GCHQ Protesteth Too Much—
Brits Fear Losing Control of U.S.
Defence Images CC-SA
March 17, 2017 (EIRNS)—White House spokesman Sean Spicer’s press briefing yesterday, in which he quoted judge Andrew Napolitano’s assertion that Barack Obama used Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) to spy on President Trump, has provoked a frenzied response, not only from GCHQ itself, but from an array of British media and political figures, and their U.S. hangers-on, desperate to prove that the Special Relationship is still intact and that Trump can be controlled.
In an unusual public statement, a GCHQ spokesman stated that charges against GCHQ
"are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored.... Recent allegations made by media commentator judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct ‘wiretapping’ against then President-elect are nonsense,"
the spokesman argued. As former U.S. National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden, among others, has documented, the intelligence agencies of the "Five Eyes" countries (United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand), routinely spy on each other and on other governments—Germany’s Angela Merkel knows that well—so the GCHQ’s outrage is disingenuous at best.
Today’s British and allied U.S. media were beside themselves, denouncing Spicer, fretting about the future of U.S.-U.K. relations. "It’s a bad day for trans-Atlantic relations," the BBC intoned, "when Britain’s largest and best-funded spy agency has to come out and deny a claim made by its closest ally." Normally British intelligence agencies don’t make public statements.
"But the allegation made by Mr. Spicer was seen as so potentially damaging—as well as being untrue—that it was decided to make an exception,"
the BBC defensively reported.
Damaging? Yes. And, despite insistence from British media that the White House had issued "a formal apology"—Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesperson reported that 10 Downing Street received "assurances" this would never happen again—there is no confirmation of such a formal apology. Rather, May’s National Security adviser, Sir Mark Lyall Grant, called his U.S. counterpart, General H.R. McMaster, while British ambassador in Washington Sir Kim Darroch called Sean Spicer, to express their concerns, but according to a White House official quoted by The Telegraph,
"Mr. Spicer and General McMaster both explained that [Spicer] was simply pointing to public reports and not endorsing any specific story."
CNN reported that McMaster assured Sir Lyall Grant that their concerns would be relayed to the White House.
Statements by former British Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, reflect British hysteria. "It’s not just about GCHQ", he told BBC Radio 4’s World at One. "The inference is that the British government—either directly or indirectly—were involved." It’s not good enough, he said, just to promise not to repeat the allegation. "That’s not the same as saying it was rubbish in the first place." Got that right.