Former National Intelligence Director Defends ‘Unmasking’ Requests on Calls From Michael Flynn

Former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper says there is nothing odd about national security officials making requests to “unmask” Americans.

Clapper’s comments come after acting Director of National Intelligence, Richard Grenell declassified a list of “unmasking” requests made by officials in former President Barack Obama’s administration. Those requests revealed Michael Flynn had contacted foreign officials, as IJR reported

“Over the six and a half almost seven years when I served as DNI I would say perhaps once or twice a week perhaps,” Clapper said of the number of unmasking requests he made during an interview on CNN.

“It’s a routine thing. It’s appropriate and legitimate,” Clapper said.

He explained why someone would make an unmasking request.

“When you have a valid foreign intelligence target engaging with a U.S. person. Is it, for example, an insider, someone in the government engaging with a foreign adversary? So it’s important from the standpoint of potential jeopardy to national security that you understand what’s going on.”

Watch the video below:

On Wednesday, a list of unmasking requests for conversations between and an American citizen — who turned out to be Flynn — and foreign officials was released to the public. 

According to the list, Clapper made three requests that led to the “unmasking” of Flynn between December 2, 2016, and January 7, 2017. 

Unmasking refers to the process of revealing the identity of an American citizen who has a conversation with a “foreign intelligence target.” Americans’ identities are protected, or masked, however, they can be revealed through an “unmasking” process. 

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) called the unmasking requests a “devastating abuse of power” and called for an investigation of those requests.

During an interview on “Fox & Friends” on Thursday, Paul said, “What I want to know is what possible national security reason would there be to unmask Flynn?”

Additionally, he suggested that officials would be able to determine that Flynn was making the calls, before submitting the unmasking request, because, “They probably recognized his voice or he introduces himself.”

“So, I think it was an illegal eavesdropping, and I think it was done for political purposes,” he added.

However, Clapper dismissed the notion that officials knew who was on the call prior to their requests. 

“That U.S. person’s name is ‘masked’ or protected by being referred to as ‘U.S. person one,'” Clapper said, adding, “You don’t know who it is in advance … So in my case, the list cites .. three occasions where I requested unmasking which turned out to be Mike Flynn.”

When asked specifically whether or not he would have known the calls were from Flynn, Clapper said, “It’s possible … I mean this is three and a half years ago, so I don’t remember the specific reports in question, but it’s possible that the context may have suggested that, but I don’t know.”

“And, again, if I’d known that there wouldn’t have been a need to ask,” he added.

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