Nonsense

A couple of weeks ago US President Donald Trump accused former US President Barack Obama of tapping his phones during the 2016 election campaign. That sort of blew over until, according to a report in the Mirror, very recently when “Donald Trump’s spokesman has sensationally suggested British spies may have colluded with Barack Obama to covertly surveil the President before last year’s election … Sean Spicer, communications director for the US leader, repeated a claim that the secretive Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) were drafted in to avoid any “American fingerprints” on the alleged surveillance.

Now good intelligence services are very taciturn, and GCHQ is widely regarded as being very good, indeed, so it is, perhaps, just a bit surprising when, as the Financial Times reports, “British intelligence officials angrily slapped down claims that President Donald Trump had been under surveillance by GCHQ during his election campaign, after they were repeated by the White House … [and] … The UK’s usually tight-lipped electronic intelligence agency broke with its convention of not formally commenting on intelligence matters after Sean Spicer, Mr Trump’s press secretary, repeated the claims of a Fox News analyst that Barack Obama, the former president, had used GCHQ to do his dirty work.” Some pretty undiplomatic language was used when “A spokesperson for the agency said: “Recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct ‘wire tapping’ against the then president-elect are nonsense … [and] … “They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored.”” It is not normal for an official spokesman to refer to comments made by the US President’s Press Secretary ~ even though he was (only?) repeating what a media commentator had said ~ as “nonsense” and “utterly ridiculous,” but then Donald Trump is no ordinary president, is he?

The Financial Times goes on to say that “The claims will nevertheless play to mounting concern in the UK intelligence community over the Trump presidency, and its so-far tumultuous relationship with its own spymasters … [and] … The Anglo-American intelligence relationship has been the closest in the world and routinely involves the seamless sharing of highly sensitive material. Britain has played a particularly strong role in recent months in gathering intelligence on Russia — but some in the UK fear the 5eyes-01_homepage_blog_horizontalWhite House’s somewhat chaotic first few weeks under the new presidency and vocal approach to intelligence matters may prefigure a more inhibited relationship in the future.” Canada (along with Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom) also shares very sensitive intelligence with the Americans through the “five eyes”  … can we continue continue to do that when Donald Trump is the president? Can he be trusted with real secrets? Or do we need to, also, be “more inhibited” in what we share with the Americans? I’m not worried about the judgment or probity of Raymond McMaster, the President’s National Security Advisor, or Rex Tillerson, the US Secretary of State, nor of James Mattis, the Defence Secretary …

… all are good, sound, solid men who will serve America and President Trump well. But I do worry about President Trump, himself, I do not trust his judgment, and I mistrust some of the people around him, because, even in the wake of a most emphatic, even undiplomatic denial and rebuke of this “nonsense,” it appears, again according to the Financial Times, that Team Trump is doubling down, claiming that ““We said nothing,” Mr Trump declared at a news conference. “All we did is quote a very talented legal mind,” citing a legal analyst on Fox News. Brushing aside potential damage to its closest intelligence relationship, Mr Spicer added: “I don’t think we regret anything.” … [and] … The hardline stance came despite a “private conversation” between Sir Kim Darroch, Britain’s ambassador to Washington, and Mr Spicer on Thursday and a separate phone call between the two countries’ national security advisers that were characterised as full of “regret and contrition” by those briefed on the exchanges.” In other words President Trump, himself, is unable to back away from a lie or to admit a mistake; he will act irresponsibly whenever it suits his mood … and he is the “leader” of the free world?

The challenge is for our Foreign Minister, Defence Minister and newly minted Privy Council member Andrew Leslie, who was brought on board because of his contacts in the Pentagon …

… to ensure that Canada’s national security system is protected from this sort of “nonsense” and is not abused by President Trump’s team for their own, strange purposes.

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