After being forced to recuse himself from his committee's investigation of the 'Russian meddling' controversy earlier this year (see: House Intel Committee Chair Nunes Recuses Himself From Russia Probe), Devin Nunes has thrust himself back into the national spotlight by drafting a letter to the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, saying he has evidence that several of Obama's top political aides made hundreds of unmasking requests in the waning days of Obama's administration even though they offered no legitimate reason to do so and some of them didn't even serve in an intelligence position.
In Thursday’s letter, Nunes said the total requests for Americans’ names by Obama political aides numbered in the hundreds during Obama’s last year in office and often lacked a specific intelligence community justification. He called the lack of proper justifications a “serious deficiency.”
His letter noted requests from senior government officials, unlike career intelligence analysts, “made remarkably few individualized justifications for access” to the U.S. names.
“The committee has learned that one official, whose position had no apparent intelligence related function, made hundreds of unmasking requests during the final year of the Obama administration,” Nunes wrote. “Of those requests, only one offered a justification that was not boilerplate.”
“We have found evidence that current and former government officials had easy access to U.S. person information and that it is possible that they used this information to achieve partisan political purposes, including the selective, anonymous leaking of such information."
Of course, we pointed out last week (see: New Scapegoat Emerges In Unmasking Scandal: Meet Obama's Former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power) that the official "whose position had no apparent intelligence related function" was likely Obama's U.N. ambassador, Samantha Power.
Power appears to be central to efforts by top Obama administration officials to identify individuals named in classified intelligence community reports related to Trump and his presidential transition team. If true, Power's role in the unmasking efforts would be particularly questionable since it's nearly inconceivable that her position as the U.N. ambassador would require such sensitive unmasking activities.
"Unmasking is not a regular occurrence—absolutely not a weekly habit. It is rare, even at the National Security Council, and ought to be rarer still for a U.N. ambassador," according to one former senior U.S. official who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.
"It might be defended when the communication in question relates directly to U.N. business, for example an important Security Council vote," explained the former official, who would only discuss the matter on background. "Sometimes it might be done out of other motives than national security, such as sheer curiosity or to defend a bureaucratic position. Or just plain politics."
The Intelligence Committee's focus of Power and other key Obama officials is a prime example of the Obama administration's efforts to spy on those close to Trump, according to sources familiar with the ongoing investigation.
"The subpoena for Power suggests just how pervasive the Obama administration's spying on Americans actually was," said one veteran GOP political operative who has been briefed on the matter by senior Congressional intelligence officials. "The U.N. ambassador has absolutely no business calling for the quantity and quality of the intelligence that Power seems to have been asking for."
"That's just not the sort of thing that she should have been concerned about, unless she was playing the role of political operative with the help of the intelligence community," the source said. "It gives away what was actually going on: the Obama administration was operating in a pervasive culture of impunity and using the intelligence community against their political opponents."
So, you're saying that while Americans were being distracted with a barrage of "Russian meddling" stories, that Obama was working behind the scenes to transform our various intelligence agencies in this country into his very own political weapons of mass destruction?
That sounds like a very serious 4th Amendment issue...we're starting to see what the FISA courts were getting at:
"Since 2011, NSA's minimization procedures have prohibited use of U.S.-person identifiers to query the results of upstream Internet collection under Section 702. The October 26, 2016 Notice informed the Court that NSA analysts had been conducting such queries in violation of that prohibition, with much greater frequency than had previously been disclosed to the Court."
"At the October 26, 2016 hearing, the Court ascribed the government's failure to disclose those IG and OCO reviews at the October 4, 2016 hearing to an institutional 'lack of candor' on NSA's part and emphasized that 'this is a very serious Fourth Amendment issue.'"