Former United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power's involvement in the unmasking by former Obama administration officials of sensitive national security information is raising red flags over what insiders view was an attempt by the former administration to undermine President Donald Trump and key figures on his team, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the situation.
Power appears to be central to efforts by top Obama administration officials to identify individuals named in classified intelligence community reports related to Trump and his presidential transition team, according to multiple sources.
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The names of Trump allies in the raw intelligence reports were leaked to the press in what many in Congress and the current administration claim is an attempt by Obama allies and former officials to damage the White House.
The House Intelligence Committee, which is spearheading the investigation into these efforts, has issued subpoenas for Power and other top Obama administration figures, including former national security adviser Susan Rice, as part of congressional efforts to determine the source of these leaks.
Power's role in this unmasking effort is believed to be particularly questionable given her position as the U.N. ambassador, a post that does not typically require such sensitive unmasking activities, according to former U.S. officials and other sources familiar with the matter.
"Unmasking is not a regular occurrence—absolutely not a weekly habit. It is rare, even at the National Security Council, and ought to be rarer still for a U.N. ambassador," according to one former senior U.S. official who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.
"It might be defended when the communication in question relates directly to U.N. business, for example an important Security Council vote," explained the former official, who would only discuss the matter on background. "Sometimes it might be done out of other motives than national security, such as sheer curiosity or to defend a bureaucratic position. Or just plain politics."
The Intelligence Committee's focus of Power and other key Obama officials is a prime example of the Obama administration's efforts to spy on those close to Trump, according to sources familiar with the ongoing investigation.
"The subpoena for Power suggests just how pervasive the Obama administration's spying on Americans actually was," said one veteran GOP political operative who has been briefed on the matter by senior Congressional intelligence officials. "The U.N. ambassador has absolutely no business calling for the quantity and quality of the intelligence that Power seems to have been asking for."
The source questioned why Power would need to uncover such classified intelligence information in her role at the U.N.
"That's just not the sort of thing that she should have been concerned about, unless she was playing the role of political operative with the help of the intelligence community," the source said. "It gives away what was actually going on: the Obama administration was operating in a pervasive culture of impunity and using the intelligence community against their political opponents."
Rice was scheduled to speak to House Intelligence Committee this week, but the meeting was reportedly postponed. Some sources speculated this could be a delaying tactic by Rice aimed at pushing the testimony back until after Congress's summer recess.
Leading members of Congress have begun pushing for the Intelligence Committee and other oversight bodies to investigate former Obama administration officials who they believe are responsible for the leaks.
Rep. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.), a member of the House Oversight Committee and chair of its National Security Subcommittee, told the Free Beacon last week that these leaks appear to have come from former senior officials, potentially including Ben Rhodes, the Obama national security adviser responsible for creating what he described as an in-house "echo chamber" meant to mislead the public and Congress about the landmark Iran nuclear deal.
"I think Congress and some members on the Intelligence Committee can call Ben Rhodes to testify," DeSantis said. "He may be able to invoke executive privilege from when Obama was president, but he definitely can't do that in any interactions he's had since then."
DeSantis identified Rhodes and other senior Obama administration officials as being "involved with feeding journalists some of these [leaks]. I believe he's in touch with people on the National Security Council. It would be absolutely legitimate as part of leak investigation to bring him in and put him under oath, and I would absolutely support doing that."
Senior Trump administration officials also have decried the leaks, which have expanded to operational information and are now impeding U.S. national security operations.
The anonymous sources for these articles "are obviously the same Obama holdovers who constantly leak classified information" to various newspapers, one senior administration official told the Free Beacon earlier this month.