Remember how the mainstream media scoffed last spring when President Trump claimed the Obama administration spied on his campaign? As it turns out, Trump was right - the FISA Court authorized monitoring of Trump campaign aide Carter Page and, perhaps more egregiously, the FBI monitored Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort during and after the campaign. But still, few in the mainstream media have acknowledged this, preferring instead to stand by their original narrative.
Similarly, the mainstream media ignored Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice when she copped to authorizing the unmasking of Trump campaign officials in intelligence reports – an act of political retribution that Rice justified by claiming she was just trying to determine why a crown prince of the UAE was paying a clandestine visit to New York.
As it turns out, nearly a year after the scandal surrounding Rice’s unmasking, DNI Dan Coats – America’s top intelligence official - has ordered tighter restrictions on how the names of Americans kept secret in intelligence reports can be revealed during presidential transitions, according to documents seen by Reuters.
In a Nov. 30 letter sent to House Intel Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, Coats said the new unmasking policy is due by Jan. 15. Nunes eventually recused himself from his committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election after informing Trump about possible instances of inadvertent wiretapping during the campaign before he informed other members of his committee.
Coats new policy will make it more difficult to unmask individuals – which should prevent the practice from being used for political purposes.
Coats wrote that the new policy will reinforce existing procedures that “make clear that IC (intelligence community) elements may not engage in political activity, including dissemination of U.S. person identities to the White House, for the purpose of affecting the political process of the United States.”
“In addition, this policy will require heightened levels of approval for requests made during a Presidential transition when those requests relate to known members of a President-elect’s transition team,” Coats wrote in the letter, which was sent to the top Republicans and Democrats on the Intelligence and Judiciary committees in both the House and Senate.
A spokesman for Coats had no comment.
Reuters has also reviewed a draft presidential order that, if enacted, would make similar changes to unmasking procedures that relate to presidential transitions.
US intelligence agencies are barred from eavesdropping on Americans’ communications without warrants. However, information involving U.S. citizens sometimes is incidentally collected in the monitoring of foreign intelligence targets. In such cases, the Americans’ identities are anonymized with labels such as “U.S. Person No. 1.” “Unmasking” occurs when an authorized person requests the name of an American to help understand the value of the foreign intelligence.
Coats’ new rules would require the party making the request to inform top Congressional leaders from both parties among others.
For unmasking requests made between a U.S. presidential election and Inauguration Day, the draft presidential order states, the request now would have to say whether the official making it believed or knew it involved a member of the president-elect’s transition team.
Moreover, if the request is approved, the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees would have to be informed.
A request also would have to be approved by the top lawyer of the U.S. intelligence agency that disseminated the original intelligence report.
The Trump administration has put together a draft order that would make some of the same changes proposed by Coats. It is unclear if Trump will sign the document in addition to the new policies Coats has ordered.
A copy of the order can be found below: