News & Politics

Senate Judiciary Committee Starting to Focus on Obama Administration Surveillance and Unmasking

Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

After months of investigating alleged Russian meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign, the Senate Judiciary Committee appears to be shifting its attention to the Obama administration’s surveillance and “unmasking” of Trump campaign and transition officials.

Two top Republican senators have asked the FBI to turn over its applications for warrants to spy on Americans tied to its probe on Russia’s election interference during the 2016 presidential election. The committee also reportedly held a closed door meeting on Wednesday, focused on the “unmasking” of Trump officials by the Obama White House.

Via The Hill:

Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who chairs the Judiciary Committee, and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who is a member of the committee, sent Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein a letter asking for any proposed or finalized applications.

“We are writing to request information regarding FISA-related actions by the FBI and the Justice Department in the course of the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, including the investigations into allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians,” the two GOP senators said.

In addition to any proposed or finalized warrant applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the two senators also want the court’s responses.

During an open Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, Sen. Graham grew increasingly frustrated with intelligence community lawyers who would not tell him whether his communications were swept up and unmasked in U.S. surveillance on foreign targets.

In a tense exchange with a top intelligence community lawyer during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Graham repeatedly demanded to know whether he is legally entitled to know if his communications are collected and “unmasked” within the administration.

“It’s like months ago [that the request was made], so am I ever going to get it in my lifetime — and if you’re not going to give it to me, tell me why,” Graham said.

The South Carolina lawmaker has said in the past that he has reason to believe that a conversation he had with a foreign leader was picked up by U.S. spies and that an official requested that his identity be revealed internally.

Bradley Brooker, acting general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), confirmed that the administration had received Graham’s request, but that it was so broad that staff are still negotiating the parameters.

https://youtu.be/QItkP9vkEtk

During the closed-door hearing with FBI officials on Wednesday, Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee reportedly explored the unmasking accusations more deeply.

Via the Washington Times:

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island Democrat, told Carl Ghattas, executive assistant director of the FBI national security branch, that he specifically wants answers during the closed-door hearing about the leaks surrounding President Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who resigned over contacts with Russia.

“There is a specific allegation that has been floating around that the conversations between Michael Flynn and [Russian] Ambassador [Sergey] Kislyak came into the White House with Flynn masked,” Mr. Whitehouse told his fellow committee members. “And that a decision was made in the Obama White House to unmask him — which then led to leaks to the newspapers and so forth.”

Mr. Ghattas heads up the FBI’s operations and intelligence efforts involving national security matters. In March, Ms. Rice admitted to requesting the unmasking of some Americans redacted in raw intelligence reports but argued that the requests were part of her job and were not politically motivated.

 Meanwhile, former national security adviser Susan Rice, who may be beginning to feel the heat over her alleged role in the unmasking scandal, resorted to “the last refuge of the liberal scoundrel” to explain why she has been under fire during an interview with liberal journalist Michael Tomasky in New York Magazine.

To be fair, Tomasky is the one who threw out the race and gender cards. Rice, however, was more than happy to play along.

“Why me? Why not Jay Carney, for example, who was then our press secretary, who stood up more?” she asked.

Tomasky noted in the piece that Carney “isn’t an African-American woman, of course” and apparently asked Rice whether that is the key factor. Rice, in response, left the door open:

“I don’t know… I do not leap to the simple explanation that it’s only about race and gender. I’m trying to keep my theories to myself until I’m ready to come out with them. It’s not because I don’t have any.”

But Rice mentioned other prominent female figures – like Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice – who faced “ad hominem” attacks, suggesting a correlation.

She makes a good point about Jay Carney, a shameless liar who didn’t receive nearly the amount of negative press he deserved.

But there is no indication that he was ever involved in the unmasking of American citizens.