Information is beginning to trickle in to the House Intelligence Committee regarding the three Obama officials who made unmasking requests of Americans involved with the Trump campaign, The Weekly Standard reported Tuesday.
Late last month, the committee issued seven subpoenas as part of its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and Team Obama’s potentially illegal surveillance of Americans.
Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes sent three of those subpoenas to the CIA, FBI, and NSA, asking for details about any unmasking requests made by former national security adviser Susan Rice, former UN ambassador Samantha Power, and former CIA director John Brennan in 2016 and January 2017.
Unmasking is the process of revealing the identities of Americans in intelligence reports whose communications have been “incidentally” intercepted during foreign intelligence collection operations. There are strict rules in place to prevent intelligence officials from abusing the system, but in certain rare situations they are allowed to unmask an American’s identity. The Obama administration’s unmasking requests sky-rocketed during the 2016 presidential election.
Nunes recused himself from the Russia probe back in March, but the unmasking investigation is considered to be separate from the Russia probe.
A spokesman for Nunes told The Weekly Standard: “We have received information in response to the subpoenas and we’re expecting to receive further information.”
Nunes and other Republicans on the panel have expressed concern about politically motivated surveillance abuses and leaks, especially as they relate to the Trump administration. The California congressman said in early June that requests to reveal Americans’ identities under the Obama administration “became excessive.”
“Clearly this is just further escalation in the concern we have of the unmaskings of Americans by the senior leaders of the Obama administration,” Nunes said. “Americans that didn’t know about it, and, of course, potentially Trump transition officials.”
Rice denied making improper unmasking requests in April. She said that it was “not uncommon” for her and others to request unmaskings when necessary.
“The allegation is that somehow, Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political purposes,” Rice said. “That is absolutely false.”
Responses to committee requests for unmasking information has “varied,” New York congressman Pete King, a member of the panel, told TWS.
“It sort-of varies,” he said. “Some cooperative, some not.”
Nunes suggested the potential for surveillance abuses in March, when he claimed that Trump transition team members had been unmasked and details about them, “with little or no apparent foreign intelligence value,” had been disseminated in intelligence reports. That surveillance was not related to Russia, he said.
Those remarks ignited a rush of controversy, including about how the chairman obtained that information. Nunes ultimately stepped aside from the Russia probe.
Texas congressman Mike Conaway, who took over, told reporters last week that Nunes’s unmasking oversight is separate from the Russia investigation.
During a broadcast of the John Batchelor Show earlier this month, Chairman Nunes said that it was “very unusual” for a former ambassador like Samantha Power to unmask names of American citizens “under any circumstances.” Nunes made clear that he and his colleagues would not be requesting the information if they didn’t have “probable cause that there was an abuse of power.”
He also told Batchelor that his investigation into the Obama administration’s possible illegalities was just beginning.
“Oh, this is only the beginning,” he said. “There are many more officials that we have concerns about abusing the intelligence programs.”
Complicating matters for Nunes, however, is the fact that Obama had Susan Rice’s unmasking materials removed from the NSA and transferred to his presidential library in Chicago.
The NSA informed Judicial Watch of the situation last week in response to their request for records regarding information relating to people “who were identified pursuant to intelligence collection activities.”
Documents from the Obama administration have been transferred to the Barack Obama Presidential Library. You may send your request to the Obama Library. However, you should be aware that under the Presidential Records Act, Presidential records remain closed to the public for five years after an administration has left office.
“Prosecutors, Congress, and the public will want to know when the National Security Council shipped off the records about potential intelligence abuses by the Susan Rice and others in the Obama White House to the memory hole of the Obama Presidential Library,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “We are considering our legal options but we hope that the Special Counsel and Congress also consider their options and get these records.”
Fitton told Breitbart News Daily SiriusXM host Alex Marlow that there are ways for President Trump to get around the restrictions. He can request the documents himself, or Special Prosecutor Bob Mueller and/or Congress can issue subpoenas for the documents.
There is no indication that any of those actions have been taken yet.