Is Trump Right to Claim he was Spied on?

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Glen Ford says it’s likely that Trump’s communications were spied on as part of the national security state’s bulk data collection

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Story Transcript

KIM BROWN: Welcome to The Real News Network in Baltimore. I’m Kim Brown.

Donald Trump is doubling down on his accusations of being surveilled upon by the previous administration. Over the weekend, the President tweeted, “Wow, @Fox News just reporting big news. Source: “Official behind unmasking is high up. Known Intel official is responsible. Some unmasked…

…not associated with Russia. Trump team spied on before he was nominated.” If this is true, does not get much bigger. Would be sad for the U.S.

The President went on to later tweet the real story turns out to be surveillance and leaking. Find the leakers.

And today we’re joined with Glen Ford. Glen is the co-executive editor of the Black Agenda Report. He’s also the founder of that publication. He’s also the author of the book titled, “The Big Lie: An Analysis of U.S. Media Coverage of the Grenada Invasion.” He joins us today from Plainfield, New Jersey.

Glen Ford, welcome back to The Real News.

GLEN FORD: Thanks for having me again.

KIM BROWN: Glen, so, Donald Trump is obviously very convinced that he was spied upon on by the Obama administration. But is that really a stretch for him to say that he was spied upon, given the fact that this administration -– the previous administration, rather –- has actually had a very documented history of doing exactly that? What are your thoughts?

GLEN FORD: He’s absolutely correct to say that he was spied upon. It’s absolutely correct for you to say that your momma was spied upon, and that you were spied upon. The fact is that all the people of the world, not just Americans, are spied upon, in the effective use of that term, by the United States. Every single telephone conversation in the world is recorded and filed by U.S. intelligence agencies. This is not a conspiracy theory. This is fact. It’s unrefuted, uncontested fact.

When Trump says that members of his campaign were spied upon before the nomination, all that really means –- I don’t know what he thinks it means –- but what it actually means is, that their conversations, like everybody else’s, were recorded years back –- not just months back –- and the intelligence agencies can go back to that collection of conversations. That’s called, “raw intelligence”, and access them if it deems fit.

If all of a sudden, your campaign operative comes to the attention, for one reason or another, of an intelligence agency, they can then call up those conversations, and see what he said, and who he talked to. The masking that they are talking about is, well, that refers to the fact that if you are incidentally -– and this is a little bit different –- if you are incidentally… if you are listening. If you’re an intelligence agency, and you’re listening to some foreign official, let’s say a Russian deputy ambassador, and that person is talking to an American, you’re supposed to mask the identity of the American because the CIA, for example, is not supposed to spy on Americans.

But usually, anybody with a bit of sense, and who can put the conversation in context, knows who the American is. And depending upon how the report, if there is a report on that raw intelligence is written, the reader will be able to figure out who that American was, and they become unmasked.

It really is kind of silly, and when we’re talking about political fishing expeditions into raw intelligence — that is, filed telephone conversations — to talk about whether people can figure out who the American is, who’s talking anyway, because probably it was the American’s presence that was the reason for the fishing up of the call.

Certainly that was the case with the Obama Administration, in the days and months after Hillary Clinton lost the election. And that’s where the March 1st, New York Times story that really laid the facts of this operation by the administration out, comes into play. That story was spun in a way that did as little superficial damage to the administration as possible, because the New York Times and the administration are both on the same side, in this political war against Trump.

But the facts really are very, very clear, and they state the case for themselves, and they are that the Obama administration actively manipulated the intelligence processes, in order to get the various spy agencies to process huge amounts of this raw intelligence. That is, these collected telephone calls that they have on everybody, between Trump officials and Russians.

That’s the fishing expedition, and it didn’t require a wiretap or any of that, because wiretaps are not basically used anymore. They already have the conversations, and they go back and listen to them, and they decide which certain conversations are of interest to them. Then what the Obama Administration did is, it lowered the security classification on these raw intelligence pieces that is these conversations.

And that resulted, as it was designed to do, in more agencies seeing the transcripts of these conversations. And more people within the agencies seeing the transcripts, and, in fact, allied intelligence agencies, like the “Five Eyes”, that’s Britain, New Zealand, Australia and Canada. And probably other allied intelligence agencies like, the Israelis. All many more people in those agencies got to see these now lowered classification raw intelligence files.

And then the administration, according to the New York Times story, sent a big box marked, “Secret” that was full of raw intelligence –- that is, telephone conversations that people could figure out, of course –- to ranking Democrats. That is, Democrats on the Hill, who have some oversight authority, and therefore some claim to be able to see differently classified security documents. And so, what the administration was doing, and it did it quite successfully, was to create a huge pool of potential leakers of this raw intelligence, these conversations. A whole…

KIM BROWN: But what for?

GLEN FORD: …cloud of this, so that it would be disseminated.

KIM BROWN: So, Glen, let me play devil’s advocate here, that… let’s assume everything that you’re saying is true. That the Obama Administration, which they did, has been reported upon by the New York Times and other outlets, that they created this whole cache of information on the Trump transition team.

But what if the President, the Obama Administration, was doing this because they saw the connections between Michael Flynn, and his relationship, whatever that may be, with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. They understood that Michael Flynn was actually acting at the behest of the Turkish government, as a foreign agent.

Lobbying on behalf of Turkey that he did not necessarily disclose, obviously, the connection there with Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager having strong ties, to not only Russia, but the Ukraine, as well. And as Devin Nunes said, the congressman who heads the House Intelligence Committee, said that members of the Trump transition team were caught up, in what he called incidental surveillance of Trump Tower.

So, what if all of this was being created by the Obama Administration, not necessarily to get Trump –- I mean, maybe getting Trump was, you know, the icing on the cake –- but they noticed all of these shady connections with foreign governments, and members of Trump’s team, and they said, “Hey, somebody needs to be keeping an eye on what’s going on here, so we’re going to go ahead and take that initiative.”

Do you have an issue with the reasoning behind all the intelligence surveillance gathering, or do the reasons even not matter here?

GLEN FORD: Well, from the legal standpoint, they don’t matter at all. You’re just basically telling the judge why you committed the crime. And you had good intent when you committed the crime, because the bad person who you thought was about to commit a crime, and you didn’t really have enough evidence to get a cop to come arrest this guy.

So, you put out some bad information on this guy, which you personally believe to be true — but it’s not proof — in order to create clouds of suspicion against this guy, and maybe the cop would act, even without real cause to do something with this guy.

What the administration did was create the perfect storm for a deluge of Katrina of leaks, and that probably is an impeachable offence. I am pretty sure that that is illegal, because this administration would consider it to be illegal. Because this is the administration that has prosecuted more people for revealing U.S. government secrets than all of his predecessors combined.

And they don’t get off the hook by saying; “I did this for the greater good of the country.” And these are the people who would put Snowden in jail, or maybe execute him if they could, for revealing facts. And would do the same with WikiLeaks for revealing facts.

KIM BROWN: Indeed. We’ve been speaking with Glen Ford. Glen is the co-founder and the executive editor of the Black Agenda Report. Glen, as always, thank you very much for joining us.

GLEN FORD: Thanks for giving me the opportunity.

KIM BROWN: You’re welcome, and thank you for watching -– and supporting -– The Real News Network.

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