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Grenell: Revealing Flynn unmasking requests posed 'absolutely no risk' to intelligence community

The outgoing intelligence director thinks Sen. Warner's philosophy of transparency is 'based solely on political advantage'

Updated: May 26, 2020 - 11:21pm

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Outgoing acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell is dismissing a top Democratic senator's insinuations that he had harmed the U.S. intelligence community by declassifying the names of individuals who had requested Michael Flynn's unmasking. 

Last week, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner asked Grenell in a letter to explain why he had revealed the names of numerous Obama administration officials, including Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden, who had requested that Flynn's name be unmasked in intelligence reports. 

Flynn has been at the center of controversy for over three years over allegations that he lied to the FBI about his communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak; he initially pled guilty to those charges though at the beginning of this year he withdrew that plea. 

The general was the subject of intelligence community reports regrading his conversations with Kislyak. Earlier this month, Grenell declassified the list of Obama officials who had asked for Flynn's initially concealed identity to be revealed in those reports. 

Warner, in a letter leaked to The Hill, said that the decision to release that list had "the potential compromise to sources and methods" within the intelligence community, something Grenell, in a letter written Monday, denied. 

“The protection of intelligence sources and methods is always at the fore of any declassification decision which I might make,” wrote Grenell, who is being replaced Tuesday by from Texas GOP Rep. John Ratcliffe. 

“As you well know, the decision to declassify the names of individuals who sought to unmask the identity of General Flynn poses absolutely no risk of compromise of either sources or methods," he said. 

The outgoing director said that his decision to reveal the unmasking requests would help “buil[d] public trust and confidence in the Community and ensures the IC will not conceal potential abuse behind unnecessary security classification.”

Warner in his letter had also asked Grenell for the underlying intelligence reports in which Flynn was a subject, something Grenell remarked on in his response. 

"I find it puzzling that your letter initially complains about the declassification of the identities of unmaskers … only to then request the declassification of actual intelligence reports,” Grenell wrote. “I would appreciate it if you would explain your philosophy on transparency as it appears to be based solely on political advantage.”