Barack Obama’s unmasking scandal was bad enough with the details that we currently have had until this point, but new developments about the number of unmasking requests shows just how invasive and broad the spying scandal really was.
We have reported multiple times about various developments, including Susan Rice’s “explanation” of why Trump campaign officials were spied upon during the election season.
CNN reports that several sources have told them Rice privately justified her decision before House investigators by claiming she was attempting to get to the bottom of a late 2016 visit to New York by the prince of the United Arab Emirates:
The New York meeting preceded a separate effort by the UAE to facilitate a back-channel communication between Russia and the incoming Trump White House.
The crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, arrived in New York last December in the transition period before Trump was sworn into office for a meeting with several top Trump officials, including Michael Flynn, the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his top strategist Steve Bannon, sources said.
House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes stated that there does not appear to be anything legitimate about the motives of this unmasking campaign, in spite of Rice’s claims.
The most recent development, as discovered by Fox News, indicates that this surveillance may have been used as a weapon against the Trump campaign and transition team. Power made an unprecedented number of unmasking requests, the vast majority of them towards the end of the year:
Samantha Power, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was ‘unmasking’ at such a rapid pace in the final months of the Obama administration that she averaged more than one request for every working day in 2016 – and even sought information in the days leading up to President Trump’s inauguration, multiple sources close to the matter told Fox News.
Two sources, who were not authorized to speak on the record, said the requests to identify Americans whose names surfaced in foreign intelligence reporting, known as unmasking, exceeded 260 last year. One source indicated this occurred in the final days of the Obama White House.
The details emerged ahead of an expected appearance by Power next month on Capitol Hill. She is one of several Obama administration officials facing congressional scrutiny for their role in seeking the identities of Trump associates in intelligence reports – but the interest in her actions is particularly high.
Back in July, Nunes sent a letter to the Director of National Security Dan Coats stating that an official without intelligence function had made hundreds of request to reveal identities during that final year of the Obama administration.
That official is suspected to be Samantha Power.
Congressman Trey Gowdy pressed CIA Director John Brennan about the suspicion, but did not single out Power by name.
Gowdy: Do you recall any U.S. ambassadors asking that names be unmasked?
Brennan: I don’t know. Maybe it’s ringing a vague bell but I’m not — I could not answer with any confidence.
Gowdy continued, asking: On either January 19 or up till noon on January 20, did you make any unmasking requests?
Brennan: I do not believe I did.
Gowdy: So you did not make any requests on the last day that you were employed?
Brennan: No, I was not in the agency on the last day I was employed.
Other UN Ambassadors have made unmasking requests for intelligence purposes, so that in and of itself is not the strange thing. A spokesman for Power stated that a UN Ambassador has an intelligence function, as a member of the National Security Council.
However, the sheer number of requests, and the time frame in which they took place, all cause a great deal of suspicion about the nature of requests.
Power will testify to Congressional panels from the House and Senate in a classified session in October. Perhaps there will be answers, but I anticipate that there will only be more deflection and denial. After all, this is the Obama administration we’re talking about…