While Republicans have been hyping the Obama-era debunking inquiries as a huge scandal for months, John Bash found no evidence of substantive wrongdoing in his investigation, which concluded without a public report, the Post said. Bash resigned from the Justice Department last week.
The term “unmasking” refers to the process of disclosing the names of American citizens trapped in reports by the National Security Agency’s foreign intelligence agency. The names of American citizens on foreign NSA intelligence documents are always redacted, but certain government officials have authority to request that the names not be redacted or exposed.
CNN has asked the Justice Department for comment.
The silent ending to the investigation includes a month-long effort to add a senior federal attorney̵
The investigation was announced in May after the then acting director of National Intelligence, Richard Grenell, released a list of former Obama administration officials who allegedly sought the “unmasking” of the identity of Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
The Senate Republicans later released the list identifying Obama administration officials who might have “got” Flynn’s identity in NSA intelligence reports after asking to expose the Americans.
At the time, Trump upplayed the list for reporters as “a massive thing”, and Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, even told Fox News it was “the biggest thing since Watergate.”
The Trump campaign also quickly issued a statement attacking former Vice President Joe Biden for being listed in the memo, although Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said the documents released were “merely breadth and show depth of concern about Flynn’s behavior “.
The Republican senators who released the documents – Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson from Wisconsin and Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa – said they did not claim that Biden was guilty of wrongdoing, but argued the information raised questions that they wanted answers.
“I’m not making any claims,” Johnson said at the time. “Sen. Grassley and I published this because we believe the American people have a right to know and they raise a lot more questions than they answer. So we’re going to ask a lot more questions.”
While the names of US citizens must be kept secret in intelligence reports, high-ranking officials may, in certain circumstances, require names to be disclosed in order to better understand the reports. In the past, some Obama officials have recognized the need for identification, but there were legitimate reasons.
Despite Trump’s repeated efforts to cite the unmasking as evidence of misconduct by Obama and his administration, the level of unmasking has increased under the Trump administration.
There were more than 10,000 unmaskings last year and nearly 17,000 in 2018, according to reports from the National Intelligence’s director of statistical transparency. In 2017, Trump’s first year in office, there were 9,529.
There were about 9,217 unmaskings under the Obama administration in 2016 and only 654 in 2015.
CNN’s Christina Carrega and David Shortell contributed to this report.