News & Politics

Lawmakers Say Intel Agencies Are Stonewalling Investigations into Surveillance Leaks

Lawmakers Say Intel Agencies Are Stonewalling Investigations into Surveillance Leaks
FBI Director James Comey (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Fox News is reporting that intelligence agencies are stonewalling congressional investigations into the Obama administration’s surveillance of the Trump campaign and subsequent leaking of classified information to the press. “Our requests are simply not being answered,” a House Intelligence Committee source told Fox News. “The agencies are not really helping at all and there is truly a massive web for us to try and wade through.”

A source on the Senate Intelligence Committee had the same complaint. “Our requests are simply not being answered,” the source said. “Any information that will help find the wide extent on the unmasking and surveillance is purposely not being provided.”

The House and Senate Intelligence Committees are currently investigating allegations the Obama administration spied on Trump associates – and possibly Trump himself – for as long as the year preceding his inauguration. And while former Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice has been implicated as at least one of the officials who sought redacted names from surveillance transcripts, multiple lawmakers and investigators for the panel told Fox News the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency – all agencies in position to aid the probe – are not cooperating.

An FBI spokesperson told Fox News that the bureau is “working in good faith.”

“The FBI will continue to work with the congressional oversight committees on their requests,” the spokesperson said.

A CIA spokesperson referred Fox News to the NSA because it is the lead agency on the matter. In a written statement to Fox News, the NSA called the stonewalling allegations “categorically untrue.”

“Allegations that the National Security Agency is ‘withholding information’ from congressional intelligence committees investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election are categorically untrue,” the statement said. “NSA fully supports the committees’ work. We have already made available significant information in response to their requests, and we look forward to continuing to work with them in the execution of their important responsibilities.”

Comey spoke to lawmakers last month, but has declined subsequent invitations.

Sources within the NSA said they are watching the investigation closely, with one telling Fox News, “A number of people saw a lot of very questionable stuff. [The Obama administration was] using national assets and intelligence for politics.”

It was not clear if the alleged lack of cooperation was from top brass or agency holdovers resisting the new administration.

The CIA is now headed by former Rep. Mike Pompeo, who himself served on the House Intelligence Committee prior to his nomination. The FBI and NSA are run by James Comey and Mike Rogers, respectively. Both are holdovers from the Obama administration. Last month, both men declined to appear at a private closed door House Intelligence Committee briefing and have not met with the committee members since.

The meeting was supposed to be a follow-up to public testimony by Comey and Rogers to the committee in late March on the topic of Russian meddling in the presidential election and the alleged mishandling of intelligence related to the Trump transition team.

During the public hearing, the pair had declined to answer more than 100 questions, and Comey has been completely unavailable since.

House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes, R-Calif., told Fox News he had hoped that behind closed doors, Comey and Rogers would be more forthcoming.

Nunes also wanted to ask them about intelligence reports he’d viewed that showed incidental electronic intercepts of Trump team communications. The intelligence reports, which included surveillance of foreign targets, revealed that the names of Trump’s team had been “unmasked” or revealed, and their identities widely disseminated throughout the government and to the media.

Nunes said during a March 22 press conference that he was “troubled” because the reports he’d seen were not connected to Russia or any foreign intelligence.

Last Friday, Fox News reported that Nunes had first found out about the surveillance back in January but it took him until the end of March to be able to see the reports. Investigative reporter Adam Housley said Nunes’ original information came from sources from within the intel agencies who were frustrated with the politics.

On Monday, Bloomberg News reported that according to U.S. intelligence sources, Susan Rice was responsible for unmasking at least some Trump associates named in surveillance reports.

Rice practically admitted as much Tuesday on MSNBC. “It was not uncommon, it was necessary at times to make those requests,” she said while maintaining that she didn’t spy on Trump for political purposes and didn’t send the information to the press.

The intelligence reports at the center of the unmasking controversy contained detailed information about everyday life, according to a Republican congressman on the House Intelligence Committee who has seen the documents.

“This is information about their everyday lives,” Rep. Peter King of New York said. “Sort of like in a divorce case where lawyers are hired, investigators are hired just to find out what the other person is doing from morning until night and then you try to piece it together later on.”

According to Fox News, multiple sources have insisted that Rice was part of a group involved at the highest levels and was not the one calling the shots.

“A lot of us are upset. We believe this group of people were using national assets for politics and misappropriating them,” said one NSA source. “Don’t forget as the national security advisor, Susan Rice is supposed to ingest and digest. Despite what you are hearing, it is not normal to investigate especially in the broad manner that was being done. She [was] a White House staffer, not a member of an intelligence agency.”

President Trump on Wednesday told The New York Times that he believes Rice may have committed a crime by requesting that the identities of Trump associates mentioned in U.S. surveillance be unmasked.

Bill O’Reilly had Fox News investigative reporter Malia Zimmerman on The O’Reilly Factor Thursday night to discuss the agencies’ stonewalling.

“We’re told there are all kinds of excuses as to why James Comey hasn’t come back and really no response on several of the questions,” she said.

Zimmerman told O’Reilly that in addition to subpoenaing the FBI director, the House should request the FBI or NSA logs.

‘There’s a paper trail,” she said. “A very extensive paper trail from what I’ve been told, in terms of what Susan Rice asked for and other people in the administration asked for and how it was given to them in terms of the unmasking — so they have to get those logs. It’s a key part of it.”

Zimmerman explained that “every time they go into the system, from what I’ve been told, there’s a log — a record of that.”

She said the documents would provide the date and the name of the person being unmasked and the reason given.

“It’s probably a goldmine of information if the House and Senate can get it.”