U.S. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said this week that U.S. intelligence intercepted and unmasked Trump team communications “on numerous occasions” and produced “dozens” of reports that were “widely disseminated” throughout the intelligence community.
Nunes said he would not disclose who provided him with the intelligence reports, but revealed that he was provided specific intelligence that, in fact, revealed the communications of Donald Trump and his associates had been intercepted, and that the intercepts had produced “dozens” of intelligence reports, which “contained details about persons associated with the incoming administration, details with little apparent foreign intelligence value (that) were widely disseminated in intelligence community reporting.”
Nunes confirmed that “none of this surveillance was related to Russia, or the investigation of Russian activities, or of the Trump team.”
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) March 22, 2017
During the press conference on Capitol Hill Nunes made the following statement:
[F]irst, I recently confirmed that on numerous occasions, the intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition. Details about persons associated with the incoming administration, details with little apparent foreign intelligence value were widely disseminated in intelligence community reporting. Third, I have confirmed that additional names of Trump transition team members were unmasked. And fourth and finally, I want to be clear, none of this surveillance was related to Russia, or the investigation of Russian activities, or of the Trump team.
Nunes went on to note that the House Intelligence Committee would be investigating the following questions:
Who was aware of it?
Why it was not disclosed to Congress?
Who requested and authorized the additional unmasking?
Whether anyone directed the intelligence community to focus on Trump associates?
And whether any laws, regulations, or procedures were violated?
After becoming aware of the existence of materials that could potentially vindicate President Trump’s claims of being wiretapped by the Obama administration, Nunes immediately informed Speaker of the House Ryan and the White House of the information he had received.
After the shocking revelations, top House Democrats pushed back, essentially attempting to paint Nunes as a Trump stooge for bypassing the process of telling the Intelligence Committee and taking the information directly to the White House, today Nunes set the record straight.
“Look, I came out here and briefed you guys yesterday, and said, ‘This is what I’m going to go do,’ so you knew. The president didn’t invite me over, I called down and there and invited myself because I thought he needed to understand what I saw. He has every right to see it,” said Nunes
“We have to keep our sources and methods here very, very quiet,” Nunes told reporters on Capitol Hill. “Over the course of this investigation, we have had many sources who have come to this committee, and as you can imagine, many of them don’t want you to know who they are. You guys in the press understand this.”
“We are not ever going to reveal sources.”
When questioned as to why he briefed Paul Ryan, reporters and the president, but bypassed the rest of the Intelligence Committee, he noted a judgement call.
“It was a judgment call,” he said. “There was a lot going on yesterday. It was a judgment call on my part. Sometimes you make the right decision, and sometimes you make the wrong decision, but you’ve got to stick by the decisions you make.”
Edward Snowden, in a recent conversation at the SXSW conference with The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill, shed light on how the communications of Trump or his staff were likely picked up by the NSA — without a warrant — and then disseminated throughout the intelligence community for political purposes.
Snowden explains how if he were still working for the NSA, he could unofficially search out detailed information about any American, including the President. He notes that internal policy is so lax that someone in Snowden’s former position could specifically target any individual unofficially.
Now, if you are an American citizen and they say, “I want to look at your communications, I want to listen to this person’s phone calls and everyone they contacted,” this in theory is supposed to require a warrant. But the actual reality here is that they can do something different, and they do this without a warrant… if they look at the other side of that communication, right? The communication that went overseas or involved a non-U.S. person in any way, that’s entirely legal. That happens without a warrant. …
If anybody at the NSA, if anybody at the FBI, wanted to review communications about President Obama, right? Like me, sitting at the NSA, I could do that simply by typing in an IP address that doesn’t even have to be the president’s IP address, right? Or if I want to search for his private email address or something like that, all I have to do is type it in the system, hit ‘enter,’ and say, “show me U.S. results for this.” This is entirely legal, so long as I’m not targeting him officially. So, I’m saying, I’m not interested in Obama, right? I’m interested in this known system that’s affiliated with Chinese cyber espionage or whatever, that just happens to be Obama’s Blackberry. …
I think it is possible, based on everything we see and what we hear, there may be some indication that something like this happened on the backend, right?
Snowden goes on to take Trump to task over NSA data collection.
That’s the problem. It’s not so much that this actually happened here, there, or the other, because we don’t have evidence for that. If Donald Trump wants to take this seriously, right, he needs to fix the problem that everyone in America’s communications are being collected right now without a warrant, and then going into the bucket. And they’re protected by very lax internal policy regulations, right? And this simply is not enough. If he’s worried about the fact that somebody could have been wiretapping Trump Tower, that this could have happened without a warrant, or even with a warrant, right, the problem is not, oh, you know, poor Donald Trump. You’re the president, right? You should be asking questions about, “Why was this possible in the first place, and why haven’t I fixed it?