The Media and Pundits Are Lying–The Flynn Unmasking Was Uncommon and Unusual by Larry C Johnson

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The Deep State propaganda machine is spinning at hyperdrive. You are being repeatedly told that unmasking is common. Nothin unusual here. Move along. Reminds me of the scene from the Naked Gun when faux detective Frank Drebin tried to tell people they were not seeing what they were seeing:

Leave it to lying Jimmy Clapper to pop up as one of the prevaricators eager to feed a false meme to a gullible public. He is caught up in the unmasking with his metaphorical pants down around his ankles and his hideous junk exposed–simply put, Clapper spied on Michael Flynn. Here is Clapper’s pathetic attempt to put lipstick on this crooked pig:

Former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper said Thursday it is “routine” to “unmask” American citizens who have been caught up in surveillance of foreign individuals as Republicans spark an uproar over allegations that officials spied on former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Clapper and other apologists are counting on your ignorance of intelligence community processes and procedures for collecting intelligence. What I find shocking is that there are thousands of intelligence professionals who understand that Clapper is spewing total bullshit but, because of their hatred of Donald Trump, stay silent and allow Clapper’s lies to go unchallenged.

Let us start with the basics. The document that Acting DNI Grenell declassified last week regarding the “unmasking” of Michael Flynn gives us only the names and dates that requests were made to the NSA. But those requests came in response to a NSA intelligence report or document that the requestors had read. That means finished intelligence.

The following is an example of the formatting and content of the type of NSA messages that the Obama people were reading when they encountered an “unnamed” American citizen and just had to know who it was.

The type of message that had Michael Flynn’s name carried the following classification headers (if you click on the link it will take you to a very interesting NSA document that addresses the whole issue of spying on Americans):


Next you get the Message report number, in this case it is SERIAL 3/00/532318-12, and the the sender and addressee information. In the image immediately below, DIRNSA refers to the Director of NSA, “COS KINGSTON” is the CIA Chief in Kingston, Jamaica.  Note that other agencies such as DEA, DIA, FAA and even INTERIOR are sent copies of this message.

Header of NSA Message

Next comes the content. It is vital that you understand that this type of report is not just the raw take–i.e., an unedited transcript of the conversation with no commentary. The reports that inspired the readers to ask for the name of the unnamed American were produced in response to specific collection requirements. If you have never worked in the intelligence field, you probably have the false notion that intelligence collectors wake up each morning, scan news headlines for the sexiest, most provocative stories and then decide that is the information they will collect for that day. Nope. Does not work that way at all. It is a very bureaucratic process.

NSA, unlike CIA, scoops up all electronic communications, such emails, phone calls, text messages. The volume of “take” is so gargantuan that most of the information is never processed or analyzed. The initial scrubbing comes via computer systems and algorithms designed to weed out wheat from chaff. But at some point that intelligence gets into the hands of an analyst. The decision about what to publish and analyze normally
is based on collection plans. A collection plan is a list of priority issues or persons that the Director of National Intelligence, acting on behalf of the President, uses to tell the specific intelligence agencies–NSA and CIA in particular–what they need to collect.

Let me give you a specific example from own experience. In the aftermath of the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in March 1992, I led an interagency US Government team to the region to discuss terrorist threats and upgrading aviation security. While at our Embassy in Buenos Aires, we had a sit-down with the Chief of Station–Bill. I told Bill that the only intel we had seen at that point of time was from a liaison service and indicated that Hezbollah was behind the attack. I asked Bill if they were having any luck going after Hezbollah.

Bill’s answer stunned me–he said “no, it was not part of the collection plan.” In Bill’s world (and that of other intel community bureaucrats operating as intel collectors), your annual evaluation determines whether you get promoted and make more money. A key part of that evaluation, especially for a Chief of Station, is measuring how well you did in providing the sources and reports that met the priorities identified in the collection plan. You did not get praised or rewarded by diverting intelligence resources to an issue or target not on the collection plan. Since Hezbollah was not on the plan when the bomb went off in Buenos Aires, the CIA was not collecting intel or trying to recruit sources to get such intel. The intel the U.S. Government was getting on Hezbollah in South America was coming to us from other governments.

I returned to Washington, DC and wrote Hezbollah in South America as a collection priority, it was added subsequently to the overall collection plan. Never forget that bureaucratic processes and procedures reign supreme in both the intel and FBI worlds.

I want you to look at the list of the people who unmasked Flynn in the aftermath of the 2016 election and look specifically at the number of separate reports that contained Flynn’s name. Thirty nine separate people asked 14 different days for the NSA to tell them the identity of the “unnamed” American cited in the intelligence report he or she was reading. In response to those requests Michael Flynn’s name was revealed or “unmasked” to those 39 people.

The document declassified by DNI Grenell shows that there were 14 unique days when the NSA received requests to “unmask”–the first was on 30 November 2016 by UN Ambassador Samantha Power and the last came on 12 January from Joe Biden. There were two separate requests on the 14th of December by Samantha Power, which indicates two separate NSA reports. Samantha Power would not have to submit two requests for the same document.

The documents that had the name of Michael Flynn were formal NSA intelligence reports. They were purposefully created either in response to a U.S. intelligence community collection plan or were produced by a foreign intelligence outfit, in this particular case an organization like the British version of the NSA–the GCHQ. GCHQ could easily identify Michael Flynn or anyone else tied to the Trump team as a valid target for collection. Signals or communication intelligence collected by the Brits from targeting Michael Flynn would be put into a British intelligence report and then passed to the NSA. NSA officers are co-located in the UK with GCHQ. There is no prohibition on the NSA accepting “liaison” reporting from GCHQ and then disseminating it people with appropriate clearances throughout the U.S. Government.

Here is an example of the kind of report that one of the people wanting to unmask Michael Flynn might have seen:

NSA Message Masking Individuals

After reading this report you want to know, “who are the redacted names?” That is how an unmasking request starts.

What is so unusual and bizarre is that there are at least 14 different NSA intelligence reports with Michael Flynn’s name popping up in a 45 day period. That is not accidental or incidental. If you are driving down the road and your car breaks down and you go to a nearby bar to call for a tow and see your pastor in the bar with your neighbor’s wife, that is accidental or incidental intelligence collection.

What happened to Michael Flynn is akin to the jealous husband hiring a private investigator to follow his wife and find out who she is sleeping with. That is not incidental. That is purposeful.

The intelligence collection and creation of intelligence reports in the NSA were not incidental nor accidental. It was done with a purpose and with the help of foreign intelligence.

As I noted in an earlier article, the fact that Michael Flynn’s December 29 conversation with the Russian Ambassador is missing from this list could have been because the material was before a Grand Jury and/or it was collected by the CIA. Thanks to Andy McCarthy’s explanation, the Grand Jury explanation is probably not valid. That leaves the CIA, which means John Brennan’s CIA did it using something like the Special Collection Service. Ed Snowden described capability in his book:

“I remember sitting on the left bank of Lake Geneva with the local personnel of the SCS, or Special Collection Service, a joint CIA-NSA program responsible for installing and operating the special surveillance equipment that allows US embassies to spy on foreign signals. These guys worked down the hall from my vault at the embassy, but they were older than I was, and their work was not just way above my pay grade but way beyond my abilities—they had access to NSA tools that I didn’t even know existed.”

The people in the intelligence and law enforcement community, current and former, that were spying on Donald Trump and his team want you to believe that nothing untoward or wrong was done. That is the ultimate lie. I hope the preceding explanations help you see that fact.

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14 Responses to The Media and Pundits Are Lying–The Flynn Unmasking Was Uncommon and Unusual by Larry C Johnson

  1. walrus says:

    Mr. Johnson, Thank you both for your lucid explanations of Russiagate and your tenacity. I pray that with your help, the forces of good will triumph.
    A question, are the plotters trying to hold out till the elections? It would seem that if they succeeded in doing that they and Trump loses the election, then they will have gotten away with this crime and established the IC as the equivalent of the Praetorian Guard.

  2. Deap says:

    I do not want you to spy on me, Mr Clapper.
    I do not want what you did to Gen Flynn, done to me.
    I do expect to be protected by the US Constitution.
    (Signed) A private US Citizen.

  3. Deap says:

    Could Samantha Powers husband, Bloomberg media and book writer Cass Sunstein, have been looking over Samantha’s shoulder when she was unmasking hundreds of names critically necessary for her job as UN Ambassador, even though she does not remember requesting any of them?

  4. Alan says:

    Dan Bongino claims he had an epiphany and solved the non-unmasking of Flynn during that crucial period. (Remember, he had Trump for an interview a few weeks ago, his connection to him and his people might have helped his powers of intuition a bit).
    It is a scenario that explains a lot, like for example, why would Obama proceed with the dramatic expulsions of all those Russian diplomats and properties (when we now all know that Russia didn’t hack the DNC and exfiltrate any e-mails) in that particular point in time and just a few weeks before the inauguration?
    What does the committee think of his take (if you can ignore his theatrics)?

  5. Jim says:

    Adding to the rot. . . .
    The attempted prosecution of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s business partners on alleged FARA crimes, in which prosecutors are still saying the general is a foreign agent.[Foreign Agents Registration Act, US law since 1938.] [Even though he is not a defendant in that case.]
    His business partner was convicted by a jury, on this, last year.
    Judge shortly thereafter said the court [that judge] failed to properly instruct the jury – as the DOJ did not have evidence anyone was under the control of a foreign government — the key criteria.
    The conviction was vacated by the judge; this criteria was not met, nor was evidence produced by DOJ to show this.
    This judge [Anthony Trenga] also allowed the DOJ to: appeal ruling.
    That is, Trenga’s ruling that vacated the conviction.
    That is, let DOJ try and get a new trial — a do-over.
    Which, the DOJ, now under AG Bill Barr is currently attempting to do.
    In the appeal for a new trial, Flynn is not a defendant.
    His former business partners are.
    The DOJ, in a motion and memorandum to the federal appeals court, —pleading for right for another trial — in this motion, the DOJ also accused Flynn, in writing, of being an agent of Turkey — all along – “from the beginning,” the DOJ motion, from January 2020 states.
    Below is from 1/24/2020 DOJ filing against Messrs. Rafiekian and Alptekin, [Flynn’s then-business partners prior to 2017], docketed in federal court in January:
    >>>>>[[The evidence discussed above equally shows concerted action between Rafiekian, Flynn, and Alptekin to act subject to Turkey’s direction or control. . . . From the beginning, the co-conspirators agreed that. . . .]]<<<<< [Note: Rafiekian, in 2006, was nominated by President Bush to Board of Directors of the 'Export–Import Bank of the United States'; this nomination was confirmed/approved by USA Senate. He served on the bank's board from 2006 to 2011. see: [ ]
    Attorney representing defendants, their reply, opposing DOJ appeal request — rejecting the January 2020 DOJ motion and claims about the men — from April 2020, motion and memorandum includes this:
    [[Although the government’s appellate brief now alleges that Flynn was a Turkish agent “[f]rom the beginning” (Br. 2), it sang a different tune just a month before trial [last year], when it told the district court that Flynn was not part of any conspiracy. It was only after Flynn made it clear that he would not offer the testimony the government expected to hear that it reversed course, announced that its erstwhile star witness was really a co-conspirator all along. . . .]]
    That is: “from the beginning,” as the DOJ asserts in their January 2020 filing.
    This case was dismissed last year because there was no evidence that any of them were under the control of a foreign government, i.e., “foreign agents” — yet the DOJ persists.
    Nor was Flynn ever charged with any FARA alleged crimes, not by Mueller, not by anyone.
    Flynn’s case, prosecuted by Mueller/SCO — the DOJ recently moved to end it all – yet Judge Sullivan persists.
    One case, presided by Judge Contreras, then Sullivan: should never have ever been prosecuted. We now know this for a fact. Flynn was framed by his own government.
    In the other case, that Trenga dismissed: Flynn, who is not a defendant, is accused of being a foreign agent by the DOJ, in January 2020.
    Of note: Sullivan, apparently believing that he is, threatened Flynn with 15 years in jail, during a hearing in Dec. 2018, when the judge removed all pretense of being impartial, with his rant about the general selling out his country, possible treason, blah blah blah. In other words, the ghost of the long dead, still-born Logan Act, apparently.
    To what issue will this come?
    My fate cries out,
    And makes each petty artery in this body
    As hardy as the Nemean lion’s nerve.
    Still am I call’d. Unhand me, gentlemen.
    By heaven, I’ll make a ghost of him that lets me!
    I say, away! Go on; I’ll follow thee.
    [HAMLET begins following the ghost, exits]
    He waxes desperate with imagination.
    Let’s follow; ’tis not fit thus to obey him.
    Have after. To what issue will this come?
    Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
    Heaven will direct it.
    Nay, let’s follow him.
    Obama’s recent signaling of Flynn as Mr. Perjury, followed up soon thereafter by Sullivan’s latching onto that exact same theme is curious. I don’t know if this is just one more curve ball in this, or a fast ball right down the middle.
    There is no public record of Obama, or then AG Lynch or then DAG Sally Yates doing anything to remove Comey as FBI director or discipline him when he announced there would be no prosecution of Clinton in 2016 – keeping in mind Comey’s role was not prosecutor, [as the country’s general attorney; rather, his role was as police chief of the nation].
    McCabe leaking to Wall Street Journal, late October 2016, that there was a criminal investigation involving Clinton Foundation. There is no record Obama, Lynch, Yates, Comey did anything to remove McCabe from duty as the FBI deputy director, or discipline him.
    There are numerous examples of this lack of action in 2016 right up until Jan. 20, 2017 when Trump was inaugurated.
    This exact pattern includes, of course the Flynn/Kislyak issue.
    What is factual at this point is: Washington Post had knowledge as early as [and perhaps sooner than] Jan. 5, 2017 of Flynn phone conversation with Russian ambassador to US, Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak, that occurred late December.
    And, this stuff was actually published, in WAP, on Jan. 12, 2017.
    Obama left office noontime Jan. 20, 2017.
    Among other things, might a purpose of the Flynn persecution also involve, rather, just be another curve ball — to keep eyes away from the failure by Obama team to prosecute this criminal leak and outing of Flynn? I don’t know.
    I also don’t know why Trump stated the following on Dec. 2, 2017, [the day after Flynn plead:
    [[I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!]]
    On May 13, 2020 Trump stated:
    [[And when I see what is happening to him, it’s disgraceful. And it was all a ruse. And, by the way, the FBI said he didn’t lie. The FBI said he did not lie. So with all the stuff I’m hearing about lying, the FBI said he didn’t lie. But the sleazebag said, “Well, we don’t care what he — what they say. We’re saying he lied.” Okay? But the FBI, you remember, when they left, they said, “He didn’t lie.” What they’ve done to that man and that family is a disgrace. But I just tell you that because I just left General Milley, and he said, “A great man and a great soldier.” Isn’t that a shame.]]

  6. Larry,
    Good job of clearly explaining unmasking and the centrality of intelligence information reports in driving those unmaskings. I was shocked to learn that there were 10,000 NSA reports unmasked last year and near 17,000 the year before. I thought it was a much rarer occurrence. But I agree that having Flynn’s masked name appear in at least 14 reports in 45 days is not normal. It is highly unusual. Why did his name figure in so much reporting? Was it just foreign targets referring to Flynn since he was the incoming NSC? Was it Flynn talking to those foreign targets because he was the incoming NSC as a prudent part of his preparation? Or was he involved in discussions about nuclear proliferation to Saudi Arabia and/or the possible extradition/kidnapping of Gulen to Turkey? What were the collection requirements that those reports cited? It would be helpful if we could get redacted summaries of those reports, but I won’t hold my breath.
    Concerning the interception of Flynn’s phone calls with Kislyak, I doubt it was the NSA or CIA. The FBI wiretapped the Russian Ambassador to the US as a CI operation especially considering the entire Obama administration was focused on Russian interference in the 2016 election. I believe it was discussed years ago how implants were remotely installed on Kislyak’s smartphone to turn it into a listening device. That’s why the FBI had Flynn’s calls to Kislyak and why they never had to unmask any NSA or CIA reports to get that information.

  7. Terence Gore says:
    Starting at minute 20 interview of Svetlana and Chuck makes the point that leak of the call to the press was to sabotage Flynn and the Trump administration. The PTB knew very early on that Flynn was not a Russian asset.

  8. Diana Croissant says:

    Thank you for the detailed explanation. It’s too bad that most of the so-called journalists don’t have the ability to read and follow such a good, but longer, explanation than their attention span can hold.
    It’s not a “sound bite” they can use to get their mugs on Tee Vee. And it doesn’t follow the current “narrative.”

  9. Kelleigh Nelson says:

    Oh Diana Croissant…you are so right. American education has been dumbed down since the beginning of Dewey’s progressive system back in 1880. They can hardly tolerate more than a sound bite or a 1 minute video. Sad but true.

  10. Jack says:

    AG BARR: What happened to President Trump was a “grave injustice”
    “The law enforcement & intelligence apparatus of this country were involved in advancing a false & utterly baseless Russian collusion narrative.”
    Will Barr hold anyone accountable?

  11. Cesco says:

    Was it just foreign targets referring to … Was it Flynn talking to those foreign targets … Or was he involved in discussions about nuclear proliferation …
    Posted by: The Twisted Genius | 17 May 2020 at 08:55 PM
    My guess: Kushner and Flynn’s activities at the United Nations in Dec. 2016. No??? That would explain why Powers surfaced to such a large extend.

  12. Roy G says:

    Larry, I am curious about your take on the Israeli Embassy bombing in Argentina. Afaicr, it was a controversial conclusion that Hezbollah was actually responsible. Would you care to offer your perspective on their involvement?

  13. Leith says:

    Larry –
    Why did acting DNI Grenell list the dates in his unclassified document re the Flynn unamskings? He should have kept those dates classified and only released them to the Senate Select Intel Committee. Foolishly declassifying the dates undoubtedly sent foreign COMSEC and CI people racing to review their countries communications records to see who was talking with whom on what circuit on those particular dates. Grenell needs to get a bit smarter before he ends up giving away the keys to the kingdom.

  14. Deap says:

    Since Dec 14, 2016 was a very big day for Dept of Treasury officials to make mutliple unmasking demands on an as yet disclosed list of persons, rumored to also include Trump family members, what triggered this extra-curricular unmasking interest?
    Traveling in the wayback machine for news reported on the following day, Dec 15, 2016 one finds the following tidbit from Vanity Fair:
    ….Today was supposed to be the day. A couple weeks ago, Donald Trump announced that he would hold his first news conference in five months to, at long last, address the mounting concerns over how he would resolve his financial conflicts of interest before he takes office.
    “I will be holding a major news conference in New York City with my children on December 15 to discuss the fact that I will be leaving my great business in total in order to fully focus on running the country in order to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” he tweeted.
    “I am not mandated to do this under the law, I feel it is visually important, as President, to in no way have a conflict of interest with my various businesses. Hence, legal documents are being crafted which take me completely out of business operations. The Presidency is a far more important task!”
    In the following weeks, some alleged details of those legal documents leaked out.
    The New York Times reported that Trump would not divest his business, but instead, adhere to a legal strategy that would separate him and his daughter, Ivanka, from the Trump Organization, while handing over responsibilities to his sons, Eric and Donald Jr.. In an interview with Fox News airing over the weekend, Trump reiterated his plan. “I’m going to have nothing to do with it. And I’ll be honest with you, I don’t care about it anymore,” he said.
    And then the president-elect canceled, three days before the big event. “I will hold a press conference in the near future to discuss the business, Cabinet picks and all other topics of interest. Busy times!” he tweeted Monday. “No new deals will be done during my term(s) in office.”
    Transition officials explained the delay as a simple logistical issue—the task of nominating a Cabinet and building a government has taken up more time than anticipated. Kellyanne Conway touted it as a reflection of Trump’s incredible accomplishments. “Normally we have politicians moving from political job to political job. In this case, we have a very successful businessman, who’s brilliant and a billionaire, who has assets and holdings all over the globe, and that needs to have a transfer of power through the proper channels,” she said on CNN……”

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