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"Utterly ridiculous": GCHQ trashes White House wiretap claims


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"Utterly ridiculous": GCHQ trashes White House wiretap claims

Britain’s GCHQ intelligence agency has dismissed claims made on a US television channel Fox News that it helped former President Barack Obama eavesdrop on Donald Trump after last year’s US presidential election.

In a rare public statement, Britain’s eavesdropping agency said the charge – made on Tuesday by Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano – was “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,” a spokesman for GCHQ said.

“They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored,” the spokesman said.

GCHQ never usually comments on criticism of its work beyond saying it always operates under a strict legal framework.

No evidence

The statement came after the US Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr said the members of his committee had seen no evidence to back up Trump’s allegations.

The committee’s statement read: “Based on the information available to us, we see no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016.”

The White House responded in shape of spokesman Sean Spicer who told reporters that the committee members were premature in their conclusion: “They’re not findings. There’s a statement out today. So the statement clearly says that at this time that they don’t believe that (Obama tapped Trump).They have yet to go through the information.”

Not to be repeated

Britain has received assurances from the United States that the GCHQ allegations will not be repeated, a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said on Friday.

“We’ve made clear to the administration that these claims are ridiculous and they should be ignored and we’ve received assurances that these allegations will not be repeated,” the spokesman told reporters.

“We have a close special relationship with the White House and that allows us to raise concerns as and when they arise as was true in this case.”

The claims

Trump, who became president in January, tweeted earlier this month that his Democratic predecessor had wiretapped him during the late stages of the 2016 campaign. The Republican president offered no evidence for the allegation, which an Obama spokesman said was “simply false”.

On the ‘Fox & Friends’ programme, Napolitano, a political commentator and former New Jersey judge, said that rather than ordering US agencies to spy on Trump, Obama obtained transcripts of Trump’s conversations from Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, the equivalent of the US National Security Agency, which monitors overseas electronic communications.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Thursday quoted Napolitano’s comment on GCHQ.