Wednesday, 22 November 2017

British spy agency GCHQ denies ‘ridiculous’ Trump wiretap claims

GCHQ -1

LONDON: The United Kingdom’s intelligence agency has strongly denied White House allegations it spied on US President Donald Trump on behalf of former President TRUMPBarack Obama during the 2016 election. GCHQ, in a highly unusual public statement, said the claims repeated by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, were “utterly ridiculous” and ought to be ignored. At a Thursday press briefing, Spicer read out allegations originally made on Tuesday on Fox News by legal analyst Andrew Napolitano, that the UK intelligence agency had spied on Trump. “Judge Andrew Napolitano made the following statement, quote, ‘Three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command (to spy on Trump). He didn’t use the NSA, he didn’t use the CIA … he used GCHQ,'” Spicer told journalists. When making the original allegations, Napolitano implied the decision to use GCHQ had been made to keep “American fingerprints” off the spying. But a GCHQ spokesperson said Napolitano’s claims were “utterly ridiculous.” “Recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct ‘wire tapping’ against the then President Elect are nonsense. They … should be ignored,” the spokesperson said. GCHQ — Government Communications Headquarters – is the British equivalent of the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA). It uses intelligence collecting and wiretapping tools to gather information for the UK government. It rarely comments on specific operations, and almost never in such blunt terms. The denial came as the Senate Intelligence Committee announced it had found no evidence Trump Tower had been under surveillance in 2016, contrary to Trump’s previous claims. “Based on the information available to use, we see no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United State government either before or after Election Day 2016,” committee chair Richard Burr said in a statement Thursday.

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