Sunday, April 02, 2017

Intel Official Behind "Unmasking" Of Trump Associates Is "Very Senior, Very Well Known"


thehill  |  Senator Chuck Schumer and Congressman Adam Schiff have both castigated Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, for his handling of the inquiry into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.  They should think twice.  The issue that has recently seized Nunes is of vital importance to anyone who cares about fundamental civil liberties.

The trail that Nunes is following will inevitably lead back to a particularly significant leak.  On Jan. 12, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius reported that “according to a senior U.S. government official, (General Mike) Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29.”

From Nunes’s statements, it’s clear that he suspects that this information came from NSA intercepts of Kislyak’s phone.  An Obama official, probably in the White House, “unmasked” Flynn’s name and passed it on to Ignatius.

Regardless of how the government collected on Flynn, the leak was a felony and a violation of his civil rights.  But it was also a severe breach of the public trust. When I worked as an NSC staffer in the White House, 2005-2007, I read dozens of NSA surveillance reports every day. On the basis of my familiarity with this system, I strongly suspect that someone in the Obama White House blew a hole in the thin wall that prevents the government from using information collected from surveillance to destroy the lives of the citizens whose privacy it is pledged to protect.  

The leaking of Flynn’s name was part of what can only be described as a White House campaign to hype the Russian threat and, at the same time, to depict Trump as Vladimir Putin’s Manchurian candidate.