The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward warned on Wednesday that there are people from the Obama administration who could be facing criminal charges for unmasking the names of Trump transition team members from surveillance of foreign officials.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said earlier that he had briefed Trump on new information, unrelated to an investigation into Russian activities, that suggested that several members of Trump’s transition team and perhaps Trump himself had their identities “unmasked” after their communications were intercepted by U.S. intelligence officials.
The revelation is notable because identities of Americans are generally supposed to remain “masked” if American communications are swept up during surveillance of foreign individuals.
During an interview on Fox News, Woodward said that if that information about the unmasking is true, “it is a gross violation.”
He said it isn’t Trump’s assertion, without proof, that his predecessor wiretapped Trump Tower that is of concern, but rather that intelligence officials named the Americans being discussed in intercepted communications.
“You can learn all kinds of things from diplomats gossiping, because that’s what occurs. Under the rules, and they are pretty strict, it’s called minimization. You don’t name the American person who is being discussed,” Woodward said.
He noted that there are about 20 people in the intelligence community who, for intelligence reasons, can order this “minimization” be removed.
“But the idea that there was intelligence value here is really thin,” Woodward said. “It’s, again, down the middle, it is not what Trump said, but this could be criminal on the part of people who decided, oh, let’s name these people.”
He drove the point home, adding that “under the rules, that name is supposed to be blanked out, and so you’ve got a real serious problem potentially of people in the Obama administration passing around this highly classified gossip.”