The mainstream media have been doing a victory lap since the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National Security Agency (NSA) confirmed on Monday in testimony before the U.S. House Intelligence Committee that President Barack Obama did not wiretap Trump Tower. But that was already known.
There was only one new revelation at the hearing, and it was a bombshell: senior Obama administration officials could have known the identities of surveillance targets.
One of those targets, retired General Michael Flynn, lost his job after it was revealed that his conversation with the Russian ambassador had been monitored, and that he had discussed sanctions relief, contrary to his early private and public claims.
Yet Flynn’s identity was never supposed to have been revealed. The surveillance of the Russian ambassador, routine though it may have been, yielded classified information, and the identity of any U.S. citizen swept up in it should have been redacted.
But Flynn’s name was unmasked and leaked to the media. Moreover, the New York Times reported on Jan. 19 — with a front-page, top-of-the-fold headline on Inauguration Day — that “intelligence reports based on some of the wiretapped communications had been provided to the White House.” And the Times also reported in February that surveillance of Trump aides suspected of ties with Russia had been disseminated widely throughout the government, without privacy protections, by order of the lame duck Obama administration under newly-relaxed NSA rules, which the Times had already reported earlier in January.