The authoritarian left is determined to undermine President Donald Trump. Not only are they spreading massive amounts of misinformation online, they also appear to be working with U.S. intelligence agencies to illegally spy on Trump and his associates and unlawfully sabotage his campaign and subsequent presidency.
Thankfully, many of the people allegedly involved in such misconduct are being investigated by Congress. Just recently, Ben Rhodes, a top Obama aide, was added to the list of suspects.
According to reports, Rhodes, who worked as a Deputy National Security Adviser under former President Barack Obama, is a currently being investigated as a “person of interest” by the House Intelligence Committee. They believe he may have participated in the unmasking of United States citizens and subsequent leaking of their names.
Specifically, congressional sources recently told reporters that Devin Nunes (R-CA), the House Intelligence Committee Chairman, sent a letter to Dan Coats, the Director of the National Security Agency (NSA), earlier this week asking him to send over the number of unmasking requests Rhodes made from January 1st to January 20th by August 21st. His request comes shortly after committee members met with Rhodes in D.C. to discuss Russia’s interference in the 2016 election as well as his role in the recent unmasking and leaking that has been going on.
In the letter, Nunes explained that the committee has “found evidence that current and former government officials had easy access to U.S. person information and that it is possible that they used this information to achieve partisan political purposes, including the selective, anonymous leaking of such information.” This means that it’s possible for people working in the intelligence community to use classified information, like the names of people under government surveillance, to further their political agenda.
Nunes is not the only one suspicious of Rhodes. Earlier this year, Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, told reporters that he’s convinced Rhodes is guilty of leaking and believes Congress should launch an investigation and hold him accountable for his actions. “I believe [Rhodes is] in touch with people on the National Security Council. It would be absolutely legitimate as part of leak investigation to bring him in and put him under oath, and I would absolutely support doing that,” stated DeSantis.
“I think Congress and some members on the Intelligence Committee can call Ben Rhodes to testify,” he continued, noting, “he may be able to invoke executive privilege from when Obama was president, but he definitely can’t do that in any interactions he’s had since then.”
The mistrust that people like Nunes and DeSantis have towards Rhodes is understandable. While he was employed at the White House, he worked closely with Susan Rice, the National Security Adviser at the time. This is problematic because it was recently revealed that she repeatedly asked for U.S. citizens associated with the Trump campaign to be “unmasked,” prompting a federal investigation.
The practice of “masking” and “unmasking” helps protect the privacy of U.S. citizens. “Masking” refers to the redaction of personal information. This is something that’s done every time a U.S. citizen is discussed or picked up during U.S. surveillance. “Unmasking” refers to the revealing of redacted information and must only be done for matters related to national security.
Unmasking is also not easy. “It’s like hell and high water to fill out and gain approval for these types of unmaskings. It’s something analysts take seriously and could entail filling out 80 pages of paperwork to prove there is a need to unmask,” explained an intelligence source with direct knowledge of the type of requests made by the Obama aides. “If top officials were unmasking without oversight it’s something everyone should be concerned about and it puts our intelligence community in a very bad place,” he added.
Violating the privacy of other people must not be tolerated. Those responsible for the unmasking and leaking of U.S. officials need to be held accountable for their actions and punished as harshly as possible. Doing so will hopefully deter people from engaging in similar misconduct in the future.