Much is being made of the fact that multiple Obama administration officials “unmasked” Gen. Michael Flynn. I served in the CIA for nearly a dozen years. As a consequence of a briefing stint at the National Security Council, I am familiar with the “unmasking” process. When these requests are made, it is because a policymaker needs to know the identity of an anonymous “U.S. Person” to understand what’s going on. This is especially important if that individual is having discussions with representatives of foreign governments that seem out of line with U.S. policy, or that could subject the individual to blackmail later. These requests are considered on their merits.
In regard to Gen. Flynn, of the individuals known to have requested the “unmasking” of an unnamed individual we only now know was Flynn, none knew whose name would be revealed. Further, it is likely that senior officials did not make these requests themselves; rather, someone on their staff made it preemptively on their behalf, which would not be unusual, and the senior official may or may not have seen Flynn’s name.
This process is legal, it is used frequently, and it cannot by its very nature be used to target anyone, as the whole point of “unmasking” is that the individual’s identity is initially “masked.”
Resist the urge to listen to hyperpartisans who are so willing to win an election that they have invested in a dishonest storyline meant to impugn the integrity of former U.S. officials and the intelligence community. These partisans know most Americans lack firsthand knowledge of these processes so will likely believe allegations rooted in politics. Instead, I urge you to seek out those with experience. Go outside your partisan comfort zone and listen. Let’s make informed choices as we head into this voting season.