Ex-UK ambassador calls White House wiretap claims 'gratuitously damaging'

By:  @randy, 2 weeks ago
Comments: 22 ..


Sir Peter Westmacott, writing in the Guardian, has accused the White House of ‘peddling falsehoods’ by suggesting British intelligence spied on Trump Tower


The former British ambassador to Washington, Sir Peter Westmacott, has issued a withering criticism of Donald Trump and his inner circle, accusing them of making absurd, unthinkable and nonsensical claims about the UK’s involvement in alleged wiretapping of Trump Tower that he warns could damage close ties between the two countries.



Writing in the Guardian, Westmacott accuses the White House of not only “peddling falsehoods” that the British intelligence agency GCHQ assisted then president Barack Obama in tapping Trump’s New York phones, but of potentially harming intelligence cooperation across the Atlantic.


His comments come as the Republican chair of the House of Representatives intelligence committee has said he has seen no evidence to back Trump’s claims, and as a Republican member of that panel said the president should apologise to Britain.


“This is a dangerous game,” Westmacott writes. “The intelligence relationship between Britain and America is unique and precious. It is critical to our shared efforts to counter terrorism.”


Westmacott adds that “gratuitously damaging it by peddling falsehoods and then doing nothing to set the record straight would be a gift to our enemies they could only dream of”.


The former ambassador’s excoriating remarks are all the more remarkable given that he stepped down from his role as the UK’s representative in Washington as recently as January 2016.


His unrestrained putdown of Trump’s refusal to correct the unsubstantiated wiretapping allegations – which Westmacott ascribes acerbically to the president’s “famous reluctance to admit mistakes” – is a clear indication of the intensity of British anger at having been dragged into what is seen as a controversy entirely of Trump’s own making.


Such a searing attack from a senior former UK diplomat adds to the heat on Trump and his team as the wiretapping furore enters its third and possibly decisive week. The president dropped the bombshell on 4 March, claiming in a tweet that Obama had tapped his phones during the presidential election, and has engaged in an increasingly desperate effort to stand by the charge ever since.


On Monday the powerful intelligence committee of the House will hear testimony from the FBI director, James Comey, and Admiral Mike Rogers, head of GCHQ’s equivalent in the US, the National Security Agency. Both are certain to come under heavy questioning as to whether there is any evidence of wiretapping, or surveillance of any kind, at Trump Tower under Obama’s instruction.


In advance of the key hearing, Trump came under a barrage of fresh criticism on the Sunday political talkshows from members of the House intelligence committee, including those from the president’s own party.

The chairman of the House committee, Republican Devin Nunes, made clear that having read a Department of Justice report into the affair that was delivered to him on Friday, there was no evidence of a physical wiretap on Trump Tower, nor any evidence that the Fisa court that oversees the intelligence agencies had approved any surveillance.

“There was no Fisa warrant that I’m aware of to tap Trump Tower,” Nunes told Fox News Sunday, adding: “I don’t think there is anyone in the White House today that is under any type of surveillance at all.”


Another Republican, Will Hurd, went further and said it was time for Trump to apologise to the UK. The representative, who had a nine-year career as a CIA agent, said it was important to say sorry “for the intimation that the UK was involved in this as well”.


“We need to make sure we are all working together,” he said. “We live in a very dangerous world and we can’t do this alone.”


The incendiary claim that GCHQ conspired with Obama to secretly monitor Trump during the election period may come up in discussions on Tuesday between the British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, and senior Trump aides. Johnson is due in Washington to attend a global meeting on defeating Islamic State.


In his Guardian column, Westmacott exhorts Johnson to seize the moment and make British displeasure known. “He needs to make very clear that this is not a game,” the former ambassador writes.


The British row erupted last Thursday when the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, cited an unsubstantiated report by Fox News commentator Andrew Napolitano that claimed Obama had used GCHQ to spy on Trump. Fox News later dissociated itself from the allegations, saying there was no evidence for them.


In a highly unusual public intervention from GCHQ, the spy agency’s spokesman called the claims “utterly ridiculous”.


Westmacott, who served as British ambassador to Turkey and France before moving to the US between 2012 and January 2016, underlines the sense of shock in the UK at the wiretapping claims.


“Anyone with any knowledge of the intelligence world knew the suggestion was absurd,” he writes. “First, the president of the United States does not have the power to order the tapping of anyone’s phone. Second, the idea of the British foreign secretary signing a warrant authorising such an intrusion into domestic US politics was unthinkable.”

He goes on to stress that the relationship between Britain and the US has been taken for granted since the second world war, based on “unquestioned mutual trust”. He warns that any move to damage it could harm shared efforts to “counter terrorism, Russian aggression, the cyber-attacks of China, the nuclear threat from North Korea and much else”.


Despite the almost universal ridicule and censure Trump has faced, the president continues to stick doggedly to his wiretapping allegations, showing no willingness to apologise to Obama or the British government.


His only concession so far saw Spicer say that the president used “wiretapping” in quotation marks, to signify wider surveillance rather than literal phone taps.


In the course of a press conference with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, on Friday, Trump praised the Fox News contributor who started the dispute, calling Napolitano a “very talented lawyer”.


He also elicited an expression of bemused pain from Merkel when he tried to joke that “at least we have something in common” – an allusion to his claim that they have both been the victims of US government wiretapping.


According to documents leaked by Edward Snowden to the Guardian and other media outlets in 2013, Merkel was among world leaders targeted by the NSA for surveillance.


link 03/19/17 06:30:40PM @randy:

The British are, without a doubt, our closet ally in the world. We exchange classified information with them, especially when it comes to terrorist activities. By dragging them into his sick lie, Trump has seriously endangered that exchange since he makes it obvious that he is not a person who can be trusted with real classified information, because he just plain makes up more and more lies to try to cover up the lies he has already told. When they get some heavily classified information concerning a potential terrorist threat, who are they going to contact in the U.S. to warn us? They can't trust Trump, so do they go to the CIA? The FBI? The Department of Defense? They need to contact someone with credibility and who just might not tell Trump and his traveling circus about it who will just screw it up.

Trump has completely destroyed his credibility with every world leader who is on our side and even more with our enemies. He is a delight to them because having a buffoon in the White House, surrounded by obvious incompetents, emboldens them to attack. His out and out, bold-faced lies, lack of credibility and general incompetent behavior endangers more then just America's image around the world, it endangers American lives.

Bob Nelson
link 03/19/17 06:42:48PM @bob-nelson:

The thing that everyone needs to integrate is: 

Trump neither knows nor cares!


link 03/19/17 07:45:40PM @randy:

Unfortunately and much to our danger I believe you are right on both counts. He does not know, is incapable of or is unwilling to learn what it takes to be a real world leader and does not care how much damage he is doing to America around the world. He is smashing and by extension our reputation and credibility in front of every head of state of every other nation. He is an incredible embarrassment. It may take generations to repair our image and to retake our place as the leader of the free world. Trump has thrown that title and all that goes with it away like trash, because of his endless, non-stop lies.

Bob Nelson
link 03/19/17 07:56:22PM @bob-nelson:

His businesses are going to make zillions. 

End of story. 

link 03/19/17 08:07:11PM @randy:

Especially if he manages to get the sanctions against Russia dropped and EXXON/Mobil and Rosneft (the Russian oil company) start to drill on the nearly 64 million acres EXXON/Mobil hold leases on that are believed to hold more then 87 billion barrels of oil. EXXON/Mobil will make billions of dollars, Putin will make billions of dollars and you can bet there will be YUGH kickbacks for Tillerson and Trump one way or another.

Bob Nelson
link 03/19/17 08:18:25PM @bob-nelson:

Lemme see... Who used to be CEO of EXXONMOBIL? 

link 03/19/17 09:35:00PM @randy:

Could it beeeee.....SATAN! (Shut up, Church Lady!)

Oh no...wait....it was Rex Tillerson. The current Secretary of State for the United States of America. Who got the job with absolutely no diplomatic experience at all? And he's a good friend of Putin, even though he had never met Trump before the election? Now I wonder why he was picked? What possible reason could there be? Hmmmm?

Bob Nelson
link 03/19/17 10:13:18PM @bob-nelson:

You're paranoid! 

Imagining things. 

Just because Rex Tillerson has spent the last few decades making deals with the Russians... is no reason to imagine that... ... ... 

... ... ... well... maybe..

One Miscreant
link 03/19/17 08:06:32PM @one-miscreant:

It was the Russians...

link 03/19/17 08:09:49PM @randy:


One Miscreant
link 03/19/17 08:47:09PM @one-miscreant:

Well if it's not us or the Brits, it must be "Russian wiretaps". The Chinese only want patented data. Commie pinko fascism. 

Bob Nelson
link 03/19/17 10:07:21PM @bob-nelson:

That would be the Russians spying on their best buddy. ... ... ... .... Yes. Makes sense... 

link 03/19/17 10:09:22PM @kavika:

Offend another ally. That seem to be the order of the day.

Bob Nelson
link 03/19/17 10:15:08PM @bob-nelson:

Of  course. 

We're not going to offend tbe Russians, are we? 

link 03/19/17 10:19:31PM @randy:

We're not going to offend tbe Russians, are we?

Of course not! He can't insult his boss! Putin spank!

link 03/19/17 10:17:50PM @randy:

It's sort of like he has some sort of book that lists all of America's allies and he is always looking at it and checking off the ones he has pissed off and the ones that don't have a check mark are the ones he is gong to get around to pissing off. I mean did that moron really think Britain wasn't going to get mad when he dragged them into his lie and make them a part of his attempt to cover it up? Did he really think that they would back him up? Or does he even care if he tried to use our number one ally in the world to try to hide his lie behind simply because he is incapable of saying "I was wrong." and "I am sorry" to the American people, to Great Britain, but most of all to President Barack Obama?

What a worthless, gutless, cowardly piece of shit he really is.

Bob Nelson
link 03/19/17 10:19:58PM @bob-nelson:

Ii think it's simpler. 

He just doesn't know what he's doing. 

link 03/19/17 10:20:54PM @randy:

In other words he's just stupid.

Bob Nelson
link 03/19/17 11:14:04PM @bob-nelson:

Not exactly "stupid". He's totally self-centered, to the point that the universe is whatever he needs it to be. 

link 03/20/17 02:33:25AM @randy:

He thinks he can insult other nations like he could insult other companies and that's not how international politics works. It's the same way he treats the government career workers. He treats them like they suddenly all have to start wearing "Make America Great Again" hats to work. Well it doesn't work that way. They do not work for him, they work for the federal government and have before he showed up and will after he is gone. Especially the intelligence agents. No President, until now, has been stupid enough to insult the people he needs to gather intelligence for him and to deliver it to him completely (not that he'll listen to it except through his Bannon filter). The simple fact is that he needs them more then they need him and trying to insult them push them around is beyond stupid! These are professional agents who have dealt with stronger people then him! He needs to tread lightly around them or at the very least stop pissing on them. Because they will piss back, stronger and longer and more harmfully to him.

One Miscreant
link 03/20/17 01:10:15PM @one-miscreant:

Narcissistic can't be helped by the patient and should be dealt with in a professional setting. Without access to the nuclear codes until such time as the professionals can confirm cured.

link 03/20/17 06:30:05PM @randy:

Institutionalization. In a locked ward. Until he is no longer a danger to others like he is now.


Share This

Who is online

Visitors: 31