- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 4, 2017


The question of what kinds of communications got Donald Trump aides caught up in incidental U.S. wiretaps may be answered by the ultra-leaker on such matters: Edward Snowden.

Mr. Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, provided The Guardian in 2013 with top secret documents that showed the U.S. wiretaps a wide array of embassies in Washington, friend and foe.

The bugging would be done under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows the NSA to tap electronic communications of virtually any foreign operative. Targets do not have to be suspected spies or terrorists to fetch surveillance. They can simply be foreign agents conducting diplomacy.

Mr. Trump, as the Republican presidential nominee and then as president elect, would have attracted a number of phone calls and emails from Washington diplomats seeking any information they could then relay to their respective capitals about the unpredictable incoming president.

It is likely that these types of communications become part of intelligence reports.

Susan Rice, President Barack Obama’s National Security Adviser, asked for dozens of such reports from intelligence agencies, Bloomberg View reported. She requested that the names of Mr. Trump’s aides be “unmasked,” in other words mentioned by name in the reports instead of being redacted. FISA was written to protect the privacy by masking innocent U.S. citizens incidentally caught up in a wiretap.

The Snowden-provided documents show that in 2010 the U.S. bugged the European Union mission in New York and its embassy in Washington. Other targeted embassies in Washington included, France, Italy, Greece, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, India and Middle East countries.

Today, it is known that the U.S. bugged the Russian embassy. It intercepted calls between retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, then Mr. Trump’s incoming National Security adviser, and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition.

Mr. Flynn’s name was “unmasked” by the Obama administration, and the contents of the calls were leaked to the news media. Legal experts say the leaking amounts to a felony.

The Guardian said one of the spy operations was dubbed “Dropmire.” It involved placing a bug in the EU’s fax machine in Washington.

Other code names for such intercepts were “Perdido,” Blackfoot,” “Wabash”, and “Powell.”

Blackfoot and Wabash were operations against the French mission at the United Nations and its embassy in Washington.

Mr. Snowden lives in exile in Moscow.

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