If it wasn’t for the conservative nonprofit watchdog Judicial Watch the American public would’ve been left in the dark about the Russia hoax perpetrated against President Donald Trump, the attack in Benghazi that left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server to hide government emails and hundreds more investigations into government malfeasance.
On Thursday Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the “National Security Agency (NSA) for records of requests by former Vice President Joe Biden and other top Obama administration officials, including President Obama’s chief of staff, to “unmask” Lieutenant General (Retired) Michael Flynn.”
President of Judicial Watch Tom Fitton said that the FOIA lawsuit was in response to the government’s failure to turn over the documents originally requested by the watchdog group.
“The requests by Joe Biden and President Obama’s chief of staff to unmask the identity of President Trump’s top national security adviser reeks of corruption and abuse,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The documents about this illicit spy operation should be released immediately.”
It’s a huge struggle to obtain documents that actually belong to the American people. Those in Washington’s bureaucracy hold the keys to the kingdom: the documents reveal the truth and expose the corruption. In early 2017 I filed a Freedom of Information Act request on Sally Yates with regard to Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. I also included specific words that I expected would expedite the matter with the Department of Justice. I finally heard back from the DOJ’s FOIA office on Thursday.
I honestly was taken back at first and thought it was some sort of scam. It was real. Guess what the official told me on the phone, “can you narrow your search terms so it will be easier for us to locate the specific documents you are referring too?”
I said angrily, ” you have to be kidding, it’s been like two years. Do you think I don’t know what’s going on here?” I realized after I hung up it’s been more than three years since I put in for the FOIA. If it wasn’t for Judicial Watch the documents would disappear into the swamp and never be remembered.
In early 2017, John Solomon and I published numerous investigative stories exposing the FBI’s malfeasance in its investigation into former National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. At the time Solomon and I were working for Circa, a website division of Sinclair Media Group that has since closed.
We also published extensive reports on the government’s malfeasance with regards to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the expansion spying powers on American citizens under the Obama administration. All of this set the foundation and the stage for the majority of investigations and discoveries that led to the exposure of one of the worst abuses in power in modern political history against a sitting U.S. president.
What made matters worse is that those who weaponized the system against President Trump and his administration have many minions – known as the deep state – that are part of the extensive government bureaucracy and little has been done to hold those who tore our nation apart accountable.
Unmasking Americans, like the abuse that occurred to former Trump 2016 campaign volunteer Carter Page, is the process of disclosing the identities of U.S. citizens captured in private communications to government officials. Judicial Watch notes it is “referenced in intelligence surveillance of foreign nationals. U.S. citizens’ names are typically redacted from such reports unless a specific request is made to “unmask” them.”
Judicial Watch stated in a press release that it filed “this lawsuit after the NSA failed to respond to two separate September 1, 2020 FOIA requests.” In fact, in June 2020, Judicial Watch first sued the State Department for records of requests by former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power to “unmask” Flynn. Power had testified before Congress in 2017 that she didn’t request to unmask Flynn and that her name signed on any unmasking requests must have been done by someone else. But when declassified documents were first made public in May by the National Security Agency (NSA), it showed that she had signed unmasking requests on Flynn least seven separate times betweenNov. 30, 2016, and Jan. 11, 2017.
FROM JW PRESS RELEASE
The first request seeks “records about a January 12, 2017, request to ‘unmask’ Lieutenant General Flynn submitted to NSA by or on behalf of then-Vice President Joe Biden.”
The second request asks for “records about requests to ‘unmask’ Lieutenant General Flynn submitted to NSA by or on behalf of the following officials on the dates or date ranges indicated:
Samantha Powers – Nov. 30, 2016 to Jan. 11, 2017
James Clapper – Dec. 2, 2016 to Jan. 7, 2017
Kelly Degnan – Dec. 6, 2016
John R. Phillips – Dec. 6, 2016
John Brennan – Dec. 14 & 15, 2016
Patrick Conlon – Dec. 14, 2016
Jacob Lew – Dec. 14 & 15, 2016
Arthur McGlynn – Dec. 14, 2016
Mike Neufeld – Dec. 14, 2016
Sarah Raskin – Dec. 14, 2016
Nathan Sheets – Dec. 14, 2016
Adam Szubin – Dec. 14, 2016
Robert Bell – Dec. 15, 2016
John Christenson – Dec. 15, 2016
Sarah Raskin – Dec. 15, 2016
Nathan Sheets – Dec. 15, 2016
Adam Szubin – Dec. 15, 2016
Robert Bell – Dec. 15, 2016
John Christenson – Dec. 15, 2016
James Comey – Dec. 15, 2016
Paul Geehreng – Dec. 15, 2016
Douglas Lute – Dec. 15, 2016
James Hursh – Dec. 15, 2016
Lee Litzenberger – Dec. 15, 2016
Scott Parrish – Dec. 15, 2016
Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall – Dec. 15, 2016
Tamir Waser – Dec. 15, 2016
John Tefft – Dec. 16, 2016
John Bass – Dec. 28, 2016
Denis McDonough – Jan. 5, 2017
Michael Dempsy – Jan. 7, 2017
Stephanie O’Sullivan – Jan. 7, 2017
The Deputy Assistant Director of the National Media Exploitation Center, whose name was not known – December 15, 2016
The names of officials and dates identified in the FOIA requests were taken directly from a list which was declassified on May 8, 2020, by then-Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell and submitted to Senators Charles Grassley and Ron Johnson on May 13.
On May 19, Senator Grassley responded and asked for “the declassification of additional information related to the unmasking of Americans around the time of the 2016 election, but also to expand the scope of our request to include information as early as January 2016. Based on our investigation and recent press reports, we are increasingly concerned that the surveillance of U.S. persons affiliated with the Trump campaign began earlier than the opening of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation in late July 2016.”
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Cuomo says he’ll ‘fully cooperate’ with NY AG’s review of sexual harassment claims
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Wednesday that he will “fully cooperate” with the state attorney general’s independent review into sexual harassment allegations made against the currently scandal-ridden governor, saying, “I fully support a woman’s right to come forward.”
Last Wednesday, Lindsey Boylan, who served in his administration for over three years, accused Cuomo of suggesting to her on a 2017 flight that they play strip poker, inappropriate touching, and kissing her on the lips without her consent.
Following Boylan’s accusations, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett alleged the governor indicated interest in having an affair with her while she was serving in his administration as a health policy adviser. In a Saturday New York Times report, Bennett told the newspaper that Cuomo asked her if she had “ever been with an older man,” adding that “age doesn’t matter” in relationships.
At Wednesday’s press briefing, the Empire State governor addressed the accusations leveled against him over the past seven days by three women and New York Attorney General Letitia James’ (D) independent review into those claims, which she announced on Monday was formally proceeding.
“As you probably know, the attorney general is doing an independent review, and I will fully cooperate with that review,” Cuomo said at the beginning of his statement. “Now, the lawyers say I shouldn’t say anything when you have a pending review until that review is over. I understand that, I’m a lawyer, too. But, I want New Yorkers to hear from me directly on this.”
“First, I fully support a woman’s right to come forward,” the governor began. “And I think it should be encouraged in every way. I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it, and frankly I am embarrassed by it, and that’s not easy to say. But that’s the truth.”
This echoes what Cuomo said in a Sunday statement about the allegations, in which he stated he “may have been insensitive” during his tenure but charged his accusers of misinterpreting his actions, saying, “I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation… I am truly sorry about that.”
During his Wednesday remarks, Cuomo iterated “I never touched anyone inappropriately,” repeated that sentence, then said “I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable” and repeated that one too.
“And I certainly never, ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain. That is the last thing I would ever want to do,” he continued. “I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the attorney general’s report before forming an opinion. Get the facts, please, before forming an opinion.”
“I also want you to know that I have learned from what has been an incredibly difficult situation for me as well as other people, and I’ve learned an important lesson,” the governor said at the end of his statement. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone, I never intended it, and I will be the better for this experience.”
Amid Boylan and Bennett’s allegations, another report of Cuomo sexually harassing a woman has cropped up. On Monday, a woman named Anna Ruch accused the governor of placing his hands on her cheeks—without her consent—at a 2019 wedding reception and asking if he could kiss her. A photograph of the two together at the event has also been circulating on social media.
Asked at Wednesday’s briefing about the pictures that have resurfaced of him being touchy with people, particularly that of him and Ruch, the governor claimed that it is his way of greeting people.
“I understand the opinion of—and feelings of—Ms. Ruch,” Cuomo said. “You can find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture with hundreds of people—women, children, men, etc. You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people. […] It is my usual and customary way of greeting.”
Moreover, the governor said that his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, would do the same thing.
“By the way, it was my father’s way of greeting people,” Cuomo said, explaining, “You’re the governor of the state, you want people to feel comfortable, you want to reach out to them.”
He also mentioned that he kisses and hugs legislators and noted that at an event in Queens the other day he hugged pastors and state assembly members.
Furthermore, the governor said that his intent “doesn’t matter,” saying, “What it matters is if anybody was offended by it.”
“But if they were offended by it, then it was wrong,” he added, going on to say that if they were offended or hurt by it, he apologizes.
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.
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