When Devin Nunes viewed the documents proving that a number of U.S. citizens had been unmasked under dubious circumstances and had their conversations distributed about Washington many people had a lot of concern about the need for a sitting president and/or his staff to collect information on non-targeted individuals. A week ago, NY Congressman Pete King made a lot more details of the surveillance known:
“This is information about their everyday lives,” Rep. Peter King of New York, a member of the House Intelligence committee said. “Sort of like in a divorce case where lawyers are hired, investigators are hired just to find out what the other person is doing from morning until night and then you try to piece it together later on.”
What King’s revelation seemed to indicate was that FISA targets were used to gain information about “incidental” subjects as their primary purpose. This is not a new thing for the Obama administration. During the debate over the Iran nuclear deal the Obama administration, in the persons of Susan Rice and Ben Rhodes, used intercepted conversations by Israeli officials with members of Congress in order to plan rapid response attacks on those members or to engage friendly advocacy groups to defend against issues raised in those conversations.
Today, FoxNews provides more information that makes it even more clear that the administration used the backdoor of FISA to monitor the political activities of not only the Trump campaign but other, as yet unnamed, campaigns.
Until now, the investigation focused on how the identities and communications of Trump transition members were collected by U.S. intelligence agencies and then revealed to, and disseminated among, high-ranking members of the Obama administration.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., now plans to audit files from the National Security Agency and White House to determine whether identities and conversations of presidential candidates — or members of Congress — also were swept up during NSA surveillance of foreign leaders. He also plans to review whether Obama’s National Security Council and White House counsel collected and distributed the intelligence for reasons unrelated to foreign intelligence.
“We will be performing an accounting of all unmasking for political purposes focused on the previous White House administration,” a member of the committee told Fox News. “This is now a full-blown investigation.”
Staffers on the Senate committee told Fox News they also have expanded their investigation into whether presidential candidates were unmasked and information was misused — and what role former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, among others, played following reports that she requested Trump-affiliated names be unmasked.
The general rule for unmasking is pretty simple. U.S. persons can only be unmasked if a criminal violation is revealed or if the person is in danger… or if someone needs the identity unmasked to better understand the context of the conversation. This latter reason means that there is essentially no such thing as masking a U.S. person caught up in “incidental” surveillance. The person making the request is the sole arbiter of the need and if the person is the National Security Advisor there is literally no one in government with enough clout to resist the request.
The intelligence reports that Rice and others in the administration reportedly assembled are similar to what a private investigator might piece together, congressional and U.S. intelligence sources said. In some cases, rather than documenting foreign intelligence, the files included salacious personal information that, if released, could be embarrassing or harmful to the person’s reputation [emphasis mine], U.S. intelligence and House Intelligence Committee sources said.
These reports were then disseminated to about 20 to 30 people who had classified clearance in the Obama administration hierarchy, these sources said.
And some familiar names reappear:
Sources told Fox News that names were then sent to all those at the National Security Council, some at the Defense Department, then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and then-CIA Director John Brennan — as well as Rice and her former deputy Ben Rhodes, even though the names were supposed to be reported only to the initial requester.
Virtually all the major candidates for president met with foreign ambassadors or with representatives of foreign governments. Ted Cruz, for instance, met with AIPAC and there were undoubtedly one or more persons in attendance who could legitimately be under FISA surveillance. The picture you start to see is of a very wide net being cast using the fiction of foreign intelligence surveillance to undertake domestic political surveillance.
Keep in mind the boast by several unnamed Obama officials about taking intelligence information, reducing its security classification, and distributing it across government. It also matches the story of Susan Rice requiring a “spreadsheet” to be constructed of conversations by individuals. This squares very nicely with the description in the story. Also, keep in mind that former CIA director John Brennan has been at or near Ground Zero of every Russia-related leak since last November.
At the rate information is leaking I think it is safe to say that if there were any evidence linking Trump or his campaign to Russian intelligence it would have manifested itself by now. The story I posted on the Carter Page surveillance tends to give the impression that nothing came of that exercise other than collecting information on anyone Page talked to while he was under surveillance. In fact, the content was so benign I no longer believe it was former or embedded Obama loyalists but rather a friendly leak by the Administration.
The two issues that seem to be worth investigating remain actions by the Obama administration: this widespread domestic spying and the leaking of Mike Flynn’s name.