A senior Obama administration official made “hundreds” of requests last year to unmask the identities of Americans in intelligence reports, including some members of the Trump campaign, says California Rep. Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
In a letter to Dan Coats, the director of the office of national intelligence, Nunes asserted that senior Obama administration officials, “offered remarkably few individualized justifications” for the unmasking requests.
He also said that some of the unmasking requests “were followed by anonymous leaks of those names to the media.”
Nunes has led a one-man campaign to find out whether Obama administration officials improperly requested the unmasking of Trumpworld figures identified in the intelligence reports. The Republican has also tried to find out who leaked the names of unmasked individuals, information which is classified.
Typically, intelligence reports redact the names of Americans who are mentioned by foreign nationals who are being surveilled by U.S. intelligence agencies. But a small number of U.S. government officials have the ability to request that those names be revealed. The requests must be made for intelligence-related purposes, and the information is classified.
Nunes does not name the Obama official who made “hundreds” of unmasking requests, but Fox News suggested that he was referring to former United Nations Amb. Samantha Power.
Power is one of three Obama officials, along with former national security adviser Susan Rice and former CIA Director John Brennan, who have been subpoenaed by the Intelligence Committee.
Nunes says that the unnamed official “had no apparent intelligence-related function.”
Of the hundreds of requests made by the official, “only one offered a justification that was not boilerplate and articulated why that specific official required the U.S. person information for the performance of his or her official duties.”
“There was no meaningful explanation offered by these officials as to why they needed or how they would use this U.S. person information, and thus, the Committee is left with the impression that these officials may have used this information for improper purposes, including the possibility of leaking,” says Nunes.
He goes on to suggest that the unmasking requests were made “to achieve partisan political purposes, including the selective, anonymous leaking of such information.”
In a statement to Fox News, David Pressman, Power’s attorney, did not deny that Power made the unmasking requests. But he did note that Power was a member of the National Security Council while she served as ambassador to the UN. He also denied that Power has leaked classified information.
“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,” Pressman told Fox.
“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.”
Nunes informed Coats that he plans to introduce legislation that will require U.S. officials to provide “individual, fact-based justifications” for their unmasking requests.