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Bill Bennett: Who Could Conceive a President Would Wiretap a Rival?

Image: Bill Bennett: Who Could Conceive a President Would Wiretap a Rival?
Bill Bennett (AP)

By    |   Saturday, 04 Mar 2017 04:31 PM

The Federal Information Surveillance Act has been a hotly debated piece of legislation, but nobody could have conceived that a sitting president or administration would use it to spy on a candidate from the opposing party, former Education Secretary Bill Bennett said Saturday.

"There is no question under the law that you can do surveillance of private citizens when they are talking to foreign powers," Bennett told Fox News' "Fox and Friends" after President Donald Trump, in a series of early Saturday morning tweets, accused former President Barack Obama of wiretapping his phones at Trump Tower in October, just before the election.

However, said Bennett, who could have conceived that Obama, or his FBI or Justice Department, would have used the act to watch Trump. Bennett does not blame the president for being "hot on this one, as he should be. What will the American people think of this?"

In February, author James Hirson reported that days before Trump's inauguration, Obama issued an executive order allowing the National Security Agency to share raw communications with other intelligence agencies including the FBI, the DEA, and the Department of Homeland Security.

Further, the Justice Department and the FBI under Obama had been seeking FISA warrants against Trump's campaign insiders and Trump in the last months of the 2016 campaign, mere days before then-president-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, former President Barack Obama expanded the ability of intelligence agencies to share unfiltered telephone surveillance information.

The Obama administration issued Executive Order 12333, which allows the National Security Agency (NSA) to share raw intercepted communications with agencies that include the FBI, DEA and Department of Homeland Security — among others.

Numerous press reports at the time indicated that the Obama Justice Department and the FBI sought Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants against Trump campaign insiders and then-presidential candidate Trump himself during the final months of the presidential campaign. The FISA court denied the application as being overbroad when it was initially submitted in June, but approved a more narrowed one in October, the same month Trump alleges the wiretaps in his offices occurred.

"In Washington you are on offense or you are on defense," Bennett said Saturday. "This could throw the defendants back on defense."

More information is needed, Bennett said, but he does not think much attention was given to the FISA rulings in October, when there was so much going on with the election.

"The New York Times I think a couple of days ago pointed out that the results of some of what was being found out by some intelligence agencies was spread pretty far and wide in the agencies before Obama left," said Bennett. "A lot of people would have access to information they had no right to have access to. This could explain the widespread leaks we have been talking about."

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The Federal Information Surveillance Act has been a hotly debated piece of legislation, but nobody could have conceived that a sitting president or administration would use it to spy on a candidate from the opposing party, former Education Secretary Bill Bennett said...
bill bennet, obama, wiretap, fisa, trump, unthinkable
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2017-31-04
Saturday, 04 Mar 2017 04:31 PM
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