In light of CIA cyber arsenal, Trump’s wiretap claims are totally plausible

Finian Cunningham
Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, he is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. For over 20 years he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organizations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Now a freelance journalist based in East Africa, his columns appear on RT, Sputnik, Strategic Culture Foundation and Press TV.
In light of CIA cyber arsenal, Trump’s wiretap claims are totally plausible
President Trump’s claim his phone was tapped during the election campaign by the Obama administration has been ridiculed as “outrageous.” Now, with the latest WikiLeaks disclosure of the large CIA hacking capacity, Trump’s claims aren’t crazy at all.

Indeed one might say allegations of illegal surveillance by US intelligence agencies is consistent with the concept of a 'deep state' operating as a shadow government.

The WikiLeaks’ bombshell release this week, the so-called Vault 7, of over 8,000 documents purporting to show a global arsenal of CIA hacking methods appears to be authentic. That is, the illegal surveillance of computers, smartphones and even household televisions by the American intelligence agency is happening on a massive scale.

Two days after WikiLeaks’ publication, the New York Times reported: “The CIA is scrambling to contain the damage.” While the Washington Post headlined the “disclosure exposes the rapid growth of CIA digital operations.” The FBI has also reportedly started an investigation into how the “biggest leak in the CIA’s history” was perpetrated.

In other words, this is an admission of culpability and the penetrative power of the CIA to snoop on whoever it wants, anywhere in the world. That should not surprise, given the revelations made earlier in 2013 by whistleblower Edward Snowden of how another US intelligence agency, the NSA, has been tapping telecommunications on a worldwide scale, including the private phones of foreign heads of state such as Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel.

What seems new about the latest WikiLeaks’ trove of insider information is the sheer penetrative cyber power of the CIA, whereby encrypted privacy is rendered useless in some 95 percent of all smartphones used globally. Basically, any device connected to the internet is vulnerable to hacking by US intelligence agencies.

Since Trump made the claim his phone had been wiretapped by the Obama administration, he has been widely condemned for making claims that demean the presidential office. Media pundits have denounced “Trump’s fantasyland” conspiracy theories, while senior lawmakers such as Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy have dismissed his claims as “outlandish.”

FBI chief James Comey said he was “incredulous” over Trump’s allegations that he was being spied upon.

The argument used by Comey and others rests on the assumption that such surveillance would have required the issuance of a warrant by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which in turn would have come to then President Obama’s attention.

But in the light of WikiLeaks’ Vault 7 documents – and the disclosure that US intelligence agencies can access virtually any internet-connected device – the notion of a mandatory legal process and FISC warrants seems quaintly naive.

Former NSA technical guru William Binney, who oversaw the development of clandestine internet tapping techniques, has backed Trump’s claims in as much as he says “not even the phone of an American president is safe” from wiretapping by his own spy agencies.

So although Trump has not provided any evidence to support his wiretapping allegations, we do know that it is technically very feasible for it to happen. Whether Obama gave the nod for the snooping seems beside the point. If secret state agencies were opposed to Trump becoming president – and the evidence is that they did indeed favor Hillary Clinton to take the White House – then the presumption of Obama having to be consulted is misplaced.

Another aspect of the general political and media pillorying of Trump over his wiretapping claims is that it reveals just how deeply in denial the US political class are concerning the 'deep state.' Part of this denial may be cynical feigning. Nevertheless, there seems to be a real incredulity among US politicians and media that a deep state exists in the US.

Former CIA director Michael Hayden told US media: “I would never use the term ‘deep state.' That’s a phrase we have used for Turkey and other countries like that, but not the American republic.”

Ironically, the day before WikiLeaks began releasing its Vault 7 on the CIA’s cyber arsenal, the New York Times ran a piece laden with skepticism, headlined: “Rumblings of a ‘deep state’ undermining Trump?” The article goes on to dismiss Trump’s claims as a “foreign concept” and “an extraordinary contention for a sitting president to make.

Helpfully, the NY Times provided a relatively accurate description of how a deep state operates in theory. It referred to a “shadowy network of agency or military officials who secretly conspire to influence government policy.”

However, the NY Times goes on to say that such an unelected government is only found in coup-prone countries “like Egypt, Turkey or Pakistan.”

Loren DeJonge Schulman, a former Obama National Security advisor, is quoted as saying: “A deep state, when you’re talking about Turkey or Egypt or other countries, that’s part of government or people outside of government that are literally controlling the direction of the country no matter who’s actually in charge, and probably engaging in murder and other corrupt practices. It’s shocking to hear that kind of thinking from a president or the people closest to him.

That a secretive cabal of unelected, but incredibly powerful state agencies exercise real government control in the US – regardless of regular elections – is not at all a foreign concept, nor the conspiracy rantings of fringe political groups.

It is well-documented by David Talbot in the Devil's Chessboard, among other scholarly works, that the US deep state formed following the Second World War largely with the creation of the CIA in 1947, at the behest of the Pentagon, multinational corporations, and Wall Street.

The assassination of President John F Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, when his brains were blown out in a sniper ambush in broad daylight, was perhaps the most graphic demonstration of the US deep state in action. JFK had to be eliminated by so-called 'executive action' because of his policies to negotiate with the Soviet Union to curb the arms race of the Cold War, according to James Douglass in JFK and the Unspeakable, as well as several other respected scholars on the subject. 

The American deep state had already by then engaged in coups and regime-change operations in Italy, Iran, Guatemala, the Congo, Vietnam, and Cuba. But the assassination of JFK was the first such action domestically.

Fifty-four years later, the US deep state and its covert arms like the CIA have been involved in countless other illegal foreign interventions. And every US president since Kennedy knows tacitly that he must comply with the dictate of the shadow government that runs America.

What is astounding is just how widespread the denial of a deep state is within US political and public discourse. It murdered a sitting president, and yet acknowledgment of its shocking barbaric, raw power is banished from the popular media. Even though plenty of polls show that most ordinary Americans are skeptical of the official version that JFK was killed by a lone malcontent gunman.

Despite official denials, the US is subject to a deep state to a much greater and more insidious extent that any other nation. That is an explosive truth undermining American pretensions of 'democracy.'

For all his personal flaws, President Trump has good cause to make claims of secret forces trying to undermine him. His policy to normalize ties with Russia provides a motive. And in the wake of WikiLeaks’ latest revelations, we know more than ever that the US deep state has the means.

The Trump wiretap debacle is laying the US deep state bare.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.