How The Surveillance Program Works, And Who Can Order It: Former Intel Chair Explains

As the Russians-hacked-the-DNC narrative collapses, and evidence-less accusations of Trump-Putin relations fade fast, the circle of possible culprits behind the one crime that we know for sure that happened - the leaking of unmasked American's names in intelligence intercepts - is narrowing hour by hour.

Former House intel chair Pete Hoekstra tells Fox Business, who could have ordered the wiretapping of Trump campaign and authorized the unmasking of Americans' names in the intercepts.

Hoekstra goes on to tell The Wall Street Journal,

"When I was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, I was routinely involved in briefings as a member of the "Gang of Eight"—both parties' leaders in the House and Senate and on the intelligence committees. I cannot recall how many times I asked to see raw intelligence reporting and was refused because that stuff is just not made available to policy makers.

 

But according to Mr. Nunes, such information made its way to the Obama White House before Inauguration Day. Few if any people working in the White House would ever need to see raw intelligence. Like intelligence committee members, they are typically consumers of intelligence products, not raw intelligence.

 

The raw transcripts of masked persons - or unmasked persons, or U.S. persons who can be easily identified - making their way to the White House is very likely unprecedented. One can only imagine who, at that point, might be reading these reports. Valerie Jarrett? Susan Rice? Ben Rhodes? The president himself? We don't know, and the people who do aren't talking at the moment."

The point here, as The Washington Examinder writes, assuming again that Nunes spoke truthfully in his presser, is that this could potentially become a huge story. This despite the extremely negative reaction that Nunes got from journalists on Twitter.

If documents containing the unmasked names of Trump transition members were shared throughout the government, it would really be worrisome, as Nunes said it was. Intelligence agencies are generally supposed to avoid collecting information about Americans to the extent possible. Incidental collection happens, of course, because sometimes Americans talk to people under surveillance. But to share what is incidentally collected, on purpose, seems extraordinary, especially in this case, given Nunes' claims that the disclosures have little or no intelligence value, and that the information involved apparently has nothing to do with Russia or the Trump team's nefarious ties thereto.

Even if what Trump said in the first place about having his wires tapped is only about 5 percent true (which is to say, it is completely false, but vaguely based on something factual), the story that Nunes outlined has real potential to be a big thing that blows up in the face of at least a few Obama administration officials. Assuming, of course, that Nunes represented the facts accurately.