President Barack Obama’s Administration made hundreds of requests during the November campaign to unmask the names of Americans in their intelligence reports – including Trump campaign and transition officials, one lawmaker claims.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, a Republican from California, wrote a letter to the Director of National Intelligence saying that the hundreds of requests were made without any specific justification on why the information was needed, The Hill reports.
“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 in the letter to Coats.
Back in March, Nunes told reporters that he saw data suggesting Trump campaign and transition officials were having their names unmasked by departing officials in the Obama White House.
Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice and former CIA Director John Brennan admitted making the requests though they insisted the requests were for legitimate reasons.
From The Hill:
In Thursday’s letter, Nunes said the total requests for Americans’ names by Obama political aides numbered in the hundreds during Obama’s last year in office and often lacked a specific intelligence community justification. He called the lack of proper justifications a “serious deficiency.”
His letter noted requests from senior government officials, unlike career intelligence analysts, “made remarkably few individualized justifications for access” to the U.S. names.
“The committee has learned that one official, whose position had no apparent intelligence related function, made hundreds of unmasking requests during the final year of the Obama administration,” Nunes wrote. “Of those requests, only one offered a justification that was not boilerplate.”
The “official” identified in the letter has been identified as then U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power – who refused to comment to The Hill.
Typically, Americans whose data or conversations are intercepted by the NSA without a warrant are legally required to have their names redacted or masked to protect their identities in intelligence reports.
But beginning in 2011, Obama loosened the rules to make it easier for intelligence officials and his own political aides to request that the names be unmasked so they could better understand raw intelligence being gathered overseas.