Nunes-led House Intelligence Committee asked for ‘unmaskings’ of Americans

From The Washington Post — Written by Adam Entous and Ellen Nakashima — Image courtesy of Melina Mara/The Washington Post

The Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee asked U.S. spy agencies late last year to reveal the names of U.S. individuals or organizations contained in classified intelligence on Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, engaging in the same practice that President Trump has accused the Obama administration of abusing, current and former officials said.

The chairman of the committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), has since cast the practice of “unmasking” of U.S. individuals and organizations mentioned in classified reports as an abuse of surveillance powers by the outgoing Obama administration.

Trump has argued that investigators should focus their attention on former officials leaking names from intelligence reports, rather than whether the Kremlin coordinated its activities with the Trump campaign, an allegation he has denied. “The big story is the ‘unmasking and surveillance’ of people that took place during the Obama administration,” Trump tweeted Thursday.

According to a tally by U.S. spy agencies, the House Intelligence Committee requested five to six unmaskings of U.S. organizations or individuals related to Trump or Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton between June 2016 and January 2017. Officials familiar with the matter said that the committee’s requests focused on the identities of U.S. organizations that had been hacked by the Russians in 2016. Officials declined to say how many of the requests came from Democrats vs. Republicans.

Nunes served subpoenas this week to the CIA, the NSA and the FBI asking for information about unmaskings requested by three former officials: national security adviser Susan E. Rice, CIA director John Brennan and U.N. ambassador Samantha Power.

On Thursday, Nunes tweeted, “Seeing a lot of fake news from media elites and others who have no interest in violations of Americans’ civil liberties via unmaskings.”
Democrats on the panel say they believe the latest direction of Nunes’s investigation is designed to deflect attention from the Russia probe. In April, Nunes was forced to recuse himself from the committee’s probe of Russia because of allegations he may have inappropriately disclosed classified information. Nunes has denied any wrongdoing.

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