Can the Government Spy On You Through Your Microwave? Kellyanne Conway Said So — But Now Retracts

Kellyanne Conway claimed a microwave could be used as a tool to spy on someone in an interview with the Bergen Record

Photo: Gerald Herbert/AP

Kellyanne Conway has made another controversial claim.

The counselor to the president claimed in an interview with the Bergen Record that there are lots of methods of surveillance — including “microwaves turned into cameras.”

“What I can say is there are many ways to surveil each other,” Conway said. “You can surveil someone through their phones, certainly through their television sets — any number of ways. [Through] microwaves that turn into cameras. We know this is a fact of modern life.”

Just four days before the Bergen Record article was published, General Michael Hayden, the former director of the CIA and the NSA, was a guest on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. During the interview, Hayden directly said that the government is not spying on American citizens through their microwaves.

“If WikiLeaks is to be believed, the latest dump from WikiLeaks says that the CIA is looking at me and listening to me through my TV,” Colbert said to Hayden during the intreview. “Uh, is the CIA listening to me through my microwave oven and through my TV and through my cellphone? Are they doing that, sir?”

Hayden responded that they weren’t — and if they were, he would say so. Although Colbert did say he wouldn’t believe him.

“I can tell you that these tools would not be used against an American,” he said. He didn’t, however, deny that such technology exists — in fact, he confirmed it, though he didn’t specify which household objects the government has the ability to spy through.

Hayden also said it was not possible for former President Obama to have wiretapped now-President Donald Trump while Obama was in office. And that’s what Conway’s microwave claim all comes back to: A reference to Trump’s allegations that Obama wiretapped his phones during the 2016 presidential campaign. Conway later claimed that she was speaking in general terms, however, not about the campaign specifically.

“Response to Bergen Record was about surveillance articles in news & techniques generally, not about campaign,” she tweeted. “Headline just wrong.”

As is, it seems, the claim that microwaves can spy on you. According to Wired, in order for a microwave to actually be an effective surveillance tool, it must have an outward-facing camera installed in it. No microwave with such a camera exists on the market (yet).

Wired also spoke with Stephen Frasier, a microwave imaging and radar researcher at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, about the possibility of a microwave sending images to the government. His answer? He can’t imagine a way in which it’s possible.

FROM COINAGE: This Is How Much It Would Cost to Paint the White House (And More Crazy Facts)

“Unless it’s a voice-activated microwave oven connected to the internet I can’t think of a way,” says Frasier.

While it’s true, Frasier says, that the waves created by a microwave could be used for imaging, that’s not how a microwave actually works. The waves only come when the microwave is on, and when it’s on, the door blocks the waves from leaving that space.

On Monday, Conway admitted that she had no evidence for this claim — and she said she didn’t even believe it herself.

“I’m not inspector gadget,” she said on CNN on Monday. “I don’t believe people are using the microwave to spy on the campaign.”

Related Articles