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Surveillance State Goes After Trump

By       Message Dennis Bernstein       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink

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Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C
(Image by (Flickr Gage Skidmore))
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Since Donald Trump's election, former Special FBI Agent Coleen Rowley has been alarmed over how Democratic hawks, neocons and other associates in the "deep state" have obsessed over "resurrecting the ghost of Joseph McCarthy" and have built political support for a permanent war policy around hatred of Russia.

Rowley, whose 2002 memo to the FBI Director exposed some of the FBI's pre-9/11 failures, compared the current anti-Russia hysteria to "the 'Red Scare' fear of Communism" famously associated with legendary FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover who collaborated with Sen. Joe McCarthy's hunt for disloyal Americans in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

In an interview, Rowley told me that while Trump was wrong about his claim that President Obama ordered a surveillance "tapp" of Trump Tower, the broader point may have been correct as explained by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, R-California, who described how U.S. intelligence apparently picked up conversations by Trump associates while monitoring other targets.

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Dennis Bernstein: A former high-level FBI whistleblower says Trump is vindicated on his claims of being surveilled by the previous administration. Joining us to take a close look at what's been going on, what's been unfolding in Washington, D.C. is Coleen Rowley. She's a former FBI special agent and division council. She wrote a May 2002 memo to the FBI director that exposed some of the FBI's pre-9/11 failures, major failures. She was Time magazine's person of the year in 2002. ... Help us explain what chairman Nunes reported in terms of the collecting process and Trumps innocence or guilt?

Coleen Rowley: I think the Chairman Nunes said [Wednesday] that Trump was monitored instead of wiretapped. And these are terms of art that for three weeks or so, no one has fully understood and so there's been all this confusion. Trump, himself, did not understand, and was clumsy in saying "my campaign was wiretapped." Wiretapping itself is almost obsolete. It means tapping into a wire, that's the old way, when the way communications used to go over wires and now they're digital and they... Snowden, if you remember, all of the disclosures from Edward Snowden, and other NSA whistleblowers, there's something going on now called collect it all, massive surveillance. And that is done, there are some targets, but then lots and lots of Americans are incidentally monitored" they aren't monitored but their conversations, and their phone numbers that they're dialing and their e-mails that they're e-mailing are collected.

And, of course, when Trump was under investigation it would be natural that they would have some... not his... not necessarily him personally, but his campaign staff obviously, that's going to mean surveillance of those people.

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DB: Now, monitoring, does that mean that Obama was in fact, surveilling? Is that a good word? Was Trump being surveilled? Were his claims essentially correct?


Former FBI official Coleen Rowley (second from left) with other government whistleblowers and/or critics of the Surveillance State, from left to right: Kirk Wiebe, Rowley, Raymond McGovern, Daniel Ellsberg, William Binney, Jesselyn Radack, and Thomas Drak
(Image by (@McClellanKM) via Twitter)
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CR: I think Trump is vindicated, again he didn't understand the terms that he was using. And he did misuse the term, so when Comey said "No... that that tweet about being wiretapped, we have found no evidence of that." Comey was able to be honest because a wiretap has a specific meaning. But, you notice, in five hours Comey never said that there's been no surveillance of anyone connected to the Trump campaign. In fact, he implied the opposite. He implied that the Trump campaign, some persons, he didn't mention names, but some of them have been investigated since this summer.

And, so, obviously that does mean that, for starters, if you think... remember all of the disclosures from Edward Snowden and the other NSA whistleblowers, they can access all of the communications that have already been collected. That's for starters, so if you have somebody that you are now investigating, you can go back into these NSA databases and say pull up everything on so-and-so. And I've just got to add one more thing, the NSA whistleblowers including Edward Snowden all warned for really now for two or three years, we have been warning the American public that this "collect it all" is really a recipe for, not only a lack of privacy, but even for hurting our own democracy.

If you go back to Frank Church, for instance, the reason the Church committee ... well it was because Frank Church, Senator Frank Church was, himself, under surveillance by the NSA. And we warned now for two or three years, that they tell the public "Don't worry, you have nothing to hide. Why would you worry about any of these NSA... they're helping us catch terrorists. And you don't have anything to hide."

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But, of course, the politicians in Washington are the ones that have things to hide. They could have conflicts of interests, there's all kinds of things going on, certainly just political opposition, partisanship. So this is always an ongoing game in Washington, to try to find out dirt about your opponent, etc. So, they are the ones, actually, who should have been more aware of how this could be used against themselves. And yet, they just disregarded these warnings and told the public "Oh, don't worry you have nothing to hide."

DB: We've got Donald Trump vindicated about, in essence, being monitored, surveilled, without his own knowledge although I would imagine he should have known, or assumed. But now that tells us that there has been a lot of information collected and we can now assume, I guess, that all the... a lot of the communications from the Trump people, in Washington, also, at Trump Tower, so even though it wasn't wiretapped, it was monitored.

CR: It was collected. And, again, this isn't necessarily about Trump personally, just cause it's not about Obama, personally ordering. What this is about is if there are even members of Trump's campaign staff, or even associates, that could even be a little bit distant from the actual campaign, but just associates. It may be that they were the actual targets. And, still, might be the targets. But, then incidentally Trump could have ended up being, himself, intercepted.

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Dennis J Bernstein is the host and executive producer of Flashpoints, a daily news magazine broadcast on Pacifica Radio. He is an award-winning investigative reporter, essayist and poet. His articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Nation, and (more...)
 

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