President Barack Obama's top political aides made hundreds of requests during the 2016 election to unmask Americans in intelligence reports – including Trump transition officials, GOP Rep. Devin Nunes charges.
The California Republican, who heads the House Intelligence committee, lobbed the charged in a letter to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, saying the requests were made without specific justifications on why the information was needed, The Hill reported.
"We have 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," Nunes wrote, The Hill reported.
The Hill reported it received the letter from an unnamed source in the intelligence community.
In March, Nunes disclosed he'd seen data suggesting the names of Trump campaign and transition officials were being unmasked by departing Obama administration officials.
National Security Adviser Susan Rice and CIA Director John Brennan have acknowledged making such requests; both said the requests were for legitimate work reasons.
But in April, Nunes recused himself from his committee's work on its investigation over Russia's meddling in the 2016 campaign after a controversy over his charges about unmasking.
In Thursday's letter, Nunes said the total requests for Americans' names by Obama political aides numbered in the hundreds during Obama's last year in office – and called the lack of proper justifications a "serious deficiency."
"The committee has learned that one official, whose position had no apparent intelligence related function, made hundreds of unmasking requests during the final year of the Obama administration," Nunes wrote — a reference allegedly aimed at former UN Ambassador Samantha Power, The Hill reported.
Beginning in 2011, Obama loosened the rules to make it easier for intelligence officials and his own political aides to request that names be unmasked so they could better understand raw intelligence being gathered overseas – a move criticized by both the left and right, The Hill reported.
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