But is it really a big deal?
Well, Rand Paul certainly thinks that it is.
Courtesy of Fox News:
Top Obama-era officials’ unmasking of former Trump national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn was “a devastating abuse of power,” Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul said Thursday.
In an interview on “Fox & Friends” with hosts Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade, and Ainsley Earhardt, Paul said that new information surrounding top Democrats and intelligence and law enforcement officials’ roles during the 2016 investigation of Flynn amounts to illegal eavesdropping for political purposes.
“So, that’s what needs to be investigated,” Paul asserted. “What I want to know is what possible national security reason would there be to unmask Flynn?”
You know the ridiculous thing about Paul’s comments is that he knows full well why Flynn was under surveillance and why unmasking is requested by officials.
He also realizes that he is working overtime to construct a mountain out of a molehill for the political benefit of Donald Trump.
But is unmasking really a “devastating abuse of power?”
Of course not.
Here is a write up about it from NPR:
Was the government spying on him?
It was spying on the people with whom he was talking. When Flynn talked with them, he was captured in that surveillance.
On Wednesday, the intelligence community released a list of the people in the Obama administration who sought materials in which Flynn figured this way, though the National Security Agency said it couldn’t assess whether everyone who’d requested such reports had actually seen them.
A spokesman for Biden emphasized on Wednesday that because of the way “minimization” works, there was no way for officials in the Obama era to single out Flynn or anyone else as a part of these practices. They couldn’t see the names of the “U.S. Persons” beforehand.
They were working from reports about ongoing targets of surveillance — people such as Russia’s then-ambassador to the United States.
Why was Flynn talking with targets of U.S. spying?
Flynn was Trump’s foreign policy adviser in the campaign before he briefly became national security adviser. He and other members of the forthcoming Trump administration-in-waiting began reaching out to foreign officials after the 2016 election.
During that time, people in the Obama administration likely began to see new references to “U.S. Persons” in their reporting streams. Many of them, it’s now clear, asked to see who was involved.
Some of the officials are boldfaced names from that era including Biden, then-U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, then-CIA Director John Brennan and others. But many of the names in the intelligence materials are lower-level State, Treasury, CIA and other nonpartisan career officials. Some of the names are redacted, suggesting they remain on duty in the national security world.
There are more than 30 names in the directory.
What did all those people want to know?
Those details aren’t clear, but it’s possible to surmise based on some context clues. Two of the people, for example, are the then-U.S. ambassador to Italy and the then-deputy chief of mission at the embassy in Rome. They both submitted unmasking requests on the same day, Dec. 6, 2016, the newly released records show.
It’s possible they were looking at intelligence reports about the Italian or another European government, saw a reference to communications with a “U.S. Person,” and asked to see who it was.
So this is how the FBI knew about Flynn’s conversation with the Russian ambassador?
Right. It was surveilling the ambassador and heard when he made contact with Flynn. So the FBI also knew that Flynn asked Russia’s then-ambassador to ask the Kremlin not to retaliate against the punitive measures the outgoing Obama administration was imposing.
But when Flynn talked about that conversation after it was revealed by the Post, he said he hadn’t discussed sanctions. Vice President Mike Pence repeated as much.
The FBI and Justice Department knew that wasn’t true and worried Flynn could be opening himself up to blackmail, because the Russians could threaten to expose what really had been said. Subsequent investigations also have revealed a number of issues with the procedures, or lack thereof, observed by the FBI and Justice Department at this time.
As you can see the people asking for the unmasking of the “US person” likely did not yet know that it was Michael Flynn or even necessarily a member of the incoming Trump Administration.
It is a thing that happens with some regularity, but rarely if ever receives any attention.
If Flynn had not lied about his conversations with Kislyak this would likely have never become known to the American people, and he would never have seen the inside of a prison cell.
The only reason that the Trump supporters have glommed onto this information about unmasking requests is that it feeds into their conspiracy theory that the Obama folks tried to sabotage the Trump administration before it could get on its feet.
However, it really does not help with that.
Because of course, that is only something that crazy people believe.