It’s another leak about a leak, but I won’t complain about this one. According to Fox News chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge and anchor Bret Baier, former UN Ambassador Samantha Power was a busy woman in the last year of the Obama administration. In a mindblowing revelation Thursday, Herridge and Baier revealed that in the waning days of Obama’s second term, Power, 47, requested the “unmasking” of at least 260 American citizens caught up in Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act wiretaps.
FISA intercepts are considered so intrusive that when an American citizen is intercepted in one, and they are not the subject of the surveillance (like Pul Manafort apparently was), their identity is protected from readers of the transcript. A limited number of senior officials can — with good reason — request to have those identities revealed.
The National Security Agency director, Adm. Mike Rogers, explained the procedure in Congressional testimony back in June. He said the unmasking request must meet two criteria for action: “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.”
While other UN ambassadors have also requested unmaskings, Fox News reported that the number of requests was “in the low double digits.” And Power was certainly not the only Obama official unmasking Americans. National Security Adviser (and Power’s predecessor at the UN) Susan Rice requested her share. But she recently responded to questions from House of Representatives investigators, and her reasons seemed to satisfy the questioners. It’s not at all clear that Power will get off that easy.
If you’re wondering what was so important that the UN ambassador had to request to know the identities of 260 Americans who spoke to the target of intelligence surveillance, you’re not alone. While the UN ambassador is a member of the National Security Council, one would think she had better things to do with her time. So what was she up to?
I have a theory.
It is entirely possible, and even plausible, that Power was unmasking these transcripts to build a file of information on incoming Trump administration appointees which she has been strategically leaking since January. She should be considered a prime suspect in the leak of information about retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the Trump foreign policy adviser who lasted only 24 days as national security adviser before he resigned under a cloud of suspicion about his dealings with Russians and other foreign figures.
Evidence that he was caught in a FISA wiretap led to his resignation.
Power was an early Obama partisan (she was forced to resign from the campaign in 2008 after she called Hillary Clinton a “monster”). She is married to former White House regulatory adviser Cass Sunstein, and the two of them were colleagues of Obama at the University of Chicago Law School.
There is no other plausible explanation. Any issue that was truly a pressing national security matter requiring unmasking in the closing days of the Obama administration would have logically been shared with the incoming administration. There is no indication that she shared any such concerns with Nikki Haley, her Republican replacement.
Power is supposedly scheduled to meet with House and Senate investigators next month to discuss these matters. I have a sneaking suspicion that her excuses will not be as compelling as Rice’s were.