What Was Unmasking and How Far Did It Go?
Clapper expanded it at Obama's behest, and Rice, Power and Rhodes all went to town.
The House and Senate Intelligence Committees’ ongoing review of the government’s intelligence gathering practices is revealing the size and scope of the Obama administration’s abuse of power. By this point it’s pretty clear how crooked the Obama team was during his eight-year term, but new information is coming to light on just how far he was willing to go to get one up on his political enemies.
The current issue is the administration’s extensive attempts to “unmask” political opponents named in intelligence reports to either embarrass them or compromise their privacy and ability to do their work. Unmasking, the current buzzword floating around Capitol Hill, is the practice of revealing names that have been redacted from intelligence memos and documents that have been collected in the normal course of intelligence work.
When the various intelligence agencies monitor the conversations of foreign nationals, they sometimes scoop up American citizens in the course of their surveillance. Standard procedure is to mask the identity of these people to protect their identities. Government officials have the ability to unmask those names if there is a compelling need to do so.
In 2013, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper significantly lowered the bar for that compelling need. His directive also widened the number of government officials who could request that names be unmasked.
Clapper’s actions were ordered by Barack Obama. Apparently, his idea of a transparent White House meant that anyone he didn’t like would have their laundry aired in public. Why then? In 2013, two things happened. Obama had been re-elected, but his agenda was stalled by Republicans. He also began his secret dealings with the Iranians to enter into a nuclear agreement, a plan Obama knew would be savaged by his opponents.
The new unmasking rules were not illegal, nor was the practice of unmasking names in intelligence reports. That doesn’t mean it was a good idea. Having the power to unmask names put congressional Republicans in a precarious position. Their integrity and their ability to do their work could have been compromised at any time, giving Obama an edge over them. What’s even scarier is that the White House went a step further and was actually collecting surveillance on these people.
Several Republicans, including Senators Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham, believed they were being watched by the administration. Former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia voiced the same concerns. It’s also now common knowledge that the Obama White House was collecting data on the Trump campaign and transition teams.
Among the burning questions that need to be answered now is this: Why did Obama’s UN Ambassador Samantha Power need so much information on the Trump people anyway?
It will be interesting to know the motivation behind this massive intelligence gathering sweep and unmasking of so many people who happened to be ideologically opposed to Obama. Power, former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, and former Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes were all in on it. They were all also part of Obama’s inner circle, and their political motivations were at the heart of every decision they made.
Of course, because of the nature of the information being shared, most of the testimonies these people will or have given will remain behind closed doors. Current National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster has already stated that Rice didn’t do anything wrong.
Again, the issue with the unmasking is not necessarily about legal versus illegal. So, to say that Rice did nothing wrong from a legal standpoint is one thing. But that clouds what was really taking place here. Obama cleverly assumed that unmasking political opponents would not cause legal problems for his team, especially after Clapper tinkered with the rules. But doing so gave him enough leverage to push his agenda by other means.
President Trump has the power to reveal these abuses of power with the public. He can declassify the reports about the spying on and unmasking of his own team. This would give proof to his accusations about Obama spying on him. Not that hard evidence will sway the anti-Trump crowd. But it will show for the record that Obama may have presided over one of the most corrupt presidential administrations in history.