Samantha Power, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, spoke to members of the House Intelligence Committee on Friday, addressing the members' concerns over the hundreds of unmaskings of Americans' names she requested during her tenure with the Obama administration.
Power is believed to have unmasked more than 260 names last year before and after the 2016 presidential election. However, Power increased the number of "unmaskings" extensively after the 2016 election and before she left her post she was unmasking at a rate of one per day, according to several sources familiar with the investigation who were not authorized to speak on the record.
Power was not seen by the media as she made her way into the Capitol Hill room where the questioning took place, but there are numerous entrances that could have obstructed her from view of the cameras waiting for her outside. She is expected to continue speaking to members until 12:30 p.m.
A U.S. intelligence official with knowledge of unmaskings and who has spent more than two decades working in counterterrorism told Circa that requesting an unmasking is highly unusual and "in my entire career I only conducted two and filed extensive reports stating the reason why."
"On its face, there appears to be extensive abuse of powers and there should be enormous concern that tools supposed to be used against enemies are now being used for political espionage," the official added.
The American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative watchdog group based in Washington D.C., filed "its fifth lawsuit against the U.S. Department of State (DOS), this time over the bureaucracy’s failure to turn over records of Senior Obama Official Samantha Power’s unprecedented unmasking of Americans."
"As we informed you last month, we issued a Freedom of Information Act Request to lawfully demand that the deep State Department produce records so the American people can be informed about the hundreds of 'unmasking' requests that were made by former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, including those for names and/or any other personal identifying information of President Trump during his candidacy for President, as well as his family members, staff, transition team members and his family. The DOS — yet again — failed to respond to our lawful request, and, yet again, we are taking the DOS bureaucracy to federal court," stated a letter from the ACLJ's chief counsel Jay Sekulow, who is also Trump's personal attorney.
Power, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice and former CIA Director John Brennan were all named in the House Intelligence Committee's investigation into the unmaskings of Americans.
Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) sent a letter in July to Dan Coats, the director of National Intelligence, suggesting that top Obama aides made hundreds of unmasking requests during the 2016 presidential elections.
Rice and Brennan confirmed to members of the House that they sought the unredacted names of Americans in NSA-sourced intelligence reports but insisted their requests were routine and had no nefarious intentions.
Although Power has legal authority to unmask officials, the practice is not common for someone in her position, according to intelligence officials who spoke to Circa.
Nunes told Coats in his July letter that the committee "found evidence that current and former government officials had easy access to U.S. person information and that it is possible that they used this information to achieve partisan political purposes, including the selective, anonymous leaking of such information.”
How John Brennan's CIA became a big consumer on unmasked intelligence on Americans
White House logs indicate Susan Rice consumed unmasked intel on Trump associates
Former Obama Aide Ben Rhodes is now a person of interest in the unmasking investigations