Each day brings new headlines about the troubling surveillance of President Trump and his team by the Obama Administration. It’s time for an independent investigation--and a grand jury.
The more we learn the worse it gets. This week bombshell revelations show that President Obama’s National Security Adviser, Susan Rice, unmasked the names of Trump transition members caught up in Obama Administration surveillance. That unmasked intelligence was then widely disseminated and leaked to numerous media organizations in direct criminal violation of the Espionage Act.
Unmasking U.S. citizens in surveillance requires very specific legal and factual circumstances. By all appearances, the unmasking of Trump transition members was done for political, not national security reasons – a direct violation of agency policies and likely of federal law.
But beyond Susan Rice, there needs to be an investigative spotlight focused directly on former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who signed off on the troubling expansion of the distribution of intelligence materials in the final days of the Obama Administration.
It was Lynch who on January 3 approved changes to Executive Order 12333 that facilitated the spread of raw signals intelligence throughout the intel community, just days before President Obama left office. In effect, that revision expanded the authority of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies.
What is not clear is why, after having the opportunity to expand the policy during its 8 prior years in power, the Obama Administration waited to change the policy just before a new administration was set to begin.
That is why we have filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the Office of the Director of National Security (ODNI), and the National Security Agency (NSA). We demand to know the who, what, and why of this last-minute policy change.
An independent investigation needs to occur. And a grand jury needs to be impaneled. Lynch, Rice and Evelyn Farkas, a former top Obama Administration defense official who is under also fire for her handling of sensitive intel information and surveillance methods, should be subject to extremely vigorous interrogation.
They all need to answer questions before a grand jury, where there are severe penalties for avoiding the truth.
This surveillance scandal is deeply disturbing, in constitutional as well as political terms. By greatly expanding access to classified information by unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats, the Obama Administration paved the way for a shadow government to leak that classified information, endangering our national security, in an attempt to undermine President Trump.
The American Center for Law and Justice will continue to dig to get to the truth and will, where appropriate, file additional FOIA requests to get to the bottom of this situation.
Misconduct by federal government officials calculated to subvert the Constitution for their own political and ideological agenda must end now.
Whether this misconduct was accomplished through the unmasking of sensitive information, the dissemination of raw intelligence signals information, or the leaking of classified information by bureaucrats who owe their primary allegiance to the shadow government as opposed to the Constitution, all individuals involved in this effort must be subjected to a vigorous and impartial investigation.
The American people deserve to know the truth about how their government operates and the true reasons for the decisions it makes.
And, individuals who violate our laws must be brought to justice without delay.
Jay Sekulow is Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which focuses on constitutional law. He also serves as a member of President Trump’s legal team. Follow him on Twitter @JaySekulow.