What is 'unmasking' and why would Obama adviser do it?

Posted April 18, 2017

"White House lawyers", Lake wrote, "last month learned that the former national security adviser Susan Rice requested the identities of USA persons in raw intelligence reports on dozens of occasions that connect to the Donald Trump transition and campaign".

"Do I think? Yes, I think", Trump told the New York Times when asked if he thought Rice had committed a crime by requesting the unmasking of us persons tied to his campaign. In an interview on Tuesday with MSNBC, she said: "The allegation is that somehow the Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political purposes".

These intelligence reports became the subject of controversy after reports surfaced that former National Security Adviser Susan Rice "unmasked" United States citizens who were swept up in the incidental surveillance.

The Trump White House has been particularly incensed that intercepted conversations between Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and Russia's ambassador to the USA surfaced in news reports before the inauguration.

Rice claimed during an interview with MSNBC earlier this week unmasking was done in order to protect individual American citizens, not to use their information for political purposes. Rice later clarified she was saying she didn't know what reports Nunes was referring to and said "I still do not".

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The reports were likely based on routine surveillance of foreign officials. However, the law provides for much leeway when it comes to unmasking by National Security Council officials, which suggests that Rice's request was legal. Then, a month ago, President Trump tweeted out that the Obama administration had wiretapped his campaign headquarters. The president also did not name any other officials from the Obama administration.

As a procedural matter, an intelligence briefer would have had to clear a requested unmasking with the head of the agency providing the intelligence. As Andrew McCarthy points out, "the thing to bear in mind is that the White House does not do investigations".

"I don't expect they will (declassify) because I think this is just more obstruction", Swalwell said.

"So what you did is you set up a situation where leaking of classified information, probably about Trump people, became inevitable". Nunes has provided limited details about the information he obtained, but said there are "dozens of reports" showing that "incidentally collected information about US citizens involved in the Trump transition" was gathered during the course of "normal foreign surveillance".

Rice said as a result of that review, intelligence agencies were generating more reports that were shared with senior policymakers like herself. The committee's chairman, Sen.