Stretch, grab a late afternoon cup of caffeine and get caught up on the most important news of the day with our Coffee Break newsletter. These are the stories that will fill you in on the world that's spinning outside of your office window - at the moment that you get a chance to take a breath.
Sign up now to save time and stay informed!

Rand Paul Formally Asks if He Was Surveilled by Obama Administration

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) announced on Twitter today that he has formally requested information on whether he was ever under surveillance by the Obama administration or the intelligence community.

Tweeted Paul:

A long-time advocate of privacy, Paul also tweeted:

In March, President Trump accused former President Barack Obama of "wiretapping" him during the election, a claim the former president and his media allies forcefully disputed. Since then, it has been revealed that members of his campaign were in fact surveilled through "incidental collection." The FBI's surveillance of Russian operatives last summer suggested that Russia was trying to infiltrate the Trump campaign through advisers like Carter Page, and that incidental surveillance led to the FBI seeking and receiving a FISA warrant to monitor Page's communications.

One of Senator Paul's tweets linked to a Circa News post in which Circa formally requested that the Trump administration declassify Obama-era NSA surveillance records:

Circa has formally requested that the Trump administration declassify records showing how often government officials have searched National Security Agency intercepts for intelligence on U.S. presidential candidates, members of Congress, journalists, clergy, lawyers, federal judges and doctors and how often such Americans had their identities unmasked by the intelligence community after Barack Obama made it easier to do so in 2011.

The request follows an exclusive Circa report on Wednesday that revealed that the Obama administration conducted more than 35,000 searches on NSA intercepts seeking information about Americans during the divisive 2016 election year.

The law makes President Trump the ultimate declassifying authority, and we believe the president can answer many troubling questions by declassifying this information, including how often First Amendment protected professionals had their privacy impacted by NSA intercepts and Circa’s declassification request was delivered to the White House and the Directorate of National Intelligence. Ironically, it cites an executive order that Obama himself issued allowing Americans to make declassification requests and get an answer within a year.

Circa request aggregate numbers by year for searches on the names of or requests to unmasks Americans who worked as presidential candidates, members of Congress, congressional staff, federal judges, journalists, clergy, lawyers, and doctors.

Last month, Paul got into a heated debate with MSNBC's Morning Joe panel about the Obama administration's surveillance activities. Paul called revelations that former national security adviser Susan Rice ordered the unmasking of American citizens a "smoking gun," and he also argued that she needed to answer under oath in front of Congress on whether President Obama ordered the unmasking:

That is a big deal if the outgoing administration was actually, literally sifting through things. ... This was a witch hunt that began with the Obama administration -- sour grapes on the way out the door. They were going to use the intelligence apparatus to attack Trump, and I think they did.