April 17, 2017

Don’t Dismiss Concerns about Transition-Period Unmasking (At Least Not Yet)

By Adam Klein

The aftermath of the 2016 election has spun off yet another divisive issue: Whether White House officials inappropriately requested the identities of Trump transition aides whose names had been “masked” in classified intelligence reports. The kerfuffle over unmasking adds even more to the already heaping plates of congressional investigators currently probing Russian “active measures” and leaks of U.S.-person information collected under FISA.

A bit of background: Last Monday, Bloomberg’s Eli Lake reported that former Obama National Security Adviser “Susan Rice requested the identities of U.S. persons in raw intelligence reports on dozens of occasions that connect to the Donald Trump transition and campaign.” Then, on Wednesday, CNN poured at least some cold water on this, reporting that “Republican and Democratic lawmakers and aides” looking at Rice’s conduct “have so far found no evidence that Obama administration officials did anything unusual or illegal.”

Even assuming, however, that Rice and other officials did nothing unusual or illegal, it is too soon to dismiss the unmasking allegations as a non-story. The reason, broadly speaking, is that patterns of conduct permitted by the rules might nonetheless raise legitimate concerns—particularly during inter-party transitions, a sensitive time for our political system.

Read the full article at Lawfare.

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