Tony Blair denies he warned Donald Trump British spies were after him

Tony BlairA spokesman for Tony Blair has dismissed as “categorically absurd” allegations that the former British Prime Minister warned the White House that President Donald Trump was targeted by British spy agencies. The claims are made in the book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, which is due to be published next week. Its author, Michael Wolf, says he based the information in the book on more than 200 interviews that he held with President Trump and members of his inner circle during the past year.

Wolf alleges that Blair, who was Britain’s prime minister from 1997 to 2007, visited the White House in secret in February of 2017. He allegedly did so as a private citizen, as he has held no public position since 2015, when he stepped down from his post as a Middle East envoy for the United Nations. While at the White House, Blair reportedly met with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior aide. During that meeting, says Wolf, Blair told Kushner that Trump could have been under surveillance by British intelligence during his presidential election campaign. The former British prime minister allegedly said that any surveillance on Trump would have been carried out by the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Britain’s signals intelligence agency. Wolf further alleges that the administration of US President Barack Obama never asked London to spy on Trump. Instead, the White House “hinted” that intelligence collection about Trump would be “helpful”, says Wolf. The reason why Blair volunteered this information to Kushner, claims Wolf, was that he was hoping to gain the US president’s trust and be appointed as Washington’s envoy to the Middle East.

Blair’s revelation, which Wolf describes in his book as a “juicy nugget or information”, allegedly “churned and festered” in Trump’s mind. It was the basis for claims made on March 14, 2017, by a Fox News commentator that the GCHQ had spied on Trump on behalf of the White House. The claim was repeated on March 17 at the White House by Sean Spicer, Trump’s then-press secretary, who said that Obama had used the GCHQ to spy on Trump so as to evade American privacy laws. Spicer’s claim prompted an angry response from the British government in London and from the British spy agency itself. In a rare public comment, GCHQ called the allegations “utterly ridiculous”.

Late on Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the office of Tony Blair said in an email that Wolf’s claims in Fire and Fury were “a complete fabrication […], have no basis in reality and are simply untrue”. Last year, another spokesman for Blair dismissed claims that the former British prime minister had lobbied to be appointed Trump’s Middle East envoy. This claim was so “completely overblown” and “so far beyond speculation there isn’t a word for it”, said the spokesman. President Trump has not commented on Wolf’s claim about Blair’s alleged visit and subsequent meeting with Kushner.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 04 January 2018 | Permalink

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Ex-MI6 head ‘might air memoirs’ to set Iraq War record straight

Sir Richard DearloveBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The former director of Britain’s external spy service has hinted he might publish his personal account of the decisions that led to Britain’s entry in the Iraq War, if he is criticized in a public inquiry on the subject. Sir Richard Dearlove led the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service, known as SIS or MI6, from 1999 until his retirement in 2004. He is currently on sabbatical from his post as Master of Cambridge University’s Pembroke College, in order to research and author his autobiography. The memoir is believed to be largely preoccupied with the intelligence that led to the British government’s decision to enter the United States-led 2003 war in Iraq. Sir Richard had previously indicated that he intended to make his memoirs posthumously available as a resource to academic researchers. But in an email to British tabloid The Mail on Sunday, he hinted he would consider publishing his personal account if he finds himself criticized by the Iraq Inquiry. Known in Britain as the Chilcot Inquiry, after its Chairman, Sir John Chilcot, the Iraq Inquiry was commissioned by the British government in 2009 to investigate the executive decisions that led the country to participate in the invasion of Iraq. One of the inquiry’s many goals was to evaluate the intelligence provided by MI6 to the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair. There have been rumors that the inquiry’s declassified findings, which are scheduled for publication soon, are critical of MI6’s performance and place particular blame on Sir Richard’s role in the debacle. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #845

Lianne PollakBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Mideast envoy Blair’s adviser is former Israeli intel officer. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is an official Middle East envoy for the Quartet, the group that represents the US, Russia, the United Nations and Europe. In his role as a mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, he is supposed to be politically neutral. But it turns out that one of his principal advisors, Lianne Polak, is an Israeli former army intelligence officer who has led intelligence teams in the Israel Defense Forces.
►►Who is the New Egyptian Intelligence Minister? Last week, a presidential order saw the appointment of General Muhammad Farid as the new head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service. A profile of this unknown person reveals the close ties he had with those at the top of the Mubarak administration. His previous role was as the chairman of the Administrative Control Authority, which deals with investigating corruption in governmental agencies and public funds, as well as fighting organized crime. Farid was appointed to this role in 2004 by Hosni Mubarak.
►►Five unanswered questions about the NSA’s surveillance programs. Although the US government has disclosed some additional details about the programs in response to the leaks, important questions remain about the nature and scope of the surveillance programs. They include: 1. What other data is being collected under the USA PATRIOT Act? 2. How broad are the programs? 3. What’s the legal rationale? 4. Is the NSA still collecting email records? 5. Are there other programs that we don’t know about?

News you may have missed #542

Sir John Chilcot

Sir John Chilcot

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Ex-spy says MI6 cut corners to back Blair’s Iraq war case. Britain’s ongoing Iraq Inquiry headed by Sir John Chilcot, heard last week from a former spy, identified in documents only as “SIS2”. The witness said that MI6 was “probably too eager to please” the government and was guilty of “flying a bit too close to the sun”. He was referring to the intelligence support provided by MI6 in support of the case for entering the Iraq War, made by the Labour government of Prime Minister Tony blair in 2003. He also told the committee that “the pressure to generate results, I fear, did lead to the cutting of corners”. ►►Medical group criticizes CIA’s vaccination scheme. A whimiscal tone prevails in most articles on the recent revelation that the CIA tried to collect DNA evidence on Osama bin Laden by running a phony vaccination program in Abbottabad, Pakistan. But medical groups engaged in organizing vaccination schemes are not amused. French-based international medical aid charity Médecins Sans Frontières has lashed out at the CIA because, it said, by using a medical cover for its assassination scheme, the Agency endangered those who conduct life-saving immunization work around the world. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #534

MI6 HQ

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
According to extracts from the diary of Alastair Campbell, British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s communications director from 2000 to 2003, officials from the MI6 intelligence agency told Blair that France and Germany aimed to “exploit his feud” with then Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown. Gotta love European unity. In Kuwait, meanwhile, the oil state’s Al-Shahed daily quotes “knowledgeable sources”, who claim that “a lot of spy networks exploit the Kuwaiti environment” and use the country as a transit point to spy on neighboring countries. Hopefully the Kuwaitis will not emulate authorities in Dubai, which in March of last year called on all foreign spies “to leave the region within a week. If not”, they warned, “we will cross that bridge when we come to it”. In the nearby state of Israel, public opinion is still divided about former Mossad chief Meir Dagan’s criticism of the Netanyahu government. As Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg notes, Dagan has “called into question the wisdom –and, privately, even the sanity– of any Israeli leader who contemplates a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities”. But why is he doing it, and could it backfire?

Former MI6 head testifies in UK Iraq War commission

Sir John Scarlett

Sir John Scarlett

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Sir John Scarlett, who until recently headed MI6, Britain’s foremost external spy agency, chaired the country’s Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) in the run-up to the Iraq War. He was therefore in charge of an influential government report, produced in September 2002, which argued that Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction constituted an immediate threat to Britain. As part of the official inquiry into Britain’s entry in the Iraq War, Sir John testified yesterday about the controversial report, known as ‘the dodgy dossier’, which has been criticized as a monumental intelligence failure that helped drag the country into an unpopular war. The former JIC chairman admitted that British intelligence services were aware before the War that Iraq had dismantled its long-range missiles and thus had no way of shooting its chemical munitions at distant targets, including Britain. Read more of this post

Portrait of ex-spy said to be “close with militant Islamists”

Alastair Crooke

Alastair Crooke

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Writing for Mother Jones magazine, David Samuels presents an interesting portrait of Alastair Crooke, a former British intelligence agent who brokered deals with the Irish Republican Army, funneled arms to the mujahideen in Afghanistan, spent time with rebel groups in the jungles of Colombia, and later served as British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s eyes and ears in the Middle East. In late 2003, after three decades as an MI6 field officer, he was called home and, in classic British bureaucratic fashion, given a royal honor for his service and then fired from his job. It was rumored in London and in Jerusalem that Crooke had alienated the British prime minister by becoming too closely affiliated with militant Islamists. Read more of this post