Laura Ingraham posed the question that many in Washington are asking: “Did the intel community under Obama spy on the Trump campaign for political purposes?” To answer the question, she had former federal government officials Bill Binney and Jeff Beatty on her Fox News show. Before turning to Binney, Ingraham said that it is “disturbing” that during the 2016 presidential campaign, then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch chose not to approve giving a “defensive briefing” to the Trump campaign about campaign volunteer Carter Page, who had been of concern to the FBI. Instead, the Obama administration launched an investigation of Trump's campaign.
Binney, who was once a high official in the National Security Agency with cyber-warfare duties, affirmed that government spying on the Trump campaign “goes even before that. NSA is picking up all the data on them anyway and they have it stored to the IC Reach program without oversight by the Intelligence committees or the FISA court. This is all done under Executive Order 12333236.” He may have been referring to Executive Order 12333, which was signed in 1981 by Ronald Reagan. According to some analysts, it is the primary source for NSA authorities and intelligence agencies to operate outside of judicial and legislative oversight for foreign intelligence purposes, with the approval of the US attorney general. It is believed that the NSA interprets the order to place few restrictions on gathering of Americans' communications and metadata where it is collected “incidentally” and allow the broad collection of non-US persons’ data. Fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has suggested that “indefensible collection activities,” including upstream collection of US internet companies’ data travelling between their data centers, is done under that authority of Executive Order 12333.
Ingraham cited on Monday evening the former National Intelligence Director James Clapper as having been untruthful about NSA surveillance in testimony before Congress. Agreeing with Ingraham about Clapper, Binney said that former NSA Director Keith Alexander and CIA Director John Brennan were also untruthful in Congressional testimony.
Brennan is an inveterate critic of President Donald Trump. In March, he told MSNBC, “I think he is afraid of the president of Russia, one can speculate as to why. The Russian may have something on him personally that they can roll out, and make his life more difficult.” Ingraham ask guest Jeff Beatty, “How does this make the intel community look good? When Brennan is on TV speculating that one of our adversaries has information one him, when that dossier has been debunked, and phony and paid for by Hillary Clinton.”
Beatty responded that Brennan, because he is no longer a government official, is playing to his political base and serving as a “propagandist.” He asserted that Brennan is trying to roll back multiple failures as director of the CIA at the hands of Russian president Vladimir Putin, including Russia’s invasion of the Crimea and Ukraine, as well as Russian meddling in the 2016 election. “He’s failing now,” Beatty said, “because Putin’s objective -- Putin’s the winner -- wasn’t about making Trump the winner of the election, it was about weakening the United States...so that we would not be effective in opposing the Russian international agenda.”
Did Obama order the black ops against Trump?
When Ingraham expressed incredulity that then-President Barack Obama was unaware of political operations directed jointly by the Department of Justice, FBI and CIA, Binney pointed out that it is only in the presidency that the three agencies “come to a point.” Binney expressed certainty that Obama would have known about the operation. “The Steele dossier,” he said, involved DOJ, FBI and CIA. The president, Binney said, “is the only person who has control of all of them and tell them what to do.” Beatty concurred, saying “They have to know what is going on. If they didn’t, they are not doing their job.”
Ingraham recalled that Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice wrote an email to herself just minutes after Trump’s inauguration: “President Obama began the conversation by stressing his continued commitment to to ensuring that every aspect of this issue is handled by the Intelligence and law enforcement communities ‘by the book.’ The President stressed that that he is not asking about, initiating or instructing from a law enforcement perspective. He reiterated that our law enforcement team needs to proceed as it would normally by the book.”
In February, Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) described Rice’s email as “unusual.” He wrote at his website, “Ambassador Rice appears to have used this email to document a January 5, 2017 Oval Office meeting between President Obama, former FBI Director James Comey and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates regarding Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election.” He and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) subsequently wrote a letter to Rice. It struck as “odd,” they wrote, that she felt the need to send herself such an “unusual email purporting to document a conversation involving President Obama and his interactions with the FBI regarding the Trump/Russia investigation.” They added that despite the claim that Obama insisted that then-FBI director Comey should proceed “by the book,” questions have since arisen whether DOJ, FBI, and the State Department did indeed proceed “by the book.”
In conclusion, Beatty suggested on Ingraham’s show that Trump should go on the “offensive” to address his opponents, using civil lawsuits and offers of rewards. Acknowledging that federal law protects bureaucrats, Beatty said that among non-government personnel who could be sued are Christopher Steele -- the former MI6 British intelligence officer -- who authored the discredited dossier on Trump’s supposed activities in Russia that was commissioned by Hillary Clinton’s campaign. For his part, Binney said “This is a Wizard of Oz game. They’re trying to cover up the crimes they’ve been committing and they’re trying to do it and justify it by even writing memos that say things that they’re not really doing.”
William Binney worked for the National Security Agency for 30 years but resigned in 2001. He had become critical of higher-ups at NSA during the George W. Bush administration in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and also criticized NSA's data collection policies during the Barack Obama administration. In 2016, Binney said that the intelligence community's assessment of Russia meddling in the 2016 presidential election was false.
Jeff Beatty is a former Delta Force officer, special agent advising the FBI on hostage incidents, and CIA terrorism case officer. He is an expert on national security affairs and has lectured at several universities.