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A new media report from independent journalists Michael Shellenberger (Center bias) and Matt Taibbi (Center bias) claims the CIA asked foreign allies to illegally spy on 26 aides of former President Donald Trump in the run-up to the 2016 election, and used this to stage the “Russia collusion” allegation.

Despite being covered by many sources from the Right, no sources from the Center or Left picked up the report, displaying bias by omission.

‘Multiple Credible Sources’ say Trump was Illegally Surveilled

Citing “multiple credible sources” the report alleges that the U.S. intelligence community “illegally mobilized” its Five Eyes intelligence allies “long before” the summer of 2016 when the FBI opened its investigation into Trump’s campaign.

Said investigation was previously reported as being opened on the premise that a Trump team member bragged to an Australian diplomat that Russia had kompromat on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, a narrative Shellenberger claims is now proven false.

The report cites a source as confirming the U.S. intelligence community asked British intelligence to target Trump aides. U.S. law requires a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to ask allies to gather such intelligence because weaponizing intelligence agencies for political purposes is considered election interference.

For context, the Five Eyes is an intelligence alliance that includes the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. Under this agreement, the five nations enjoy access to each others’ intelligence collections to increase national security.

Previously, in 2017, several liberal media outlets like The Guardian (Lean Left bias), Politico (Lean Left bias), and CNN (Lean Left bias), reported that Britain's equivalent of the NSA, the GCHQ, was the “principal whistleblower” in the investigation into Trump’s purported relationship with the Kremlin.

The Guardian reported in April 2017 that Britain’s collection was not a targeted effort:

It is understood that GCHQ was at no point carrying out a targeted operation against Trump or his team or proactively seeking information. The alleged conversations were picked up by chance as part of routine surveillance of Russian intelligence assets.

Taibbi and Shellenberger’s sources say this is false, and that the Obama CIA, led by Director John Brennan, hand-picked 26 individuals for the Five Eyes to investigate.

According to them, this is chronicled in a binder that Shellenberger told Fox News host Jesse Watters reportedly “still exists” at the CIA. The report mentions this binder:

Unknown details about the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign and raw intelligence related to the (intelligence community’s) surveillance of the Trump campaign are in a 10-inch binder that Trump ordered to be declassified at the very end of his term, sources told Public and Racket.

If the top-secret documents exist proving these charges, they are potentially proof that multiple US intelligence officials broke laws against spying and election interference.

(American Thinker)

Absence of Coverage from the Center and Left

Several outlets on the Right picked up the report, which also made waves on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

AllSides found coverage from American Thinker (Right bias), The Federalist (Right bias), Fox News (Right bias), Greg Gutfeld (Lean Right bias), The National Pulse (Right bias), The New York Post (Lean Right bias), Newsmax (Right bias), WND (Right bias), and ZeroHedge (Lean Right bias).

Fox News host Jesse Watters also interviewed Shellenberger as part of the network’s television programming.

While Shellenberger and Taibbi are veteran reporters who have broken many major stories throughout their careers, the anonymous sourcing and unconfirmed nature of their report could explain the total hole in coverage from the Left and Center. 

Furthermore, “Obama” spying on Trump is a theory that has been elevated by Trump and many on the Right since 2016 and could explain why the Right found the report to be newsworthy.

When looking for potential holes in media coverage, the AllSides Balanced Search can be a useful tool for dividing online search results by bias. Additionally, utilizing social media sites and other search engines can help paint a full picture of why certain media outlets may elect to cover or pass on a specific story that may appear newsworthy.

Andy Gorel is a News Editor and Bias Analyst at AllSides. He has a Center bias.

This report was reviewed by Joseph Ratliff, AllSides Content Designer and News Editor (Lean Left bias), and Johnathon Held, Bias Analyst (Lean Right bias).