Ben Rhodes Is a "Person of Interest" in Unmasking Investigation

FILE - In this Feb. 16, 2016 file photo Deputy National Security Adviser For Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes speaks in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. An advocacy group recently identified by the White House as part of its “echo chamber” gave National Public Radio $100,000 to help it report on the Iran nuclear program and related issues. It also funded reporters at The Nation and fellow liberal media outlet Mother Jones, and partnered with the Center for Public Integrity. The group’s quiet, behind-the-scenes effort to help the Obama administration sell the Iran nuclear deal received attention this month after a candid profile of Ben Rhodes, one of the president’s closest aides. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

Ben Rhodes, who served as National Security Adviser to Barack Obama, is now a “person of interest” in the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into potentially illegal unmasking of political opponents by members of the Obama administration. Circa reports:

The House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-CA, sent the letter to the National Security Agency requesting the number of unmaskings made by Rhodes from Jan. 1, 2016 to Jan. 20, 2017, according to congressional sources who spoke with Circa. Rhodes, who worked closely with former National Security Adviser Susan Rice and was a former deputy national security adviser for strategic communications for President Obama, became a focus of the committee during its review of classified information to assess whether laws were broken regarding NSA intercepted communications of President Trump, members of his administration and other Americans before and after the election, according to congressional officials.

Last week Nunes sent a letter to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats informing him that top Obama administration officials made hundreds of unmasking requests without specific justification.

“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 in the letter to Coats.

His letter noted requests from senior government officials, unlike career intelligence analysts, “made remarkably few individualized justifications for access” to the U.S. names.

“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. “Of those requests, only one offered a justification that was not boilerplate.”

Unmasking requests aren’t simple, routine matters, an intelligence source told Circa.

“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. 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.”

Nunes has requested that the NSA provide the requested information to the committee by August 21. Stay tuned.