The story comes from Jerome Corsi via the Alex Jones conspiracy theory web site Infowars. The top quote says:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Infowars.com have obtained credible information from law enforcement sources regarding individual records of U.S. citizens under National Security Agency (NSA) electronic surveillance in the years 2004 through 2010 – a database that suggests both Donald J. Trump and Alex Jones were under illegal, unauthorized government monitoring during those years.
What follows is the unpacking of that statement, and why it is not true.
There’s no better place to start with than the phrase “law enforcement sources.” Embattled former sheriff of Maricopa County Arizona, Joe Arpaio, has been under a court order in the Melendres v. Arpaio lawsuit to stop racial profiling Latinos. A man named Dennis Montgomery that one article describes as “The Man Who Conned the Pentagon” (his specialty was turning noise into terrorist messages hidden in Al Jazeera broadcasts. Eventually the government finally figured out that his software didn’t work and terminated the contracts after millions were paid) was indeed a government contractor for the CIA and the Pentagon. A relationship developed between him and Joe Arpaio. Montgomery claimed to have a massive database of data from the NSA program to record telephone call data (not content) through a program that was leaked to the public by Edward Snowden. Arpaio paid Montgomery a considerable sum as a confidential informant (the exact amount isn’t known, but it tops $100,000) for evidence that the judge in the Melendres case was having secret phone conversations with the Justice Department. Montgomery also took $10,000 from Mike Zullo to provide proof that Obama’s birth certificate was a forgery—proof that never materialized.
Arpaio must have known about Montgomery’s dubious past, or was at least suspicious because he hired two former NSA employees to analyze the 50 hard drives full of stuff Montgomery had provided. The NSA analysts, Thomas Drake and Kurt Wiebe who examined the hard drives came to the conclusion that Montgomery’s work product was a “total fraud.” Arpaio himself, on the witness stand trying to explain why he was investigating the judge, admitted that the material from Montgomery was “junk.”
So Joe Arpaio is the “law enforcement” part of the “source” but more on that later.
The next phrase to unpack is “credible,” which as we have seen according to experts and law enforcement itself was a “total fraud” and “junk.” Maricopa County Detective Brian Mackiewicz said:
There was no sensitive information contained on any of these 50 yard drives. … Much of the information that Dennis Montgomery has alleged that was harvested by the federal government … cannot be sourced for validity based on the information contained in the 50 hard drives. … At this juncture, after a 13 month investigation, Maricopa County Sheriffs office CANNOT validate the credibility of Dennis Montgomery or his work. … It is extremely discouraging to learn most if not all the representations made by Dennis Montgomery to investigators, the State of Arizona, and a Federal Judge have been less than truthful.
When Drake and Wiebe examined the hard drives, the data they found consisted primarily of hours and hours of recorded Al Jazeera broadcasts. Some documents that did appear to list phone calls and durations contained wrong numbers for some of the parties listed, suggesting that the data was faked. I have never seen any knowledgeable source confirm that Montgomery ever had access to any NSA phone call log data.
Corsi’s article states that “Sheriff Arpaio and Chief Investigator Zullo have identified dozens of entries at various addresses, including both Trump Tower in New York City and Mar-a-Lago in Palm Breach Florida.” Zullo was unpaid volunteer for one of the Sheriff’s Posses. “Chief Investigator” is a fake title. Nothing I have seen in the Melendres testimony suggests that anyone at the Sheriff’s office looked at Montgomery’s alleged database to identify anything, but rather only looked at excerpt reports. The hard drives they had lacked the information as we have seen. Deputy Anglin testified in October 2015 about what he passed on to Arpaio from Montgomery:
…phone logs, again spreadsheets showing a series of calls, phone numbers that originated the calls, phone numbers that received the calls, the length of time, the date and the time that those calls were made. I [Anglin” also provided documents that Montgomery provided to us, that being lists of names of individuals with their addresses, as well as businesses with their addresses.”
The form of some of this information is available from court documents.
There was a 2013 meeting, prior to his relationship with Montgomery, between Arpaio, and Montgomery business associate Tim Blixseth that was recorded by Mike Zullo, in which Blixseth states regarding the database:
… and I see myself in there. I see people I know, I mean, I see Donald Trump in there a zillion times, and Bloomberg’s in there and ….
But again, the “database” was always in the possession of Montgomery or his associate, not law enforcement. So while the NSA collected phone call data on everybody (making Trump’s inclusion rather unremarkable), there remains serious doubt as to whether Arpaio, Zullo, Montgomery or Corsi have ever had access to it. The following chart was prepared by Montgomery, alleging specific phone conversations:
Image courtesy of the Phoenix New Times
Again, this is a Montgomery claim, not actual data. Former NSA employee Thomas Drake wrote of this data:
“All he as done is to provide you with readily available lists of email addresses, names, phone number of both individuals and businesses and a lot of framed up information, data and code BUT NO PROOF OF WHENCE THEY CAME and a whole lot of faked and made up documents and analysis.
So if Jerome Corsi did not get his list of phone numbers and addresses from the only source he mentions, where did he get this sensitive NSA data, the possession of which is probably a crime?Maybe he just made it up, more likely took the word of a con man that it exists. And of course, the NSA telephone mining operation started under President Bush, not Obama.