If you are confused or bewildered by the furor over the Obama administration’s “unmasking” of Donald Trump, you are not alone. Even if you worked in the intelligence community at some point in your life you might not understand it.
So let me help you understand how astounding and damning the documents are that were declassified by DNI Grenell and released by Senators Johnson (no relation) and Grassley today.
Here is a section from the testimony to HPSCI (i.e., House Intel Committee) of an unnamed FBI Agent. Let’s assume that this was a report that our National Security Agency put out.
Note–A NSA generated intelligence report is usually the product of collecting a phone call, an email or some other form of electronic communications. At the very top of the message and at the bottom and at the start of each paragraph there will be classification markings.
So, look at the following as a manufactured example:
TOP SECRET UMBRELLA AARDVARK ORCON
013005132020 (DATE TIME GROUP)
1. (TS/OC) In a conversation before the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, FBI Agent US CITIZEN stated:
So I reach out to him, I said, hey, let me know, you know, what you think about the information. He emails back, and that was maybe the 23rd, 24th of September, and states that the information that – in the dossier corroborated information that they received FROM A FOREIGN DIPLOMAT that actually predicated all this investigation.
So, now let’s pretend you are Joe Biden. You have just read this message provided to you as part of your intel briefing. You want to know the name of the FBI Agent and the name of the FOREIGN DIPLOMAT. To get this info Biden, or one of this staffers, fills out an electronic request to the originating agency, i.e. the organization that put out the Intel Report. In this case, it is NSA. In filling out that report you have to give a valid reason based on a national security priority in order to explain why you want that information. Biden does not just get to say, “CUZ I WANTS TO KNOW.”
That message goes to the NSA official in charge of “unmasking” who decides to approve the request. He or she sends back the UNMASKED message to Biden. Here is what he read (it is still classified TOP SECRET RIDICULOUS):
1. (TS/OC) In a conversation before the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, FBI Agent JOHN MARCINKOWSKI stated:
So I reach out to him, I said, hey, let me know, you know, what you think about the information. He emails back, and that was maybe the 23rd, 24th of September, and states that the information that – in the dossier corroborated information that they received FROM A AUSTRALIAN AMBASSADOR ALEXANDER DOWNER that actually predicated all this investigation.
This is what Joe Biden and 38 other members of the Obama Administration, including CIA Director John Brennan and FBI Director Jim Comey, did to obtain and share information on General Michael Flynn.
It is important to understand the following to appreciate how unusual this activity was.
First, the date of the request to unmask coincides with a unique report. For example, Samantha Powers, the Obama UN Ambassador, asked for information on the following dates:
30 November 2016
2 December 2016
7 December 2016
14 December 2016 (TWO REQUESTS)
23 December 2016
11 January 2017
These are SEVEN different NSA reports. She is not requesting the same report SEVEN times. She is requesting unmasking on SEVEN different reports.
Second, as you scan the list of the unmasking requests you will notice that at least nine different people requested an unmasking on the 14th of December 2016. This is most likely the same report but nine different people throughout the Obama administration are asking for this information.
Finally, and to me the most important document, is the document that is not there. We know that Michael Flynn’s conversation with the Russian Ambassador was intercepted on the 29th of December. THERE ARE NO UNMASKING REQUESTS ON THE 29TH, 30TH, 31ST OF DECEMBER NOR ON 1ST OR 2ND OF JANUARY.
But, we know that the UNMASKING of that conversation took place between December 29 and 2 January because Andrew McCabe told Mary McCord at DOJ about the transcript on 3 January.
Why were the details of that unmasking withheld? Two possible explanations: 1)–The CIA intercepted the conversation and/or 2) that document is part of a grand jury process and being used for the possible prosecution of the person or persons involved in leaking the transcript.