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In light of today's testimony by FBI Director James Comey and NSA and NSA Director Mike Rogers, the issue of "Incidental Collection" of intelligence gathering inadvertently involving U.S. citizens is once again a part of the discussion of Trump's debunked wiretap claims and possible coordination between the Trump campaign and operatives and officials of the Russian government. For that reason, it's worth re-posting this article from March 15th.
The FBI Director testified today that there's 'no information' to support Trump's claim that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower.
The ultimate wiretap finding?
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., right, accompanied
by the committee's ranking member, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP)
By Ray Cunneff
Flanked by ranking member Adam Schiff (D-Calif), House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) conceded on Wednesday that the committee had found no evidence to substantiate President Donald Trump's claim that former President Barack Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Schiff concurred, “I have seen no evidence that supports the claim that President Trump made".
In a series of early morning tweets two Saturdays ago, President Trump accused President Obama of wiretapping him and he urged Congress to investigate the claim.
Nunes, a strong White House ally, added that absent such evidence, he could conclude only that no wiretap had ever been put in place. Picking up on press secretary Sean Spicer's rationale, Nunes said, "if you're going to take the tweets literally, then clearly the president was wrong".
One day prior to Nunes’ briefing, White House press secretary Sean Spicer had said that Trump should not always be taken literally and that the president was "extremely confident" that the Department of Justice would produce evidence to support his claim.
But in his carefully nuanced statement, Nunes may have let a major cat out of the bag. Twice he used a term that may be unfamiliar to all but those within the intelligence services: "incidental collection".
Under the little-known Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, "incidental collection" means:
When communications of a US citizen are inadvertently collected while legally targeting under a FISA warrant a foreign operative or a US person who is believed to be involved in terrorism, espionage or other nefarious activity.
It would prove the ultimate irony if Trump's wiretap claim against Obama instead revealed contacts between Trump surrogates, or even the president himself, and foreign operatives, particularly Russian officials under legal FISA surveillance.
FBI Director James Comey will testify before an Intelligence panel at a public hearing on Monday that is investigating Russia's interference in the presidential campaign, including whether the FBI and/or intelligence agencies gathered information about contacts between Trump associates and Russian government officials or operatives.
He will now also undoubtedly be questioned about Trump's wiretap claims.