In what is growing into a political scandal with increasingly explosive potential consequences, legendary Watergate reporter Bob Woodward wagers some Obama officials could be headed for criminal charges if they used surveillance information to unmask Trump transition operatives.
Woodward, who has spent nearly a half century reporting on DC insiders at The Washington Post, told Fox News that Obama administration use of foreign surveillance documents to spy on Trump and his team would constitute “a gross violation.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes reported earlier this week that Trump transition team members likely had their identities revealed by surveillance officials via “unmasking,” wherein their names were included in intelligence reports.
Woodward noted that it’s common practice for the names of Americans swept up in foreign intelligence documents remain hidden.
“You can learn all kinds of things from diplomats gossiping, because that’s what occurs. Under the rules, and they are pretty strict, it’s called minimization. You don’t name the American person who is being discussed,” Woodward said.
Because only around 20 high-ranking intelligence officials have the authority to have the “minimization” removed, orders would have had to have come from the top.
The question is, if not for political reason, why were the names revealed?
“The idea that there was intelligence value here is really thin,” Woodward said. “It’s, again, down the middle, it is not what Trump said, but this could be criminal on the part of people who decided, oh, let’s name these people.”
If people in the Obama administration were “passing around this highly classified gossip,” they’re going to find themselves in hot water.