South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy said Congress won’t authorize a major foreign monitoring program without more information on “unmasking” American citizens caught on surveillance.
Gowdy told Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom on Wednesday that it is a privilege to be able to request that a U.S. person’s name be unmasked. Gowdy added that he specifically wants to know who’s making the request and to establish what is the evidentiary basis of such request. He also pointed out that it is important to know the “timing” of the request like if it’s late in the requestor’s tenure, for example on the day before one leaves office. Gowdy said such last-minute request should send off alarm and sirens in one’s head as to why the person did it.
Gowdy asked former CIA Director John Brennan about the issue at a House Intelligence Committee hearing yesterday in the Russia probe. Gowdy also said that he and other lawmakers still want further information on the procedures for unmasking the identities of Americans picked up by foreign surveillance by American intelligence agencies.
Gowdy’s concerns are in part affected by last month’s developments where President Donald Trump accused former national security adviser Susan Rice of improperly having American citizens unmasked in an attempt to implicate his campaign over reports of Russian election interference.
Gowdy said in a previous interview in April that he thinks the Susan Rice controversy is a “massive story”. In fact, he thinks it’s a “massive, massive story”, all over the world. He added then that the Russia story is a total hoax, and that there has been absolutely nothing coming out of that. Gowdy said that Susan Rice led to that hoax of a story. He said he has never seen people so indignant, even among his many Democrat friends, because he said that’s an affront even to them, especially in terms of civil liberties.
Gowdy stated that crucial parts of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act won’t be renewed before they expire at the end of the year unless the American people are guaranteed that their “security is going to be safeguarded.”
The South Carolina legislator declined to categorically say whether there is evidence of the Obama administration “abusing” the unmasking procedures because the matter needs to be further investigated. Gowdy said he is also waiting for answers as to what exactly happened in the dying days of the Obama administration, and for now at least, is not accusing Obama of “spying” on the Trump team.