Again this morning, President Trump tweeted a message about the Obama Administration’s “unmasking” of individuals related to his campaign. That tweet read:
“The big story is the “unmasking and surveillance” of people that took place during the Obama Administration.”
For some reason, Trump can’t get it out of his head that Barack Obama illegally had him and his campaign team’s names unmasked. This would be all fine and dandy if in fact the act of unmasking was considered illegal, but it’s not. The masking of names is used to protect innocent individuals who have nothing to do with crimes that are being investigated or foreign conversations which are being surveilled. You see, the American government has greater liberty when it comes to investigating foreign individuals than they do when investigating Americans. This has to do with the Constitution and the protections it affords U.S. citizens. However, the fact that a name is masked, when surveillance of electronic communications involving foreign agents takes place, doesn’t mean that these individuals simply cease to exist from investigative resources. Their names are simply “masked” or covered up so that just anyone can’t see who they are.
“Unmasking” of these names can and frequently does take place in investigations. A select group of government officials, who have proper clearance, are able to request the unmasking of names. This includes about 20 people at the National Security Agency. Unmasking will take place for various means, one of which is if an individual is believed to be “an agent of a foreign power”. It’s not up to the President of the United States (in this case Obama), to unmasking names. He doesn’t have that option and is incapable of doing so. All requests must go through the NSA (or other investigative agency such as the FBI, DHS, etc), and the agency decides if the unmasking will or will not take place, based on various rules they adhere by.
This means that if Obama unmasked any names, it was through the request of the NSA (or similar agency). What Trump should be concerned about is that if his name or any of his campaign team had their names unmasked, it was because they were viewed as being key elements in an investigation, perhaps even “agents of a foreign power”.
If Trump “knows” or even thinks that Obama had his name or his campaign team’s names unmasked, then means that Trump believes that there is reason for the NSA to unmask his name. That reason would probably be enough in and of itself for an impeachment and perhaps indictment (after impeachment). As Trump continues to dig himself into more trouble using Twitter, there are reports that The House Intelligence Committee has just issued three subpoenas relating to the unmasking of American names. Of course Trump would lead you to believe that this is a bigger story than the Russia investigation, but in reality they are all part of the same investigation. If it’s a “big” story that Obama unmasked names, then the bigger story is “Why were they unmasked?”.