Did the Obama administration engage in “police state tactics” by spying on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign? Such activities would be entirely in-character of the former administration.
“The evidence [of spying] is overwhelming,” said Conservative Review Editor-in-Chief Mark Levin over the weekend. Yet the mainstream media is more interested in biased partisanship and dismissing legitimate questions rather than investigating the evidence.
There is ample reason to take these spying allegations seriously, especially in light of the Obama administration’s record on domestic surveillance. Here is a brief history:
1. Obama’s Justice Department secretly subpoenaed AP reporters’ private phone records
In what The Washington Post referred to as a “sweeping and unusual move,” the Obama Justice Department secretly subpoenaed two months’ worth of 2012 phone records from Associated Press journalists. Federal authorities seized more than 20 records from cellular, office, and home telephone lines, a move the AP characterized as “serious interference with A.P.’s constitutional right to gather and report the news.”
“These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations, and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know,” AP President and CEO Gary B. Pruitt wrote to then-Attorney General Eric Holder.
2. Fox News reporter James Rosen and his parents’ phone records were seized
In 2010, the Obama administration collected the phone records of Fox News reporter James Rosen, and his parents, additionally seizing two days’ worth of his personal emails as part of a leak investigation. The affidavit seeking the court-approved warrant referred to Rosen as a criminal “co-conspirator” under the Espionage Act. No charges were brought against Rosen, and the White House Correspondents’ Association slammed the Obama administration’s tactics and targeting of reporters.
“Reporters should never be threatened with prosecution for the simple act of doing their jobs,” the WHCA said in a statement. “The problem is that in two recent cases, one involving Fox News’ James Rosen and the other focused on the Associated Press, serious questions have been raised about whether our government has gotten far too aggressive in its monitoring of reporters’ movements, phone records, and even personal email.”
3. Secret Service agents accessed a restricted file to embarrass a congressman investigating them
In 2015, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah (C, 76%), chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, held a hearing to investigate scandals involving the U.S. Secret Service. According to Andrea Noble and The Washington Times, in response to Chaffetz’s investigation, a Secret Service agent “improperly accessed the agency’s restricted database” to embarrass the Utah congressman by leaking details of his unsuccessful job application with the service.
A follow-up investigation revealed that at least 45 Secret Service agents accessed the Chaffetz file, potentially in violation of the U.S. Privacy Act. Screenshots of the file were “circulated widely around the agency” and Assistant Director Edward Lowery suggested leaking the information to the press in retaliation against the investigation.
“It was a tactic designed to intimidate and embarrass me and, frankly, it is intimidating,” Chaffetz said at the time.
4. Obama’s phone surveillance of foreign leaders
In 2013, documents released by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden exposed the Obama administration’s spying of allied heads of state. President Obama’s NSA surveilled the phone conversations of 35 world leaders.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was “livid” over substantiated reports that the U.S. government was monitoring her mobile phone. According to a spokesman for the chancellor, Merkel told President Obama in 2013 that “she unmistakably disapproves of and views as completely unacceptable such practices, if the indications are authenticated.”
“This would be a serious breach of confidence. Such practices have to be halted immediately,” she added.
5. NSA spied on Israeli PM Netanyahu and members of Congress
During negotiations over the Iran Nuclear Deal in 2015, the NSA spied on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and recorded private conversations of members of Congress and Jewish groups to gather intel on the deal’s opposition. This, of course, took place after Obama sent taxpayer money to help defeat Netanyahu in the Israeli elections (unsuccessfully).
The spying on Bibi Netanyahu, Congress members, and Jewish groups was after Obama had promised to end the NSA’s mass data collection, in response to the resulting backlash from Snowden’s leaks.
A 2015 Pew survey of investigative reporters showed that 64 percent of media figures believed “that the U.S. government has probably collected data” from their personal phone and email records.
Given the Obama administration’s astonishing record on spying against government officials and media, it is astounding that so many journalists are indifferent to investigating claims that the Trump campaign was surveilled as well.