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Government Privacy Communications United States Politics Technology

Intelligence Chairman Accuses Obama Aids of Hundreds of Unmasking Requests ( 330

mi writes: When American spies capture our communications with foreigners, the identities of Americans on the other side of the conversation are generally protected -- if not by bona-fide laws, then certainly by rules and regulations. A transcript of the conversation should have their name replaced with labels like "U.S. person 1". The citizen involved can only be "unmasked" with a good reason. In 2011, Obama relaxed these rules, making it much simpler even for officials without any intelligence role to obtain the identities. Predictably, certain top officials of the Obama Administration abused their access to get this information: "The [House Intelligence] 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," [Intelligence Chairman Devin] Nunes wrote. "Of those requests, only one offered a justification that was not boilerplate."
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Intelligence Chairman Accuses Obama Aids of Hundreds of Unmasking Requests

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  • No surprise (Score:2, Insightful)

    The O administrative was probably the most manipulative administration ever.
    • Re:No surprise (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 28, 2017 @09:20AM (#54897751)

      I would like to know a little more. If the administration was investigating possible collusion between (some) members of the incoming administration and Russia, it seems to me that they have to unmask the Americans, to find out who it is.

      The Obama administration is simultaneously being accused of not doing enough to act on intelligence that Russia was interfering with the elections, and also here of doing too much.

      • by skids ( 119237 )

        I would like to know a little more.

        Wouldn't we all, but we can't, due to the nature of the material.

        Which makes it the perfect political cudgel, since hands may be waved and pearls clutched about what might be completely justified activity, and the only recourse is a review by a FISAish court, which will take time, and in the meantime those pearls get clutched harder and harder and the water gets muddier and muddier.

        Next we'll be hearing that HC entrapped Trump into laundering Russian Mafia money all throughout the past few decades.

      • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

        Regardless of whether or not there were good reasons...

        "Of those requests, only one offered a justification that was not boilerplate." not justifiable. If there are good reasons; specify them in the request.

      • Did you miss the "no apparent intelligence related function" bit? That was the Ambassador to the UN. Why in the world would she need to know?

        For the most part, nobody outside the FBI, CIA or NSA has any real reason to need this information, and they're the ones who gather it. The FBI handles all domestic intelligence/counter-intelligence, so they need to know.

        Very few people need or should have the names of US citizens that might be involved until the investigation is concluded. The National Securit

      • Re:No surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

        by I75BJC ( 4590021 ) on Friday July 28, 2017 @11:14AM (#54898443)
        You seemed to have missed the point. The Obama Administration officials are not the investigative branch of the Executive Branch of the USA Federal Government. The Department of Justice with its FBI, etc., bureaus are the professional and appropriate investigative groups. The Obama Administration referred nothing to the DOJ/FBI/etc. and that, according to those raising the issue, blundered. The blunder may be inappropriate. unethical/political, or illegal--that's the purpose of this investigation into these actions. Administrators administer; investigators investigate. For example, the Ambassador to the UN is not the appropriate person to investigate into the integrity of policies and actions of the opposition political party (or even her own political party). The Ambassador can refer questions to the appropriate groups and the appropriate groups, if deemed appropriate, will investigate. The question of whether the Ambassador accessing personal and private information is disturbing to many people.
      • Indeed. Nunes' complaint, as is the complaints of many Republicans and Fox News types, seems to be "They caught our people doing bad things, and THAT'S WRONG!!!!!"

  • *aides (Score:5, Informative)

    by richy freeway ( 623503 ) on Friday July 28, 2017 @09:07AM (#54897683)

    See subject

  • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Friday July 28, 2017 @09:09AM (#54897693)
    Well, Obama did promise more transparency in government. He never specified what kind of transparency.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 28, 2017 @09:11AM (#54897701)

    This is the story you should follow, Americans. Not any of that other fake news.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Friday July 28, 2017 @09:13AM (#54897711) Journal

    Unmasking private citizens who have not been accused of a crime should be a crime.

    Unmasking a public or political official who is trying to sell out the country should earn you a $3 fine and a gift certificate to Chili's.

    By the way, did the members of the Trump administration and his campaign team speak to anyone who wasn't Russian? And why do they seem to have such awful memories when it comes to these meetings when they're filling out (or amending) their security clearance forms? I mean, the Russians I know tend to be pretty memorable people.

    • by El Cubano ( 631386 ) on Friday July 28, 2017 @09:33AM (#54897825)

      Unmasking a public or political official who is trying to sell out the country should earn you a $3 fine and a gift certificate to Chili's.

      Be very careful what you wish for. The US ability to collect technical intelligence is extraordinarily powerful. It should have very strong restrictions to protect the citizenry it is in place to serve, the violation of which should carry swift and harsh penalties as a deterrent to abuse. The officials in question had no business accessing the identities of any US person caught up in incidental collection, regardless of how bad the appearance of the alleged activity.

      Before Obama relaxed the rules the responsibility and authority to deal with collecting intelligence on US persons (whether as part of incidental or targeted collection) was the Attorney General and I am relatively certain that the authority could not be delegated. A proper procedure would be after discovering potential evidence of a serious crime (you don't want to use this sort of thing for minor offenses) the matter should be referred to the intelligence folks at the Department of Justice who have special training and oversight to guard against abuse. They then make the determination on how to proceed and make a recommendation to the AG on whether the individual should be unmasked or not. An exception for something like an imminent terrorist attack or other crime which could result in loss of life should allow for quick action but still require review and adjudication by the Attorney General after the fact.

      The kind of "bounty" program you suggest would do nothing more than invite abuse and promote a cavalier attitude among low level intelligence personnel. It is most definitely not in the best interests of the US government, the people in general, and potential victims of that abuse. Does that mean that some people will get away with crimes? Probably. But then our justice system is specifically designed to give the benefit of the doubt to the accused, as it should be.

      • The officials in question had no business accessing the identities of any US person caught up in incidental collection, regardless of how bad the appearance of the alleged activity.

        Total BS. What exactly do you think that the intelligence world is supposed to be doing? Nothing?
        Their job is to find out what foreign nationals/spies/terrorists/etc are doing. More importantly, when they find that they are up to issues, then we can and MUST follow the trail and locate all those in AMerica that are working with them against our national interest.
        In POF, it would be INSANE to have located issues like this, and then ignore them because it involved an American. When you catch somebody bein

        • What you are saying is that you want parallel construction []. That is a very dangerous direction friend.

          • No, it is NOT parallel construction.
            That is based on the idea that the NSA is listening in to Americans. ILLEGALLY.

            This situation is NOT THE CASE. The NSA was listening to the Russians, of which the majority of the capture was likely in Europe( IOW, Americans would go to Europe to escape NSA and not aware of how far we really DO listen).
            In this particular case, the NSA was DOING THEIR JOBS and obtained all of this evidence LEGALLY.
            The worst that has happened here is that somebody else was looking t
            • What you are saying is legitimately scary. I hope one day you can see beyond Trump to see why this is a very bad thing.

              Dragnet spying on Americans not suspected of a crime is a bad thing especially when FISA ignores court orders []

              The rights of American's should never be determined by a special secret court (FISA).

              • what is scary about this?
                That NSA was watching foreign spies and top political ppl?
                Or that information on traitors that were caught was turned over to the current president?
                Or that supposedly that ppl in the trump admin were unmasking 'Americans' illegally?

                Sorry, but I worked on the USA PATRIOT act. I saw enough to know that we have a LOT of spies here (though far more CHinese than Russians; at least back in 2006 timeframe). I also know that terrorism was a serious issue back then, and I can only ass
  • Political purposes (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Train0987 ( 1059246 ) on Friday July 28, 2017 @09:16AM (#54897727)
    This unmasking was for political purposes which makes it far worse. The sitting administration was running an intelligence op against the candidate of the opposition party. All the The Russians! bullshit is just a continuation of that op against the electorate.
    • by quantaman ( 517394 ) on Friday July 28, 2017 @10:40AM (#54898203)

      This unmasking was for political purposes which makes it far worse. The sitting administration was running an intelligence op against the candidate of the opposition party. All the The Russians! bullshit is just a continuation of that op against the electorate.

      Nunes is hardly a reliable source to digest this information. There was an active Russian intelligence operation to swing the election and a lot of indications that they were collaborating with one of the campaigns.

      That the Obama administration and intelligence agencies concealed as much of that as they did is remarkable, all they had to do is spill a few of these secret meetings and it could have changed the election. Instead they essentially let Russia succeed in swinging the election for fear of acting improper.

      Can you imagine watching that election spin out of control from Russian interference, having the goods that could stop it, but not being allowed to say anything about it?

    • So the sitting administration was using an intelligence op to unmask a candidate running an unintelligent op?
    • by Holi ( 250190 )
      I agree with that, but I need more then just Nunes' word. I mean an accusation is nice and all but without actual evidence it should always be suspect.
    • So Michael Flynn who had a security clearance talking to the Russian Ambassador then lying about it is political? Jeff Sessions meeting with the Russians then forgetting about the meeting is political? The Trump administration vehemently then denying Kushner or Trump Jr or any Trump family member having meetings with Russians (then forgetting that they had multiple meetings) is political?
    • Bullshit.
      The ENTIRE intelligence world wants NOTHING to do with Trump. Even now, they refuse to directly give Trump and most of his admin, ANY intelligence on Russia because they caught him being a traitor. Hell, even those that Trump appointed act odd about how they are giving intelligence to Trump. They KNOW that he is a traitor.

      This was clearly not political, but instead, finding a number of traitors in our midst that now must be dealt with. Hopefully, they will be found guilty of giving aid to the e
  • It's also worth noting that the "Intelligence Chairman" in question is Devin Nunes. He was part of the Trump campaign, and had to recuse himself from the Russia probe because he was providing more information to the White House about the investigation than he was providing to the investigation.

    I'm not saying that these accusations couldn't possibly be true. I'm saying the accuser isn't remotely credible. This is clearly yet another attempted smoke screen to help Trump cover his crimes.

    I think it's fair to disregard the accusation until someone credible steps forward with real information.

    • I have mod points, but your are already at 5. This state of affairs can't go on much longer. I'm an independent who has voted for Republicans in the past, I even gave a campaign contribution to McCain once. But the Republicans have almost become the enemy of the people by their actions over the last 20 years. I suspect this is because the balance between conservative and liberal has been broken by demographic shifts within our population. The Republicans are on the wrong side of that shift. So they ha

    • His credibility is irrelevant. If the contents of his letter were false, half the House Intel committee would be on TV right now calling him a liar.
      • There could be any number of reasons why people would be hesitant to comment. Do you really want to wade into that nonsense? Do you want to dignify the accusation with a response? Are you able to explain what really went on without releasing classified material?

        It's been less than a day since a guy with very little credibility made some wild accusations. You're right that I haven't seen any credible people refute him yet, but I also haven't seen any credible people back him up. I think it makes a lot

  • This is the same Devin Nunes that was accused of bias in the Congressional investigation into the Russian hacking around the Presidential election. As a matter of fact, he is not acting as chairman of the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence at the moment (although he is still the named chairman) as he is currently under investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics for disclosing classified information to the public.

    Also, lets look at what happened with unmasking towards the end of the Obama administration: Certain individuals around Donald Trump, especially Michael Flynn and a few others with exceptionally close connections to him, were unmasked after the routine capture of communications between Russian officials and US citizens was discovered, communications which helped oust Flynn as National Security Advisor, as well as being central to the current expansion of official investigations into possible illegal collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government to influence the 2016 Presidential election.

    Putting the above two facts together... until I have some outside, non-partisan source that is backing Nunes, then this looks like a blatantly transparent effort to probably paint the unmasking likely discredit whoever found and revealed the above mentioned conversations, in an effort to paint the entire Russia investigation as illegitimate. And, as a matter of fact, reading a number of sources, it becomes clear that is the EXACT intent of this move. They cover it up by claiming there was 'no justification' because the forms were mostly 'boilerplate'... Yeah, well, at LOT of forms are boilerplate, that's why boilerplate exists in the first place. Just because something is boilerplate doesn't mean that there was no justification. It just means that the justification is used enough that drawing up a standard filler for it is worthwhile. So until there's actual evidence of wrongdoing, Nunes is not exactly an unbiased person in this case, and he has proven before that he is willing to use his biases and act unethically against his political opponents in an effort to retain as much power as possible. If some non-partisan source can confirm what he claims, that's when I'll give these allegations any chance of actually being true, and the actions discussed as being illicit.

  • by evolutionary ( 933064 ) on Friday July 28, 2017 @10:16AM (#54898103)
    President Obama allowed (and in this case encouraged) a lot of programs and policies that basically violated privacy of it's citizens, violated the constitution (see the data dragnet and court ruling on the programs revealed by Snowden), violated due process (see rendition of Americans) and even violated foreign sovereignty (see Drone programs). Every president has worked to increase the powers of it's position since George Bush Senior. We are losing credibility that we govern under a rule of law as we continue to erode due process, and find new ways muzzle and control U.S. citizens. Now any media critical of the current president is labelled "fake news" and given hostile treatment by the White House. Not exactly the free press were supposed to have. Question is, what the next attack on freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and due process is to come this term.
    • w any media critical of the current president is labelled "fake news" and given hostile treatment by the White House. Not exactly the free press were supposed to have

      Compared to a press that doesn't investigate the White House and never questions the presidents narrative or position? Either the press is doing the job and the White House don't like it (which is good) or the press weren't doing their job and the White House liked it (which is bad).

  • by GeekWithAKnife ( 2717871 ) on Friday July 28, 2017 @10:20AM (#54898121)

    Side stepping that "Obama aids" misspelling is beneath any post...

    Isnt this sort of criticism from the same people that suggest that NSA and the like have access to every American's emails, bank accounts, computers, GPS data and so on? -you know because the terrorists win if not and what do they have to hide?

    Of course it is not a great idea for non-security related officials to be able to make hundreds of baseless requests but at the same time some of the involved agencies needs to be more transparent with the people they are protecting. ergo, the people. -the logic being the elected officials represent (some of) the people.

    So is it Obama's fault that someone this one individual made so many requests without justification? Or MAYBE it's the person handing it over not requesting/confirming/checking and or validating there is justification. After all you could be well within your rights to request something but that still needs to be authorised to avoid these situations.

    It's not like this is a blatantly biased article or cheap political click bait on a tech site. /sarcasm
  • by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Friday July 28, 2017 @10:23AM (#54898137) Journal
    It's telling that the issue is trying to be framed as one about the intelligence agencies revealing U.S. citizens whose conversations were intercepted as part of legitimate intelligence gathering rather than the fact of collusion between a presidential campaign and a foreign government.

    We know for an absolute fact Russia was trying to, and successfully did, influence our election. The Senate committee, the House committee and the intelligence services [] all agree [] on that unassailable fact.

    Yet instead of being concerned or even upset at this interference, Nunes is trying to deflect from this fact to one of, "But people's names were revealed!", as if trying to figure out who was colluding with Russia is a bad thing.

    Another thing which is even more disturbing is the continued insistence, and outright denial, by the con artist that Russia either did anything during the campaign, or if they did, that they did anything wrong. This raises the very real question of why the con artist is trying to protect Russia? Why has he abjectly refused to say a single bad word about that country despite it deliberately bombing hospitals in Syria and coordinating the chemical weapon attack in Syria, not to mention its seizure of the Crimea from Ukraine, its invasion of Ukraine and its support for terrorist groups inside Ukraine? If this were Iran doing this the con artist would be bombing away, but because it's Russia, he lets them literally get away with murder.

    Further, had Hillary Clinton won and these exact same facts come out, you can be absolutely sure Republicans would be laser focused on who did what and trying to pin the collusion on her. But when it comes to the con artist, they are doing what they can to deflect from the crimes and protect him. Hypocrisy at its best.
    • We know that as an absolute fact huh? Do you truly believe there is a single Trump voter who's today thinking to themselves "Dang, The Russians! tricked me!" You just can't possibly accept that millions of people would rather vote for an absolute clown than for your policies.
  • This is just more GOP propaganda trying to make the previous administration look bad. They're on a personal vendetta to rewrite history to make him out to be the absolute worst thing.

    Meanwhile this administration and everyone in it fully supports monitoring all of your communications...probably to an even more sick degree than previous administrations.

    This government isn't governing. Plain and simple. They should fucking do something other than release news every other day about something the other admin
  • I suspect that when this is all said and done, we will find that the GOP are again, lying about all of this, to try and cover for T and the GOP.
    There is little doubt that T/GOP were not only working with Russia, but that the intelligence world has it well documented.
  • by mbone ( 558574 ) on Friday July 28, 2017 @12:40PM (#54899067)

    That means that this is an attempt to generate a fake Benghazi type scandal.

    Let us know when a responsible person comes to the same conclusion.

  • more bullshit (Score:5, Informative)

    by meglon ( 1001833 ) on Friday July 28, 2017 @02:14PM (#54899901) []

    Nunes is a bigger lying piece of shit than even "mi" is, and that's saying an lot.