” Judicial Watch announced today it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the U.S. Department of State for records of communications about requests by former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power to “unmask” the identities of U.S. citizens whose names appear in intelligence reports concerning Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:20-cv-01729)). Unmasking refers generally to the practice of political appointees obtaining the identities of American citizens referenced in intelligence surveillance of foreign nationals.
The suit was filed after the Justice Department failed to respond to a May 29, 2019, FOIA request.
(…) The FOIA request and this subsequent lawsuit were filed after a similar 2018 Judicial Watch lawsuit filed in 2018 (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of State (No. 18-0300)), which derived from an October 31, 2017 FOIA request, was closed on March 3, 2019, when the court upheld the Department of State’s response that it need not disclose whether or not responsive records existed for national security reasons. This new Judicial Watch lawsuit argues the State Department’s earlier Glomar response (that it could neither confirm nor deny whether records existed) was no longer sustainable:
On May 13, 2020, the Director of National Intelligence released a newly declassified memorandum and an accompanying list identifying officials who submitted requests to the National Security Agency (“NSA”) to “unmask” the identity of former National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn in NSA foreign intelligence reports. The list demonstrates that, between November 30, 2016 and January 11, 2017, Ambassador Power submitted seven requests to “unmask” Flynn’s identity in such NSA foreign intelligence reports and that all seven requests were approved.
“The entire world now knows the Obama administration went on an unprecedented fishing expedition which involved unmasking General Flynn but almost certainly others tied to the Trump campaign, including the President and his family,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “For almost three years, the State Department has been stonewalling our request for information for this basic Obamagate information. We hope the court tears down this stonewall around the worst corruption scandal in American history.” (Read more: Judicial Watch, 7/02/2020) (Archives)