UN Ambassador

February 16, 2018 – Judicial Watch Sues State Department for Samantha Power Unmasking Documents

Samantha Power (Credit: The Associated Press)

“The former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations reportedly requested to unmask over 260 Americans in her last year in office with no explanation.

Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of State for “unmasking” and other records tied to Obama’s United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power relating to the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:18-cv-00300)). Unmasking refers generally to the practice of political appointees obtaining the identities of American citizens referenced in intelligence surveillance of foreign nationals.

On September 20, 2017, Fox News reported that Power unmasked over 260 persons in her last year as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in an attempt to uncover associates of President Trump. She “was ‘unmasking’ at such a rapid pace in the final months of the Obama administration that she averaged more than one request for every working day in 2016,” even seeking “information in the days leading up to President Trump’s inauguration.”

On October 13, 2017, Power testified behind closed doors about this matter to the House Intelligence Committee. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, who also sits on the Intelligence Committee, stated that “Her testimony is they [the unmasking requests] may be under my name, but I did not make those requests.”

“Unmasking and then illegally leaking the names of Trump team members caught up in foreign intelligence gathering would have been an incredible, but unsurprising abuse by the Obama administration. Was the Clinton-DNC dossier also used as justification to abuse intelligence data to ‘unmask’ American citizens to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Donald Trump?” asked Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.  “And why is the Tillerson State Department stonewalling Judicial Watch’s FOIA investigation into this potentially illegal conduct by its agency employees?”

Separately, in a response to a FOIA request, Judicial Watch was told by the National Security Council (NSC) in May 2017 that the materials regarding the unmasking by Obama National Security Advisor Susan Rice of “the identities of any U.S. citizens associated with the Trump presidential campaign or transition team” have been removed to the Obama Library.” (Read more: Judicial Watch, 2/16/2018)

January 20, 2016 – January 20, 2017: Samantha Power sought to unmask Americans on almost daily basis, sources say

Samantha Power (Credit: Forbes)

“Samantha Power, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was ‘unmasking’ at such a rapid pace in the final months of the Obama administration that she averaged more than one request for every working day in 2016 – and even sought information in the days leading up to President Trump’s inauguration, multiple sources close to the matter told Fox News.

Two sources, who were not authorized to speak on the record, said the requests to identify Americans whose names surfaced in foreign intelligence reporting, known as unmasking, exceeded 260 last year. One source indicated this occurred in the final days of the Obama White House.

The details emerged ahead of an expected appearance by Power next month on Capitol Hill. She is one of several Obama administration officials facing congressional scrutiny for their role in seeking the identities of Trump associates in intelligence reports – but the interest in her actions is particularly high.

In a July 27 letter to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said the committee had learned “that one official, whose position had no apparent intelligence-related function, made hundreds of unmasking requests during the final year of the Obama Administration.”

The “official” is widely reported to be Power.

John Brennan (l) and Trey Gowdy (Credit: CSpan)

During a public congressional hearing earlier this year, Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina pressed former CIA director John Brennan on unmasking, without mentioning Power by name.

Gowdy: Do you recall any U.S. ambassadors asking that names be unmasked?

Brennan: I don’t know. Maybe it’s ringing a vague bell but I’m not — I could not answer with any confidence.

Gowdy continued, asking: On either January 19 or up till noon on January 20, did you make any unmasking requests?

Brennan: I do not believe I did.

Gowdy: So you did not make any requests on the last day that you were employed?

Brennan: No, I was not in the agency on the last day I was employed.

Brennan later corrected the record, confirming he was at CIA headquarters on January 20. “I went there to collect some final personal materials as well as to pay my last respects to a memorial wall. But I was there for a brief period of time and just to take care of some final — final things that were important to me,” Brennan said.” (Read more: Fox News, 9/20/2017)