A new report shows that during the last months of the Obama administration, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power was averaging more than one “unmasking” request for every working day in 2016 — even going as far as to seek the names of Trump associates just before his inauguration.
Multiple sources told Fox News that the more than 260 requests were made last year in an attempt to identify Americans whose names surfaced in foreign intelligence reporting, known as unmasking. One source indicated this took place just prior to President Obama leaving the White House.
Expected to testify next month on Capitol Hill, Power is one of several Obama administration officials facing congressional scrutiny for their role in seeking the identities of Trump associates in intelligence reports – but the interest in her actions is particularly high.
In a July 27 letter to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said the committee had learned “one official, whose position had no apparent intelligence-related function, made hundreds of unmasking requests during the final year of the Obama administration.”
Power is reportedly “that one official.”
During a public congressional hearing earlier this year, Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina pressed former CIA director John Brennan about the unmasking, without mentioning Power by name. The conversation went like this:
Gowdy: Do you recall any U.S. ambassadors asking that names be unmasked?
Brennan: I don’t know. Maybe, it’s ringing a vague bell but I’m not — I could not answer with any confidence.
Gowdy continued, asking: On either January 19 or up till noon on January 20, did you make any unmasking requests?
Brennan: I do not believe I did.
Gowdy: So, you did not make any requests on the last day that you were employed?
Brennan: No, I was not in the agency on the last day I was employed.
Brennan later changed his testimony, confirming he was at CIA headquarters on January 20. “I went there to collect some final personal materials as well as to pay my last respects to a memorial wall. But I was there for a brief period of time and just to take care of some final things that were important to me,” he recalled.
Three of the nation’s intelligence agencies received subpoenas in May explicitly naming three top Obama administration officials: Former national security adviser Susan Rice, Brennan and Power. Records were requested for Ben Rhodes, then-President Barack Obama’s adviser, but the documents were not the subject of a subpoena.
A spokesperson for Power had no comment on the number or timing of her requests. But in a previous statement, her lawyer David Pressman stated, “While serving as our Permanent Representative to the United Nations, 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. Any insinuation that Ambassador Power was involved in leaking classified information is absolutely false.”
Since the unmasking controversy began, National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers explained during congressional testimony that unmasking is handled by the intelligence community in an independent review.
“We [the NSA] apply two criteria in response to their request: number one, you must make the request in writing. Number two, the request must be made on the basis of your official duties, not the fact that you just find this report really interesting and you’re just curious,” he said in June. “It has to tie to your job and, finally, I said two but there’s a third criteria and is the basis of the request must be that you need this identity to understand the intelligence you’re reading.”
Previous U.N. ambassadors have made unmasking requests, but Fox News learned that the number was significantly lower — more like dozens; instead of hundreds.
Power has agreed to meet with the Senate and House intelligence committees as part of the Russia probe. She is expected before the House committee in a private, classified session in October.
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