House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, said in a bombshell letter that top Obama political aids made “hundreds of unmasking requests” under suspicious circumstances during the 2016 presidential race, that included Trump transition officials.
The letter sent to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said that many of the requests were made without specific reasons on why the information was needed. Coats said, “Only one offered a justification that was not boilerplate and articulated why,” according to the letter.
“[T]his Committee has learned that one official, whose position has no apparent intelligence-related function, made hundreds of unmasking requests during the final year of the Obama Administration,” Nunes wrote.
“Unmasking” is a term used by the intelligence community that means a formal request to reveal the identity of an American in an intelligence document.
Back in March Nunes said he had seen data that suggested Trump campaign and transition officials had their names unmasked by departing officials in former President Obama’s White House. He called it a “serious deficiency.”
Both National Security Adviser Susan Rice and CIA Director John Brennan have admitted to making such requests, even though they said that all requests were for legitimate work reasons, according to The Hill.
President Trump tweeted back in March accusing Obama of spying on him: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”
Nunes said in a Twitter post on June 1, “Seeing a lot of fake news from media elites and others who have no interest in violations of Americans’ civil liberties via unmaskings.”
Seeing a lot of fake news from media elites and others who have no interest in violations of Americans’ civil liberties via unmaskings.
— Devin Nunes (@DevinNunes) June 1, 2017
In the Thursday, July 27 letter, Nunes said his committee found senior government officials “offered remarkably few individualized justifications” for the access to private U.S. person information.
“We have found evidence that current and former government officials had easy access to U.S. person information and that it is possible that they used this information to achieve partisan political purposes, including the selective, anonymous leaking of such information,” Nunes wrote.
Nunes’s letter apparently makes reference to former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power as one of the officials who made the hundreds of requests, Fox News reports.
However, David Pressman, counsel to Power and partner at Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, denied she leaked anything classified, Fox News reports.
“Long before receiving an invitation to engage the congressional committees, Ambassador Power was unambiguous about her support of bipartisan efforts to determine the full extent of this threat to our national security,” he said in a statement.
“While serving as our permanent representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Power was also a member of the National Security Council responsible for advising the president on the full-range of threats confronting the United States. Any insinuation that Ambassador Power was involved in leaking classified information is absolutely false.”
In the letter, Nunes also said he will be introducing a new bill “to require individual, fact-based justifications for each request for U.S. person information” and that it should be consistent with current policy.
He said the new bill would require the conformity at top levels of the government and requested the Office of Director of National Intelligence provide HPSCI staff assistance in the drafting of legislation.