President Donald Trump ordered Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats Tuesday to put in place procedures for intelligence and law enforcement officials requesting the unmasking of American citizens and the dissemination of those names in foreign intelligence reports, according to a White House memorandum obtained by this reporter.
Trump has given the DNI 30 days to “issue and release publicly a policy requiring that each element of the Intelligence Community (IC) develop and maintain procedures for responding to requests from Federal, State, local, tribal, or territorial government officials for non-public identity information concerning known unconsenting United States persons that was originally omitted from disseminated intelligence reports.”
The DNI must develop procedures with all 16 intelligence agencies and law enforcement “for the collection, retention, and dissemination of information concerning United States persons established pursuant to section 2.3 of Executive Order 12333 of December 4, 1981 (United States Intelligence Activities), as amended.”
The memorandum states the DNI must also include procedures for the “standard minimization procedures established pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.); and… any other procedures for the collection, retention, or dissemination of information concerning United States persons required by law.”
The memorandum also states that the DNI “may not modify or otherwise supersede the issued guidance, or any successor guidance, absent notification to the President, through the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, of the proposed modifications or new guidance and the passage of 30 days following such notification.”
U.S. Intelligence and law enforcement officials told this reporter in a story published in December, that a controversial NSA surveillance program used to monitor foreigners was also being used by the FBI as ‘backdoor’ to gain warrantless access to American communications.
The whistleblowers, who recently disclosed the program’s process to Congressional oversight committees, said they were concerned over the warrantless surveillance program when it was disclosed earlier this year that Obama officials had accessed and unmasked communications of members of President Trump’s 2016 campaign, allegedly without clear justification.
The process, known as ‘reverse targeting,’ occurs when intelligence and law enforcement officials use a foreign person as a legal pretense for their intended target, an American citizen, the officials stated. The program, as it exists, failed to prevent terror attacks and in many cases made incorrect connections between a foreign target and an innocent American, they stated.
The whistleblowers said the program established after the September 11, 2001, attacks has not been successful in preventing terror threats, but instead infringes on privacy rights and could easily be abused for political purposes. Those concerns were also voiced to then FBI Director James Comey in 2014, and alternative options for the program were discussed, a source with knowledge said. And now, those intelligence officials want lawmakers to conduct extensive investigations into the program.
“The program can be misused by anyone with access to it,” said a former Intelligence official, with knowledge of the program. “There needs to be an extensive investigation of all the Americans connected to President Trump and the campaign who were unmasked in connection with the 2016 election.”