First, from Politico.com:
Nunes claims some Trump transition messages were intercepted
by Austin Wright
The move gave cover to the White House but was rebuked by top Democrats.
House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes declared Wednesday that members of Donald Trump’s transition team, possibly including Trump himself, were under inadvertent surveillance following November’s presidential election.
The White House and Trump’s allies immediately seized on the statement as vindication of the president’s much-maligned claim that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower phones — even though Nunes himself said that’s not what his new information shows.
Democrats, meanwhile, cried foul.
Why did the Demorats “cry foul”? Not necessarily because they vehemently disbelieve the information but because Demorat Adam Schiff, the top Dem on the House Intelligence Committee, became butt-hurt due to the order in which persons were notified. In other words, Schiff determined he wasn’t advised soon enough and others, such as President Trump, acquired the information before he did.
Nunes set off the firestorm with a news conference earlier in the day in which he described the surveillance of Trump aides through what’s called “incidental collection,” something he noted was routine and legal. Such collection can occur when a person inside the United State communicates with a foreign target of U.S. surveillance. In such cases, the identities of U.S. citizens are supposed to be shielded — but can be “unmasked” by intelligence officials under certain circumstances.
Nunes, himself a Trump transition member, said a “source” had shown him evidence that members of the Trump transition team had been unmasked — and that their identities had been revealed in U.S. intelligence reports. Nunes had previously raised questions about the unmasking of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, whose communications with Russia’s ambassador were intercepted by the U.S. government and whose identity was leaked to the news media.
Is there a price to be paid for this “unmasking” of American citizens? Oh quite so. From the WashingtonExaminer.com:
Bob Woodward: Obama officials possibly facing criminal charges for unmasking scheme
by Daniel Chaitin
The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward warned on Wednesday that there are people from the Obama administration who could be facing criminal charges for unmasking the names of Trump transition team members from surveillance of foreign officials.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said earlier that he had briefed Trump on new information, unrelated to an investigation into Russian activities, that suggested that several members of Trump’s transition team and perhaps Trump himself had their identities “unmasked” after their communications were intercepted by U.S. intelligence officials.
He said it isn’t Trump’s assertion, without proof, that his predecessor wiretapped Trump Tower that is of concern, but rather that intelligence officials named the Americans being discussed in intercepted communications.
The next logical question should be: who in the American government or intelligence community has the authority or ability to “unmask” a US citizen?
He noted that there are about 20 people in the intelligence community who, for intelligence reasons, can order this “minimization” be removed.
Who specifically may have ordered this? The House Intelligence Committee wants to know.
Nunes and Schiff asked the intelligence community leaders to disclose any “unmasked” identities that were disseminated throughout the intelligence community, law enforcement, or among senior Obama administration officials from June 2016 until January 2017 that relate to Trump or Hillary Clinton and their associates.
An informed source told CNN that if Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak was being surveilled, Flynn’s name should not necessarily have been included on the intelligence report. Rather, “American Citizen 1” or a similar anonymous term should have been used.
“However, as recent news stories, seem to illustrate, individuals talking to the media would appear to have wantonly disregarded these procedures,” Nunes and Schiff wrote. The congressmen also asked the names of individuals or agencies who “requested and/or authorized the unmasking and dissemination” of these identities.
The letter was addressed to Admiral Michael Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency; FBI Director James Comey; and CIA Director Mike Pompeo. The acting Director of National Intelligence Michael Dempsey was also included.
FBI Director James Comey said on Monday in a House hearing that:
Several top officials would have access to the information or could request it. That includes top Obama appointees at the Justice Department, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and others. Adm. Mike Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, testified that 20 people in his agency have the authority to “unmask” a U.S. citizen whose identity normally would be disguised.
Speaking of the FBI, Chairman Devin Nunes says that agency is not cooperating with the House’s investigation. From Grabien.com:
NUNES: FBI IS NOT COOPERATING WITH OUR INVESTIGATION INTO TRUMP CAMP SURVEILLANCE
“We don’t actually know yet officially what happened to General Flynn,” Nunes said of how communications from Gen. Flynn’s calls were leaked to the press. “We just know that his name leaked out but we don’t know how it was picked up yet. That was one of the things that we asked for in the March 15th letter, was for the NSA, CIA, and FBI to get us all the unmasking that was done.”
“And I’ll tell you, NSA is being cooperative,” Nunes continued, “but so far the FBI has not told us whether or not they’re going to respond to our March 15th letter, which is now a couple of weeks old.”
Nunes also reported that as of now, he “cannot rule out” President Obama ordering the surveillance.
Continuing from Politico.com:
During his press briefing, Nunes said he did not know yet whether the Trump transition officials who were “unmasked” were communicating from Trump Tower.
Nunes said he briefed House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on the information on Wednesday morning before heading to the White House to brief the president.
His committee is set to hold a public hearing next Tuesday with members of the Obama administration, including former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who was fired by Trump in January after refusing to defend his first travel ban executive order in court.
They are almost certain to face questions on the matter.
FBI Director James Comey appeared before the panel on Monday and confirmed that the FBI launched a counterintelligence investigation in July into Russia’s election meddling, including possible coordination with the Trump campaign.
One primary question: will be ever actually find those responsible for unmasking American citizens?
First you have to ask: do certain government agencies and deep-staters even want to?