“I think it’s an issue which deeply concerns people like myself and other people, working-level officers in the intel community,” Uehlinger said. “Even though at this point, there seems to be no evidence of breaking the law, this ‘unmasking’ of people was ill-advised at best. I think it really shows that abuse of power and the fact that many people in the Obama administration were willing to violate the spirit of the laws designed to protect Americans, perhaps rather than the law itself.”
“As a working-level CIA officer, we were always told by upper authority, you’re always told to – and the quote is – ‘avoid the appearance of impropriety,’” he said. “Well, this does not pass that smell test, definitely.”
Uehlinger said another thing that concerns working-level officers in the intelligence and military communities is “the American people, average Americans like myself, are tired of seeing two sets of rules followed by the higher-ups and then the working-level people.”
“This is just part of that again. A working-level officer would have gotten into big trouble doing anything remotely like this,” he observed. “But now, we have a lot of people saying that she should just be given a pass.”
“While I understand, you know, it’s important that the Trump administration has to move forward with its domestic agenda, but these allegations demand to be further investigated,” he urged.
Kassam proposed that Democrats and their media would not allow the Trump administration to move forward with any part of its agenda until this “Russia hysteria” is cleaned up. That will be a difficult task since, as Kassam noted, the hysteria has been burning at fever pitch for months without a shred of evidence to back up the wildest allegations.
Uehlinger agreed and addressed Kassam’s point that media coverage alternates between “no surveillance was conducted” and “we know everything about Trump’s Russia connections.”
“The Obama administration relaxed the rule that allowed raw intelligence that was gathered by the NSA to be shared throughout the government,” he pointed out. “First of all, to relax that, there is absolutely no operational justification for doing that. With all of the counter-intelligence problems, with espionage, with Snowden, all these things we’ve had, to raise by an order of magnitude the access to this very sensitive information makes no operational sense at all.”
“So for someone to approve that, it’s clear they had another intent, and I believe the intent was to allow for further leakage,” he charged. “To give more people access, thus more leaks, which, in fact, would hurt the Trump administration. It seems very obvious when you put that together and combine it with the actions of Susan Rice and other people in unmasking people. That is the true purpose behind this.”
“I say this as somebody who – you have to remember, when I was a station chief overseas, this is what I was reporting on. I was in countries like Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Kosovo – countries which constantly had the offices of the prime minister or president using the intelligence services to suppress the domestic opposition. So I’ve been to this rodeo before, many a time. I saw the storm clouds gathering several weeks ago, and everything I’ve suspected has so far come to fruition,” Uehlinger said.
He pronounced it “very disappointing” that such transparent abuse of government power for partisan politics would occur in the United States.
“An intelligence service has to have the trust of the people and the government in order to function effectively,” he said. “With all of these scandals happening, and with the name of perhaps the CIA and other intelligence community elements in the mud, this makes the object of protecting our national security more problematic. The agencies have to have the trust of the American people, and they’re losing it, because it seems as though they’ve been weaponized – perhaps, like I said, not breaking the law but playing very close to the line.”
Kassam suggested that leaking the information might have been illegal, even if Rice was legally entitled to request information on Donald Trump’s campaign and unmask the U.S. persons monitored during surveillance of foreign intelligence targets.
“That’s absolutely the case,” Uehlinger agreed. He went on to argue that the absence of hard evidence for any wrongdoing by the Trump campaign in all of these leaks was highly significant.
“Since basically the Obama administration has sort of loaded this with these rule changes and all to allow for leaks the fact that there is no ‘smoking gun’ of Trump administration collusion with Russia indicates that there isn’t any. There is nothing substantial here because a juicy morsel like that would certainly have been leaked by the same people that have been leaking everything else. The fact it hasn’t been leaked out means it does not exist,” he reasoned.
Kassam said some of the Russia hysteria came from imputing sinister motives to conventional business dealings, arguing that Trump’s organization made deals around the world, and it is exceedingly difficult to do business with any Russian entity that is not somehow connected to the Russian government.
“That’s an excellent point. You’re absolutely right,” Uehlinger responded. “It shows these people who are doing these gambits are relying on the relative ignorance of the American public of the actual nuts and bolts of intelligence to make their point. Anyone with any background in this stuff can see it for what it is: a desperate attempt to discredit an administration because they were crushed in the past elections.”
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Listen to the complete audio of the interview above.