Outgoing Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell slammed Sen. Mark Warner Tuesday saying his request last week to declassify and publicly release the underlying intelligence reports in which Obama officials “unmasked” the identity of former national security advisor Michael Flynn would jeopardize sources and methods.
Grenell also criticized Warner’s alleged political move as ‘cherry picking’ documents for political purposes at the expense of national security. Warner is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee and spoke out against Grenell’s declassification of the senior Obama officials that requested Flynn’s private conversations and unmasking of his name.
“I find it puzzling that your letter initially complains about the declassification of the identities of unmaskers, a declassification that posed no conceivable risks to sources or methods, only to then request the declassification of actual intelligence reports,” said Grenell. “Cherry picking certain documents for release, while attacking the release of others that don’t fit your political narrative, is part of the problem the American people have with Washington DC politicians. I would appreciate it if you would explain your philosophy on transparency as it appears to be based solely on political advantage.”
Grenell had declassified the names of 16 former senior Obama officials involved in requesting Flynn’s private communications 48 times, according to the declassified documents provided by the DNI. Grenell only declassified the requests made between Nov. 30, 2016 and Jan. 12, 2017, according to the documents. The most controversial request was the phone calls between Flynn and former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, who spoke on Dec. 29, 2016. The contents of that classified phone conversation, which was wiretapped by the FBI, would later be leaked to The Washington Post columnist David Ignatius in January.
Despite Warner’s concerns mentioned in his letter last week, the declassification of the Obama officials’ names did not violate any sources or methods, stated intelligence officials.
Ironically, in Warner’s letter he had asked Grenell to “provide the Committee with the underlying intelligence reports in which the identity of the individual was ‘unmasked’” to be Flynn. Those underlying intelligence reports, however, do contain sources and methods, and declassifying them could threaten national security, intelligence officials stated.
Grenell told Warner in his letter Tuesday, that the “protection of intelligence sources and methods is always at the fore of any declassification decision which I might make. As you well know, the decision to declassify the names of individuals who sought to unmask the identity of General Flynn poses absolutely no risk of compromise of either sources or methods.”
“Additionally, far from undermining the credibility of the Intelligence Community (IC), the utmost transparency in this matter builds public trust and confidence in the Community and ensures the IC will not conceal potential abuse behind unnecessary security classification,” he added in the letter to Warner. “I appreciate your reference to Executive Order 13526. I remind you that this Order makes clear in Section 1.7 that ‘in no case shall information…continue to be maintained as classified, or fail to be declassified in order to conceal violations of law…(or) prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency.”