Dozens of times in 2016, those intelligence reports identified Americans who were directly intercepted talking to foreign sources or were the subject of conversations between two or more monitored foreign figures. Sometimes the Americans’ names were officially unmasked; other times they were so specifically described in the reports that their identities were readily discernible. Among those cleared to request and consume unmasked NSA-based intelligence reports about U.S. citizens were Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice, his CIA Director John Brennan and then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Some intercepted communications from November to January involved Trump transition figures or foreign figures' perceptions of the incoming president and his administration. Intercepts involving congressional figures also have been unmasked occasionally for some time.
The NSA is expected to turn over logs as early as this week to congressional committees detailing who consumed reports with unmasked Americans' identities from their intercepts since the summer of 2016.
This information is likely to become a primary focus of the Russia counterintelligence probe of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.
Circa confirmed the unmasking procedures through interviews with intelligence professionals and by reviewing previously classified documents it obtained that described the loosening of privacy requirements.
To intelligence professionals, the public revelations affirm an undeniable reality.
Over the last decade, the assumption of civil liberty and privacy protections for Americans incidentally intercepted by the NSA overseas has been eroded in the name of national security.
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