GCHQ, the British communications intelligence agency, has denied that it wiretapped Donald Trump during the US presidential campaign, describing the claims as ‘nonsense' and ‘utterly ridiculous'.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer cited claims made on US TV channel Fox News earlier this week by political commentator Andrew Napolitano, a former New Jersey judge.
Napalitano had said: "Three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command. He didn't use the NSA, he didn't use the CIA, he didn't use the FBI and he didn't use the Department of Justice - he used GCHQ."
He claimed GCHQ was used so that there would be "no American fingerprints on this".
Spicer quoted Napolitano's claims in a bid to strengthen Trump's suggestion that Obama had tapped his phones last year. Trump had tweeted earlier this month that Obama had tapped his phones, calling him "a bad (or sick) guy".
He also claimed that Trump Tower in New York was monitored, but provided no evidence for the claim. A senate committee found that there were "no indications" that Trump Tower was under surveillance by the US government before or after the election.
The serious nature of the allegations has led to the unprecedented move of GCHQ responding swiftly to the claims to deny any involvement.
"Recent allegations made by media commentator judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct ‘wiretapping' against the then president-elect are nonsense. They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored," a spokesperson said.
GCHQ and the US's own spy agency NSA have worked together for years along with the intelligence agencies of Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed how closely the agencies worked together; GCHQ gave the NSA access to UK citizens' internet and e-mail records, for example.
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