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Published On: Mon, Jun 5th, 2017

Rep. Devin Nunes: Media Elites Have ‘No Interest’ in Americans Being Unmasked

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) on Thursday blasted journalists and others who he said, “have no interest” in Americans’ civil liberties being violated during surveillance by the intelligence community.

“Seeing a lot of fake news from media elites and others who have no interest in violations of Americans’ civil liberties via unmaskings,” he tweeted.

“Seeing a lot of fake news from media elites and others who have no interest in violations of Americans’ civil liberties via unmaskings.”

@DevinNunes

photo/ donkeyhotey

“Unmasking” refers to the process of an intelligence agency revealing — per a request by a consumer of the intelligence — the identity of an American “incidentally” caught up in surveillance of a foreign target.

U.S. intelligence agencies cannot spy on Americans, unless they obtain a warrant.

However, under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, those agencies can collect information on a foreign target and “incidentally” collect communications by or about an American, without a warrant.

Their identities are supposed to be “masked” or hidden in collection reports, unless an official requests that it be “unmasked” or revealed in order to understand the intelligence.

The ability to “incidentally” collect intelligence on Americans has long rankled civil rights and privacy advocates, including Nunes and others in Congress such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI).

Nunes and ranking member Adam Schiff (D-CA) earlier this year requested information from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency on how many Americans have been unmasked within the last six months, after a series of news reports detailing illegally leaked communications by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

President Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice had requested the unmasking of incoming Trump officials. The FBI has not been forthcoming with the requested information, a committee aide said.

Nunes came under attack Wednesday after the Wall Street Journal reported that the intelligence committee had issued seven subpoenas — four related to the investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. presidential elections, and three related to unmaskings by Rice, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power.

Nunes issued the subpoenas to the FBI, CIA, and NSA related to those unmaskings, and Democrats accused him of violating his recusal from the Russia investigation.

The chairman had temporarily recused himself from the Russia investigation, after activist groups filed ethics complaints against him for allegedly disclosing classified information.

However, Nunes had never recused himself from continuing to look into the issue of potentially improper unmaskings of Americans.

photo/ Gerd Altmann

 

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