Lots of people are very excited about the video shown above, and I don’t empathize. It looks pretty unremarkable to me.
I am more concerned with the question of how many different agencies within the USA are reading NSA wiretap transcripts. (Perhaps the NSA does it all with databases, and the other agencies submit database queries instead of reading particular files. I don’t know the details.)
Apparently Comey can’t believe that the USA wiretaps everybody:
FBI Director James Comey has asked the US Department of Justice to publicly deny the president’s assertion that his predecessor ordered his phones tapped – and so far, the Justice Department has not.
Comey says President Donald Trump’s claim that Trump Towers was put under surveillance on the orders of former President Barack Obama is false and must be corrected, sources told the New York Times. He is said to have made the request on March 4.
Obama released the following weasel words:
“A cardinal rule of the Obama administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice,” an Obama spokesman said.
“As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen,” the statement said.
The statement did not say whether President Trump or his associates were surveilled as part of any Justice Department probe.
When a lawyer tells you that Obama never interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice, that probably means that there might have been interference with other investigations.
When a lawyer follows up with “as part of that,” you have to wonder whether that means (to lawyers) other orders were given that don’t need to be mentioned because they are not part of the DOJ thing.
Recall what happened about one week before Trump took office:
the Obama administration on Thursday announced new rules that will let the NSA share vast amounts of private data gathered without warrant, court orders or congressional authorization with 16 other agencies, including the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Department of Homeland Security.
The new rules allow employees doing intelligence work for those agencies to sift through raw data collected under a broad, Reagan-era executive order that gives the NSA virtually unlimited authority to intercept communications abroad. Previously, NSA analysts would filter out information they deemed irrelevant and mask the names of innocent Americans before passing it along.
The change was in the works long before there was any expectation that someone like Trump might become president. The last-minute adoption of the procedures is one of many examples of the Obama administration making new executive powers established by the Bush administration permanent, on the assumption that the executive branch could be trusted to police itself.
I don’t know who is wiretapping whom, but I imagine it as something like this:
CIA: I’m shocked, SHOCKED, to find that wiretapping is going on in here…
NSA: Your transcripts, sir.
CIA: Oh, thank you very much.