An Obama official made “hundreds of
unmasking requests” during the final year of the previous
administration, according to a letter from a top Republican who raised
new concerns that officials sought the identities of Trump associates in
intelligence reports for “improper purposes.”
“Unmasking” refers to the formal request to identify Americans in an
READ THE LETTER
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., has
questioned whether Obama officials improperly sought the names of Trump
transition members in this way – and, in the letter obtained by Fox
News, Nunes provided new details about what his investigators have
“[T]his Committee has learned that one official, whose position has no
apparent intelligence-related function, made hundreds of unmasking
requests during the final year of the Obama Administration,” he wrote to
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.
Only one request, Nunes wrote, “offered a justification that was not
boilerplate and articulated why” the identity was needed for official
Three of the nation’s intelligence agencies received subpoenas in May
explicitly naming three top Obama administration officials: Former CIA
director John Brennan, former national security adviser Susan Rice, and
former U.N. ambassador Samantha Power.
Nunes’ letter appears to make reference to Power as the official who
made “hundreds” of requests.
However, David Pressman, counsel to Power and partner at Boies Schiller
Flexner LLP, stressed Power’s responsibilities in her capacity as a
member of the National Security Council and denied she leaked anything
"Long before receiving an invitation to engage the Congressional
committees, Ambassador Power was unambiguous about her support of
bipartisan efforts to determine the full extent of this threat to our
national security," he said in a statement. "While serving as our
Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Power was
also a member of the National Security Council responsible for advising
the President on the full-range of threats confronting the United
States. Any insinuation that Ambassador Power was involved in leaking
classified information is absolutely false."
The Nunes letter also said he plans to introduce a bill requiring
“individual, fact-based justifications” for such unmasking requests.
“Cabinet members and other senior political leaders cannot be permitted
to continue to seek access to U.S. person information within
disseminated intelligence reports without documenting a specific,
fact-based requirement for the information,” he wrote.
Explaining his concerns, Nunes said in the letter that “Obama-era
officials sought the identities of Trump transition officials within
intelligence reports” without offering any “meaningful explanation” as
to why they needed or how they would use the information.
The committee, Nunes wrote, “is left with the impression that these
officials may have used this information for improper purposes,
including the possibility of leaking.” He noted that some of the
requests were “followed by anonymous leaks of those names to the media.”
Intelligence agencies typically are required to conceal the identities
of Americans picked up or mentioned in surveillance of foreigners in the
U.S. Formal requests need to be made to release those names.
Several Obama administration officials met privately last week with
staffers on Capitol Hill. Among them, Rice met Friday with Senate
Intelligence Committee staffers. Power also has agreed to testify before
the House Intelligence Committee.
Rice told MSNBC in April that allegations Obama administration officials
used such intelligence for political purposes is “false.”
Media reports earlier this year revealed, among other conversations,
those between then-national security adviser Michael Flynn and
then-Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. Reports of those
conversations led to Flynn's resignation in February.
Nunes is continuing to pursue the unmasking issue, though he has stepped
aside from leading the Russia investigation – and is facing an ethics
inquiry over whether he improperly revealed classified information.
Nunes disputes the charge. Fox News asked a spokesman for Brennan for
comment but there was no immediate response.
Fox News’ Catherine Herridge contributed to this report.