List of officials who sought to 'unmask' Flynn includes Biden
Updated: Jun 5, 2020
Several top Obama administration officials requested to "unmask" the identity of former national security adviser Michael Flynn during the presidential transition period, according to a declassified list released by the acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell this week.
The list includes former Vice President and presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, along with former FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
Flynn was prosecuted for lying to the FBI, a charge which he pleaded guilty to but later sought to withdraw. Trump allies claim Flynn was wrongly targeted by a partisan investigation as part of the Russia collusion saga, while Democrats claim the DOJ's decision to abandon the case against him shows that the executive branch has become overly politicized.
The Department of Justice dropped the case against Flynn after notes written by FBI agents were released two weeks ago showing that the FBI may have sought to entrap Flynn without evidence of wrongdoing. The investigation into Flynn "was not conducted with legitimate investigative basis," according to the DOJ.
The declassified list specifically showed officials who “may have received Lt. Gen Flynn’s identity in response to a request processed between 8 November 2016 and 31 January 2017 to unmask an identity that had been generically referred to in an NSA foreign intelligence report,” the document read.
“Each individual was an authorized recipient of the original report and the unmasking was approved through NSA’s standard process, which includes a review of the justification for the request,” the document said. “Only certain personnel are authorized to submit unmasking requests into the NSA system."
Joe Biden said in an interview this week that he knew "nothing about those moves to investigate Michael Flynn" and called the subject a "diversion" from the pandemic. But Biden was pressed on the issue and had to clarify.
"I thought you asked me whether or not I had anything to do with him being prosecuted. I'm sorry, I was aware that they asked for an investigation, but that's all I know about it, and I don't think anything else," Biden said.
The list of names who sought to unmask Flynn, including Biden, was released a day after the interview.
A Justice Department official said that the DOJ has been reviewing the unmasking of U.S. officials as part of its broader examination of the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation and was taking a look at the files that Grenell declassified and delivered to the Justice Department last week.