Just a reminder:
Intel chief releases info on ‘unmasking’ of Flynn to Capitol Hill
The list of names includes former Vice President Joe Biden.
By ANDREW DESIDERIO and BETSY WOODRUFF SWAN
05/13/2020 12:21 PM EDT
Updated: 05/13/2020 05:13 PM EDT
Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell on Wednesday sent top Republican senators a list of former senior Obama administration officials who might have been involved in efforts that “unmasked” former national security adviser Michael Flynn — including former Vice President Joe Biden.
The release comes amid a furious campaign by President Donald Trump and his allies to accuse former President Barack Obama and his top deputies of illegally targeting the Trump campaign and the incoming Trump administration. In recent days, the president has coined the term “Obamagate” to accuse his predecessor of seeking to undermine him and target his top associates — though he has struggled to articulate or prove any specific wrongdoing.
Grenell sent the list, which includes former officials who made “unmasking” requests that might have identified Flynn, to Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) a day after the lawmakers wrote to Grenell and Attorney General William Barr calling on them to release information about efforts by Obama administration officials to “unmask” U.S. citizens who were subject to government surveillance.
The list, obtained by POLITICO, also includes high-level officials such as former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former FBI Director James Comey, and former White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. Thirty-nine people in total are listed, ranging from White House officials to diplomats and Treasury Department officials. Grenell declassified the list last week.
“At this point, I have no business alleging anything because all I know is his name’s on there. He’ll have to answer that,” Grassley told reporters when asked about Biden’s inclusion on the list. “There may not be anything that would be wrong with it. We don’t know.”
The unmasking requests came amid the officials’ escalating concerns about the Trump campaign and transition team’s contacts with Russian officials — concerns that would culminate in a special counsel investigation that has consumed much of Trump’s presidency.
National security officials can seek to reveal the identity of individuals involved in conversations subject to government surveillance, a process known as “unmasking.” Such requests are common; for example, last year alone, U.S. spy agencies were asked 7,724 times to reveal the identities of Americans caught up in those intelligence intercepts.
“At this point, I have no business alleging anything because all I know is his name’s on there. He’ll have to answer that. There may not be anything that would be wrong with it. We don’t know.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)
An accompanying memo to Grenell, signed by National Security Agency Director Paul Nakasone, notes that each person was “an authorized recipient” of the information and that the unmasking was approved through the agency’s normal protocol.