So now Donald Trump is charging that last year his phones were illegally tapped by Barack Obama. It is now clear, thanks to the Edward Snowden revelations, that the Obama administration presided over a vast intelligence gathering operation that vacuumed up the communications of pretty much everyone, and it is undoubtedly the case that Trump’s communications are somewhere in the NSA computers storage facilities.
But did the Obama White House specifically target his phones to ‘tap’? If it was done ‘illegally’, as Trump charges, that would mean without the support of the FISA court. Otherwise, it would require a FISA warrant and that would require showing of probable cause to a panel of judges, though that court has been very deferential to such government requests. Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has denied that such a request was made though since he has previously lied under oath, his word does not count for much.
Apparently, lawyers in the White House are scrambling to find support for Trump’s assertions because it is now standard practice that Trump says whatever passes through his mind and the people around him then try to find support for it.
As Jon Schwarz keeps reminding us, they needn’t go to all that trouble. Trump has the power to declassify anything he wants and all he has to do his release the confidential information that supports his claims.