Obama Advisor Rhodes Is Wrong: The President Can Order A Wiretap, And Why Trump May Have The Last Laugh
Following Trump's stunning allegation that Obama wiretapped the Trump Tower in October of 2016, prior to the presidential election, which may or may not have been sourced from a Breitbart story, numerous Democrats and media pundits have come out with scathing accusations that Trump is either mentally disturbed, or simply has no idea what he is talking about.
The best example of this came from Ben Rhodes, a former senior adviser to President Obama in his role as deputy National Security Advisor, who slammed Trump's accusation, insisting that "No President can order a wiretap. Those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens from people like you." He also said "only a liar" could make the case, as Trump suggested, that Obama wire tapped Trump Tower ahead of the election.
It would appear, however, that Rhodes is wrong, especially as pertains to matters of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance, and its associated FISA court, under which the alleged wiretap of Donald Trump would have been granted, as it pertained specifically to Trump's alleged illicit interactions with Russian entities.
In Chapter 36 of Title 50 of the US Code *War and National Defense", Subchapter 1, Section 1802, we read the following:
(1) Notwithstanding any other law, the President, through the Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without a court order under this subchapter to acquire foreign intelligence information for periods of up to one year if the Attorney General certifies in writing under oath that—
(A) the electronic surveillance is solely directed at—
(i) the acquisition of the contents of communications transmitted by means of communications used exclusively between or among foreign powers, as defined in section 1801(a)(1), (2), or (3) of this title; or
(ii) the acquisition of technical intelligence, other than the spoken communications of individuals, from property or premises under the open and exclusive control of a foreign power, as defined in section 1801(a)(1), (2), or (3) of this title;
(B) there is no substantial likelihood that the surveillance will acquire the contents of any communication to which a United States person is a party; and
(C) the proposed minimization procedures with respect to such surveillance meet the definition of minimization procedures under section 1801(h) of this title; and
if the Attorney General reports such minimization procedures and any changes thereto to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence at least thirty days prior to their effective date, unless the Attorney General determines immediate action is required and notifies the committees immediately of such minimization procedures and the reason for their becoming effective immediately.
While (B) seems to contradict the underlying permissive nature of Section 1802 as it involves a United States person, what the Snowden affair has demonstrated all too clearly, is how frequently the NSA and FISA court would make US citizens collateral damage. To be sure, many pointed out the fact that Fox News correspondent James Rosen was notoriously wiretapped in 2013 when the DOJ was investigating government leaks. The Associated Press was also infamously wiretapped in relation to the same investigation.
As pertains to Trump, the Guardian reported as much in early January, when news of the alleged anti-Trump dossier by former UK spy Chris Steele broke in January:
The Guardian has learned that the FBI applied for a warrant from the foreign intelligence surveillance (Fisa) court over the summer in order to monitor four members of the Trump team suspected of irregular contacts with Russian officials. The Fisa court turned down the application asking FBI counter-intelligence investigators to narrow its focus. According to one report, the FBI was finally granted a warrant in October, but that has not been confirmed, and it is not clear whether any warrant led to a full investigation.
Furthermore, while most Democrats - not to mention former president Obama himself - have been harshly critical of Trump's comments, some such as former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau was quite clear in his warning to reporters that Obama did not say there was no wiretapping, effectively confirming it. Keep reading...