Former President Obama is yet again being punished by one of his shady practices. We know that the Obama administration abused foreign intelligence to embarrass private citizens. However, the House Intelligence Committee approved a bill on Friday that would crack down on “political unmasking”.
The protections are part of a broader bill that renews Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the government’s top snooping program for collecting information from foreign agents about potential terrorists.
The bill cleared 13-8, with the 8 being Democrats who complain about the unmasking.
“’It was bipartisan while we had a Democratic president. And now it’s not bipartisan, and what changed? What changed was Jan. 20,’ said Rep. Chris Stewart, Utah Republican. ‘This committee has changed because we have a Republican president.'”
Democrats claim that the complaints are purely procedural, not political. They wanted hearings and didn’t want to “mix the unmasking fight” with “more important” tasks revolving around renewing Section 702 powers.
Section 702 allows the government to collect information from foreign targets.
The intelligence committee wants the powers to be permanent, without any restrictions. Both Republicans and Democrats say the laws need to safeguard and protect American citizens. Members of the committee generally agree on those reforms. However, the unity broke down in regards to the unmasking.
Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat on the committee, said 702 reforms are being derailed by tackling the politically charged issue.
“‘We happen to think this program is too important to be dragged down by a debate over something else,’ he said.”
However, those efforts failed on a voice vote.
Unmasking is the process of identifying Americans whose names come up in intelligence operations. Usually Americans enjoy anonymity protections, but officials can demand to learn their names.
The Obama administration use of the tool too frequently, asking for over 300 unmaskings. Unmasking alone isn’t illegal, but it has become controversial. The biggest name to emerge was Michael Flynn, who was the top national security adviser to Trump.