In the wake of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes’s statements to reporters on Wednesday, the outline of what could become the biggest political scandal of the last 100 years is becoming clear. Obama administration officials, possibly aided by Obama’s January 2017 order expanding access to the NSA’s raw signals intelligence data, are alleged to have misused the NSA’s surveillance capabilities to spy on the incoming Trump administration. The NSA’s raw data includes names of US citizens, which are supposed to be “masked.” Obama officials allegedly “unmasked” the names of people associated with Donald Trump, and feloniously leaked information (which may have been true or false) about those individuals to reporters in order to damage the incoming administration.
That will be the claim. James Rosen of Fox News, himself an victim of Obama administration spying, reports:
Republican congressional investigators expect a potential “smoking gun” establishing that the Obama administration spied on the Trump transition team, and possibly the president-elect himself, will be produced to the House Intelligence Committee this week, a source told Fox News.
Classified intelligence showing incidental collection of Trump team communications, purportedly seen by committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and described by him in vague terms at a bombshell Wednesday afternoon news conference, came from multiple sources, Capitol Hill sources told Fox News. The intelligence corroborated information about surveillance of the Trump team that was known to Nunes, sources said, even before President Trump accused his predecessor of having wiretappedhim in a series of now-infamous tweets posted on March 4.
The intelligence is said to leave no doubt the Obama administration, in its closing days, was using the cover of legitimate surveillance on foreign targets to spy on President-elect Trump, according to sources.
The key to that conclusion is the unmasking of selected U.S. persons whose names appeared in the intelligence, the sources said, adding that the paper trail leaves no other plausible purpose for the unmasking other than to damage the incoming Trump administration.
Hopefully we will see the paper trail before long. Rosen reports that the FBI has so far not cooperated with the House committee’s requests, but the NSA is expected to deliver responsive documents to the committee as early as today. This might be a good time to mention that I don’t trust James Comey any farther than I can throw him.
A House intelligence committee investigation took a dramatic shift this week after newly disclosed intelligence reports suggested the Obama administration improperly gathered and disseminated secret electronic communications from President Trump and his transition team prior to inauguration. *** Nunes said he was alarmed by what he saw in several dozen intelligence reports that include transcripts of communications, including communications directly from Trump. The reports were based on a foreign electronic spying operation between November and January. They were revealed by an intelligence community insider who alerted Nunes.
Nunes said on CNN that after reading the reports he was confident the Obama White House and numerous agencies “had a pretty good idea of what President-elect Trump was up to and what his transition team was up to and who they were meeting with.”
The full extent of the improper spying—including the improper unmasking of Americans whose identities were to be hidden in reports of foreign communications intercepts—is expected to be disclosed Friday, Nunes said.
I think we can be quite certain that the “full extent” of any improper spying by the Obama administration will not be disclosed today. Not to the committee, and certainly not to the public. In any event, stay tuned. One can only hope that if these reports are true, all Obama administration officials who were involved in the scheme, including if appropriate Barack Obama, will be criminally prosecuted.
One last comment: if it turns out that Donald Trump was right all along in charging the Obama administration with improperly conducting surveillance on him, it will be a stunning political reversal and a severe setback for the Democratic Party.