On Tuesday, Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice admitted that she used the intelligence community to spy on members of the Trump team, but this type of behavior isn’t anything new.
In fact, it appears the Obama White House had been spying on its political opponents and leaking classified information about them long before Donald Trump won the presidential election last November, Lee Smith of Tablet Magazine writes.
Remember the Iran Deal negotiations? In December 2015, The Wall Street Journal revealed that the Obama administration used the NSA to cast a wide net of surveillance around not just Israeli officials and diplomats, but American lawmakers who were friendly towards Israel as well as Jewish-American groups.
White House officials believed the intercepted information could be valuable to counter Mr. Netanyahu’s campaign. They also recognized that asking for it was politically risky. So, wary of a paper trail stemming from a request, the White House let the NSA decide what to share and what to withhold, officials said. ‘We didn’t say, ‘Do it,’ a senior U.S. official said. ‘We didn’t say, ‘Don’t do it.’
Stepped-up NSA eavesdropping revealed to the White House how Mr. Netanyahu and his advisers had leaked details of the U.S.-Iran negotiations—learned through Israeli spying operations—to undermine the talks; coordinated talking points with Jewish-American groups against the deal; and asked undecided lawmakers what it would take to win their votes, according to current and former officials familiar with the intercepts.
In other words, the Obama White House used Israel as an excuse to collect classified information on its political opponents via the NSA and then leak bits of this information to the news media in an effort to intimidate them. Smith writes.
‘At some point, the administration weaponized the NSA’s legitimate monitoring of communications of foreign officials to stay one step ahead of domestic political opponents,’ says a pro-Israel political operative who was deeply involved in the day-to-day fight over the Iran Deal. ‘The NSA’s collections of foreigners became a means of gathering real-time intelligence on Americans engaged in perfectly legitimate political activism—activism, due to the nature of the issue, that naturally involved conversations with foreigners. We began to notice the White House was responding immediately, sometimes within 24 hours, to specific conversations we were having. At first, we thought it was a coincidence being amplified by our own paranoia. After a while, it simply became our working assumption that we were being spied on.’
The White House redefined who is an agent of a foreign government in order to justify collecting classified information about American citizens, then used that information to bully them into doing what they wanted — in this case, passing the Iran Deal, he writes.
To make its case for the Iran Deal, the Obama administration redefined America’s pro-Israel community as agents of Israel. They did something similar with Trump and the Russians—whereby every Russian with money was defined as an agent of the state. Where the Israeli ambassador once was poison, now the Russian ambassador is the kiss of death—a phone call with him led to Flynn’s departure from the White House and a meeting with him landed Attorney General Jeff Sessions in hot water.
So is it really all that surprising the same administration would deploy the same spying methods to collect classified information on members of the Trump team, then leaks bits of it to the news media in an effort to de-legitimize them? Not at all, Smith writes.
Did Trump really have dealings with FSB officers? Thanks to the administration’s whisper campaigns, the facts don’t matter; that kind of contact is no longer needed to justify surveillance, whose spoils could then be weaponized and leaked. There are oligarchs who live in Trump Tower, and they all know Putin—ergo, talking to them is tantamount to dealing with the Russian state.
In other words, Trump, his transition team, and in particular Gen. Mike Flynn, didn’t have to actually be in contact with the Kremlin in order for the Obama White House to spy on them. It’s also quite possible the same administration is responsible for pumping out the narrative that Flynn was communicating with Russian agents by leaking that story to the news media in an attempt to soil his reputation beyond repair.