A claim that a UK intelligence agency helped former president Barack Obama "wiretap" Donald Trump during the 2016 election campaign has been dismissed as "utterly ridiculous".
The allegation, which was first raised by Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano on Thursday evening, but then repeated by White House press secretary Sean Spicer, suggests that Obama used GCHQ to spy on activities during the campaign so that there would be "no American fingerprints on this".
However, a spokesperson for GCHQ said in a statement seen by the Guardian: "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."
Napolitano, a judicial analyst for the Fox News network, mentioned during a TV interview on the "Fox & Friends" program that three intelligence sources had confirmed to him that the Obama administration had used the agency to conduct wiretapping on Trump.
"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 FBI, he didn't use the CIA, and he didn't use the Department of Justice," said Napolitano. "He used GCHQ. There's no American fingerprints on this."
Trump has since taken to Twitter to repeat the allegations, which so far are not supported by any firm evidence.
US and UK security agencies do work closely together as part of the Five-Eyes agreement, a shared intelligence program that includes agencies in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. As part of the Snowden revelations, it was discovered that the UK had allowed US counterparts to analyse the email records and internet activity of British citizens.
Trump started a political storm in March when he accused former president Obama of wiretapping his phones in a series of tweets. However, Trump appears to lack support for his claims, as both the Republican and the Democratic leaders of the Senate intelligence committee, as well as the House intelligence committee, have concluded there is no evidence to support the accusations.
In an interview on Wednesday with Fox News' Tucker Carlson, Trump said that the administration would be submitting evidence of his claims about wiretapping to the House intelligence panel "very soon".
Get the ITPro. daily newsletter
Receive our latest news, industry updates, featured resources and more. Sign up today to receive our FREE report on AI cyber crime & security - newly updated for 2023.
Dale Walker is the Managing Editor of ITPro, and its sibling sites CloudPro and ChannelPro. Dale has a keen interest in IT regulations, data protection, and cyber security. He spent a number of years reporting for ITPro from numerous domestic and international events, including IBM, Red Hat, Google, and has been a regular reporter for Microsoft's various yearly showcases, including Ignite.