Nunes: Obama political aides made hundreds of unmasking requests
Intelligence committee chairman David Nunes revealed in a letter to DNI Dan Coats that he has uncovered hundreds of requests to unmask the identities of Americans found in overseas intel reports during the last year of the Obama administration and that most of them carried no official justification.
Nunes says most of the requests came from White House political aides and were not related to intelligence or national security work. He also says some of the requests to unmask identities were for Trump campaign and transition aides.
Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), in a letter to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, said the requests were made without specific justifications on why the information was needed.
"We have found evidence that current and former government officials had easy access to U.S. person information and that it is possible that they used this information to achieve partisan political purposes, including the selective, anonymous leaking of such information," Nunes wrote in the letter to Coats.
The letter was provided to The Hill from a source in the intelligence community.
In March, Nunes disclosed that he had seen data suggesting Trump campaign and transition officials were having their names unmasked by departing officials in the Obama White House.
National Security Adviser Susan Rice and CIA Director John Brennan have acknowledged making such requests though they insisted the requests were for legitimate work reasons.
Nunes recused himself from his committee's work on its investigation over Russia's meddling in the 2016 campaign after a controversy over his charges about Obama-era unmasking.
The chairman had reviewed intelligence reports on White House grounds that he said showed unmasking of Trump officials by Obama aides. Democrats accused him of working with the White House to make the disclosures.
In Thursday's letter, Nunes said the total requests for Americans' names by Obama political aides numbered in the hundreds during Obama's last year in office and often lacked a specific intelligence community justification. He called the lack of proper justifications a "serious deficiency."
His letter noted requests from senior government officials, unlike career intelligence analysts, "made remarkably few individualized justifications for access" to the U.S. names.
"The committee has learned that one official, whose position had no apparent intelligence related function, made hundreds of unmasking requests during the final year of the Obama administration," Nunes wrote. "Of those requests, only one offered a justification that was not boilerplate."
Sources familiar with the Nunes letter identified the official as then-U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power.
This sort of thing used to be illegal until Obama relaxed privacy rules in 2011. So while it's not technically illegal (Nunes and others think it should be), it is a clear abuse of the privilege. It may even be an abuse of power if the White House used the unmasking to leak the names of Trump officials to the press for political purposes.
The press is totally uninterested in this story, even though many of us would like to know what the hell the Obama administration was doing with all this information. Is it not important that the then-president of the United States was using intelligence agencies to do his political dirty work? I guess if it doesn't lead with Trump and Russia, it's non-news.
It's unnerving to think your identity could be compromised even if the NSA did not have a warrant to spy on you. But the Obama administration was far more concerned about which Republican was meeting with foreign leaders or businessmen and what they discussed than any constitutional right to privacy.