More than a dozen Obama officials, including Biden, Brennan, and Comey, unmasked Flynn intercepts

The list of names was made public Wednesday by GOP Senators Charles Grassley of Iowa and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

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Richard Grenell
Richard Grenell
(Sean Gallup / Getty Images)
Last Updated:
May 13, 2020 - 4:19pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

More than a dozen Obama administration officials, including many players in the Russia scandal, sought to unmask intercepted conversations involving the incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn in late 2016 and early 2017, according to information made public Wednesday by two senators.

The list includes fired FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, and former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democrat most likely to face President Trump in the fall election.

The names were recently declassified by the acting Director of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell and Attorney General William Barr. They were released Wednesday by Sens. Ron Johnson and Charles Grassley.

"We are making this public because the American people have a right to know what happened," the two senators said in announcing the release. "The records are one step forward in an important effort to get to the bottom of what the Obama administration did during the Russia investigation and to Lt. General Flynn. We will continue to review this information and push for additional relevant disclosures until we are satisfied that the American people know the full truth.”

"Unmasking" is when top government officials request the identity of an American citizen who was incidentally involved in conversations with a foreign actor whom the intelligence community is monitoring. In the case of Flynn, his conversation with the former Russian ambassador to the U.S. was recorded, and then following his "unmasking," his identity and conversation were leaked to the press.

Concern about unmasking has been a focal point in Washington since investigative journalists Sara Carter and John Solomon reported in spring 2017 that the practice of unmasking Americans' names in intercepts had grown three-fold during Obama's second term. 

Grenell reportedly visited to the Justice Department last week with the list to discuss making the names public with Barr.

In the wake of last week’s DOJ decision to drop the government's legal case against retired Army Lt. Gen. Flynn and the release of witness transcripts from the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation, Grenell is continuing his movement toward declassifying several pieces of key intelligence surrounding the debunked Russia collusion investigation.