynn which led to his resignation.
Was President Trump or his campaigns communications under surveillance?
If information was gathered by an intelligence agency about President Trump or his campaign was the information properly handled and safeguarded?
Did President Obama or his staff either direct or have knowledge of any intelligence agency conducting a wiretap/surveillance on President Trump’s campaign and then leak the gathered intelligence?
To answer these questions on whether President Trump or his campaigns communications were under surveillance we will need to look at the facts up to this point.
Rep. Nunes, the republican chairman of the house intelligence committee confirmed today during a press conference that information was collected on President Trump and members of his campaign during the months of November, December and January after the election. Rep. Nunes further stated,
“I know there was incidental collection regarding the president-elect and his team. I don’t know if it was actually physically a phone call, None of this surveillance was related to Russia or the investigation of Russian activities,… it wasn’t part of a criminal investigation…It was a lot of information on the President-elect and the transition team and what they were doing.”
He also said that the details had little or no apparent foreign intelligence but were widely disseminated in intelligence reporting.
When intelligence is collected under 50 USC 1802 on foreign officials or agents, US citizens that have been incidentally collected will have identities masked so that they are protected of their privacy and rights. There are some major legal questions that need to be asked.
First, who authorized this intelligence collection and under what legal authority if it was not related to Russia, foreign intelligence or any illegal activity? Second, we need to know who authorized the intelligence reports to be disseminated widely and without masking their identities as required by 50 USC 1802 for US citizens.
New rules that were put in place on January 3rd 2017 by then President Obama appears to have allowed the information collected on President Trump’s campaign to be disseminated widely in intelligence reports. These new rules opened NSA collected unfiltered raw intelligence sharing to all federal intelligence agencies. Within these new rules are a section that can be used to keep intelligence from being shared with the White house if it could be considered part of the political process i.e. (staff appointments, policy decisions, transition discussions…).
“3. (U) Political process in the United States. Not engage in any intelligence activity authorized by these Procedures, including disseminations to the White House, for the purpose of affecting the political process in the United States. The IC element will comply with the guidance applicable to NSA regarding the application of this prohibition. Questions about whether a particular activity falls within this prohibition will be resolved in consultation with the element’s legal counsel and the General Counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) (and the DoD’s Office of the General Counsel in the case of a DoD IC element).”
A joint statement was released by DHS and DNI just prior to the election on 7th of October 2016, “The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations. The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process…”
On 9 December 2016, White House Homeland Security and Counter-terrorism Adviser Lisa Monaco stated,
“The President has directed the Intelligence Community to conduct a full review of what happened during the 2016 election process. It is to capture lessons learned from that and to report to a range of stakeholders… You want to do so very attentive to not disclosing sources and methods that would impede our ability to identify and attribute malicious actors in the future …He expects to get a report prior to him leaving office.”
Finally to follow-up on the three initial questions that were posed earlier.
1. Was President Trump or his campaigns communications under surveillance?
Yes, but neither President Trump nor his campaign was directly targeted for collection based on the information that has been disclosed up to today.
2. If information was gathered by an intelligence agency about President Trump or his campaign was the information properly handled and safeguarded?
No, the information was not handled or safeguarded according to law prior to being disseminated to the other agencies. All US citizen identities should have been masked.
3. Did President Obama or his staff either direct or have knowledge of any intelligence agency conducting a wiretap/surveillance on President Trump’s campaign and then leaking the gathered intelligence?
This one is for you to determine by reviewing the available information. The facts so far are that President Obama did create the new rules allowing for NSA raw data collection to be shared with other intelligence agencies. Within the rules he provided for the gathered intelligence to be withheld from the incoming White House administration. He further ordered all of the intelligence agencies to create a report on any election interference’s to be delivered to him and congress for their review before President Trump administration was to be sworn in that was coincidentally widely disseminated within the intelligence community and leaked to the press.
Please review the links within the article to draw your own conclusion and opinions.