Speed Reads

Trump Wiretapp

Former CIA director tells Stephen Colbert why Obama couldn't have wiretapped Trump

Stephen Colbert had former CIA and NSA director Gen. Michael Hayden on Tuesday's Late Show, and he immediately got down to business. "On Saturday morning, at 6:35 in the morning, the president tweeted that Barack Obama wiretapped him in Trump Tower," he said. "Is that possible?" "No," Hayden replied. Colbert noted that the U.S. government has the power to wiretap — "It does," Hayden said — and that there are all these rumors about the Trump campaign and the Russians, "why wouldn't the president do this?"

"Because in the 1970s, we took the authority to direct that action out of the hands of the president and we put it in the hands of the federal court system," Hayden said, explaining the basics of the post-Nixon Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) system. Trump has called for an investigation of his claim, anyway, Colbert said, but "can the president just find out for himself if this happened?" "Absolutely," Hayden said. "That's what I wondered what happened on Saturday morning — he seemed to have forgotten that he was the president of the United States."

Colbert brought up the new WikiLeaks dump purporting to spill CIA surveillance powers, asking if the CIA could really be spying on him through his Samsung TV sets. Hayden said no, at least not legally — though he appeared to confirm the existence of the CIA tools. "We just went though the drill about FISA, and how you've got to get a warrant, and you've got to go to a judge — that protects you and me, all U.S. citizens, all the time," he said. "But there are people out there that you want us to spy on, you want us to have the ability to actually turn on that listening device inside the TV to learn that person's intentions. This is a wonderful capability. You give the intelligence community $53 billion a year — you ought to get something for your money." "I've got a good accountant," Colbert joked. "I don't actually give that much." "Look, we're all Americans, we're all distrustful of government — it's in our DNA, even the former director of this and that," Hayden said, but if he doesn't put tape over his own laptop camera, Americans should relax a bit. Watch below. Peter Weber