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House Intelligence Committee Co-Chairs Demand Information on Leaks

March 17, 2017 (EIRNS)—If U.S. government agencies did not officially tap the phones at Trump Tower—as all testimony so far has asserted—how did the discussions between former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Russian Ambassador Kislyak get picked up and leaked to the press? That is the question behind a letter sent by House Intelligence Committee co-chairs Devin Nunes and Adam Schiff to the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and National Security Agency on March 15.

According to CNN, The leaders of the House Intelligence Committee asked the three leaders of the intelligence community Wednesday about any time during the last seven months of the Obama administration whenever any of its agents and officials improperly named, or "unmasked," and disseminated the identities of American citizens picked up in intelligence collection.

Chairman Nunes (R-Calif.) and Ranking Member Schiff (D-Calif.) wrote that they are concerned that members of the intelligence community have not been sufficiently honoring previously established "robust ’minimization procedures’" to protect the identities of U.S. citizens, including "masking" their names." They specifically ask why Flynn’s name was released to the public.

U.S. law is supposed to protect Americans caught up in surveillance of foreigners, CNN notes.

"However, as recent news stories, seem to illustrate, individuals talking to the media would appear to have wantonly disregarded these procedures,"

Nunes and Schiff wrote. The congressmen also asked the names of individuals or agencies who "requested and/or authorized the unmasking and dissemination" of these identities.

In covering this story, Bloomberg columnist Eli Lake references the March 1 article by the New York Times which reports that Obama officials rushed to lowers classifications and disseminate information on alleged connections between Russia and Trump associates in the final months of the Administration. Lake concludes that if this practice was responsible for the leaking of Flynn’s name, it would be effectively a short-circuiting of the legal Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act process, with deniability of having ordered a wiretap.

The deadline for the disclosure is Friday, the same time that information on the alleged wiretaps is due. Public hearings on the matter are scheduled for March 20.