“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.”
March 17 2017 — GCHQ, Britain’s communications intelligence agency, has issued a statement denying it wiretapped Donald Trump in the weeks after he won the US election. Follow us on Twitter: @Intel_Today
UPDATE (March 17 2018) — Although we still do not know if GCHQ wiretapped Donald Trump’s team in the weeks after he won the US election, the UK spooks certainly appeared to have done so during the summer 2016!
According to a report from the New Yorker, Robert Hannigan — the head of British communication intelligence at the time — flew to Washington during the summer 2016 to brief then-CIA Director John Brennan on intercepted communications between the Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government.
“Robert Hannigan, then the head of the U.K.’s intelligence service the G.C.H.Q., had recently flown to Washington and briefed the C.I.A.’s director, John Brennan, on a stream of illicit communications between Trump’s team and Moscow that had been intercepted. (The content of these intercepts has not become public.)” [The New Yorker]
In his bestselling new book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House”, Michael Wolff wrote that Blair told Jared Kushner there was a possibility “that the British had had the Trump campaign staff under surveillance, monitoring its telephone calls and other communications and possibly even Trump himself”.
Wolff’s book also said Blair had explained “that the Obama administration would not have asked the British to spy on the Trump campaign [but] the Brits would have been led to understand how helpful it might be if they did”.
Wolff said it was not clear whether the information was “rumour, informed conjecture, his own speculation or solid stuff” but that it had been shared because Blair had been angling to be Trump’s Middle East envoy. [Guardian]
Tony Blair said that Wolff had made up both claims. In an interview on BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show, Michael Wolff insisted he overheard the discussion between Blair and Jared Kushner.
“Tony Blair is a complete liar,” Wolff stated. “Blair told the Trump team that British intelligence may have been spying on them before Trump assumed the presidency.”
END of UPDATE
Judge Andrew Napolitano
The claims of GCHQ involvement were initially made by former judge Andrew Napolitano.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer
Sean Spicer quoted judge Napolitano as saying:
“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.”
Analysis — Gordon Corera, BBC security correspondent
It is unusual for GCHQ to comment directly on a report about its intelligence work, normally preferring to stick to the policy of neither confirming nor denying any activity.
The phrase “utterly ridiculous” is also very unusual for the agency.
But it’s a sign of just how seriously they take it. The allegations are so sensitive that the agency clearly felt they could not let them go unchallenged.
The UK intelligence machinery includes the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the Security Service (MI5: Military Intelligence, Section 5), the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), as well as the Defence Intelligence (DI).
RELATED POST: UK’s Intelligence Agencies
The GCHQ main mission is to provide government departments and the military with signals intelligence (SIGINT), which it obtains by monitoring all manner of electronic communication and information systems, including the internet.
The GCHQ is also tasked with the responsibility to keep government communication safe and to keep the national infrastructure (water, power, communications and so on) safe from interference and disruption.
GCHQ (former) Director Robert Hannigan
On January 23 2017, Robert Hannigan, who has held the post of GCHQ Director since 2014, announced he was stepping down for family reasons.
“Sources have told BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera that the resignation was not the result of any concerns over policy in the UK or in the US.”
British officials were quick to rubbish Judge 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”.
Blast from the Past
Former agent Mike Frost –a Canadian citizen — said he had spied on the two ministers through the Echelon surveillance system.
Mike Frost, who worked for Canadian intelligence from 1972 until 1992, claimed the five countries could circumvent domestic laws against spying on citizens by asking another Echelon member to do it for them.
“The UK Parliament now have total deniability. They didn’t do anything… we did it for them.”
US will ‘not repeat’ claims
No 10 has been assured the allegations would not be repeated, a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said.
“It had been made clear to US authorities the claims were ridiculous and should have been ignored.”
Britain’s GCHQ agency denies wiretapping Donald Trump — BBC March 17 2017
US will ‘not repeat’ claims GCHQ wiretapped Donald Trump — BBC March 17 2017
UK: GCHQ denies wiretapping Donald Trump
One Year Ago — UK: GCHQ denies wiretapping Donald Trump