The former British ambassador to the U.S. warned that Trump is playing a “dangerous game” by claiming former President Barack Obama used the U.K.’s GCHQ intelligence agency to spy on him.
Sir Peter Westmacott, who resigned from his post last year, wrote a scathing opinion piece in the Guardian, saying Trump administration officials are “peddling falsehoods” that could potentially risk damaging U.S.-U.K. ties, including in the field of shared intelligence.
This is a dangerous game. … The intelligence relationship between Britain and America is unique and precious. It is critical to our shared efforts to counter terrorism.
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.
Westmacott urged British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to address the issue during his upcoming U.S. trip.
Last Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer cited a remark by conservative political commentator Andrew Napolitano on Fox News that Barack Obama had used GCHQ to spy on Trump during the 2016 election campaign. Fox News went on to distance themselves from Napolitano’s claims.
In a highly unusual public refute, GCHQ called the allegations “utterly ridiculous.”
The next day, at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Trump hinted on giving credence to the allegations and called Napolitano “very talented legal mind.”
Westmacott warned that the Trump administration was playing a “dangerous game” thanks to Trump’s “famous reluctance to admit mistakes.”
“Anyone with any knowledge of the intelligence world knew the suggestion was absurd,” he wrote. “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 authorizing such an intrusion into domestic U.S. politics was unthinkable.”
He then added that damage to U.K.-U.S. ties — dubbed “the special relationship” and based on “unquestioned mutual trust” since World War II — would harm joint efforts to “counter terrorism, Russian aggression, the cyber-attacks of China, the nuclear threat from North Korea” and more.