Samantha Power, who served in the Obama administration as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, sought to reveal the identity of more than 260 Americans in 2016 during the presidential campaign. According to a Fox News report, Powers averaged almost one unmasking for every workday that year. An investigation by the House of Representatives named the former diplomat as a person of interest, as well as Obama’s advisers Susan Rice and Ben Rhodes. Former CIA Director John Brennan has also been named by the probe.
Investigators working for Congress suspect that one or more of the persons named above may have tried to find out the identities of Donald Trump’s associates by accessing classified intelligence obtained through wiretaps. The four former Obama administration aides will testify before Congress in October.
In March, National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers said that 20 people at his agency, as well as others at the CIA, FBI and Department of Justice, are authorized to “unmask” (identify) Americans whose communications are intercepted along with foreigners’ communications. CNN revealed this week that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was under FBI surveillance from 2014 until sometime in 2016. At some undetermined point last year, FBI surveillance of the political operative resumed and continued into 2017 after Trump was installed at the White House.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) wrote to Director Dan Coats of the Office of National Intelligence that the House Intelligence Committee 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.” Nunes did not specify the person in question.Nunes said that senior officials in the Obama administration offered few individualized justifications for revealing the names of Americans whose communications were intercepted. He noted that some “were followed by anonymous leaks of those names to the media.”
The unmasking of the identities of Americans whose communications are intercepted is granted upon examination by a special court that processes Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act requests.
According to Fox New, David Pressman, who is Powers’ attorney, said this week, “Ambassador Power was also a member of the National Security Council responsible for advising the President on the full-range of threats confronting the United States.” Denying any wrongdoing by Powers, Pressman stated that “any insinuation that Ambassador Power was involved in leaking classified information is absolutely false.”