The Unmasking of Joe Biden

220px-Biden_2013Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on the contradictions revealed in recent disclosures, including the list of officials seeking to “unmask” the identity of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.  There seems a virtual news blackout on these disclosures, including the fact that both former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden followed the investigation.  Indeed, Biden’s name is on the unmasking list.

Here is the column:

The declassification of material from the Michael Flynn case has exposed more chilling details of an effort by prosecutors to come up with a crime to use against the former national security adviser. This week, however, a letter revealed another unsettling detail. Among over three dozen Obama administration officials seeking to “unmask” Flynn in the investigation was former Vice President Joe Biden. This revelation came less than a day after Biden denied any involvement in the investigation of Flynn. It also follows a disclosure that President Obama was aware of that investigation.

For three years, many in the media have expressed horror at the notion of the Trump campaign colluding with Russia to influence the 2016 election. We know there was never credible evidence of such collusion. In recently released transcripts, a long list of Obama administration officials admitted they never saw any evidence of such Russian collusion. That included the testimony of Evelyn Farkas, a former White House adviser who was widely quoted by the media with her public plea for Congress to gather all of the evidence that she learned of as part of the Obama administration.

The media covered her concern that this evidence would be lost “if they found out how we knew what we knew” about Trump campaign officials “dealing with Russians.” Yet in her classified testimony under oath, she said she did not know anything. Farkas is now running for Congress in New York and highlighting her role in raising “alarm” over collusion. As much of the media blindly pushed this story, a worrying story unfolded over the use of federal power to investigate political opponents.

There is very little question that the response by the media to such a story would have been overwhelming if George Bush and his administration had targeted the Obama campaign figures with secret surveillance. That story would have been encompassing if it was learned that there was no direct evidence to justify the investigation and that the underlying allegation of Russian collusion was ultimately found to lack a credible basis.

But the motives of Obama administration officials are apparently not to be questioned. Indeed, back when candidate Donald Trump said the Obama administration placed his campaign officials under surveillance, the media universally mocked him. That statement was later proven to be true. The Obama administration used the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court to conduct surveillance of Trump campaign officials.

Yet none of this matters as the media remains fully invested in the original false allegations of collusion. If Obama administration officials were to be questioned now, the coverage and judgment of the media may be placed into question. Even this latest disclosure of the unmasking request of Biden will not alter the media narrative.

Unmasking occurs when an official asks an intelligence agency to remove anonymous designations hiding the identity of an individual. This masking is a very important protection of the privacy of American citizens who are caught up in national security surveillance. The importance of this privacy protection is being dismissed by media figures, like Andrea Mitchell, who declared the Biden story to be nothing more than gaslighting.

While unmasking is more routinely requested by intelligence officials, with a reported 10,000 such requests by the National Security Agency last year alone, it is presumably less common for figures like Biden or White House chief of staff Denis McDonough. Seeking unmasking information that was likely to reveal the name of a political opponent and possibly damage the Trump administration raises a concern. More importantly, it adds a detail of the scope of interest and involvement in an investigation that targeted Flynn without any compelling evidence of a crime or collusion.

The media portrayed both Obama and Biden as uninvolved. But now we know they both actively followed the investigation. According to former acting attorney general Sally Yates, she was surprised that Obama knew about the investigation and knew more than she did at the time. Obama called upon former FBI director James Comey to stay after a meeting to discuss the investigation. Comey had mentioned using the Logan Act to charge Flynn, even though the unconstitutional law has never been used successfully in a prosecution since the country was founded.

Biden has repeatedly denied knowledge of the investigation. Just a day before the latest disclosure, George Stephanopoulos asked Biden in an interview what he knew of the Flynn investigation. Biden was adamant that he knew nothing about “those moves” and he called it a diversion. But that is not true if he took the relatively uncommon action for a vice president of demanding the unmasking of Flynn information.

Yet none of this matters. A Democratic administration using a secret court to investigate the opposing political campaign does not matter to many in Congress or in the media. An investigation continuing despite the lack of credible information supporting collusion does not matter. A president and a vice president who take personal interest in the surveillance of their political opponents also does not matter.

There was a time, however, when all of this did matter. There was once a time when this would be viewed as the story of the century, including the unmasking of Biden himself in this investigation. But these are not those times, and this cannot be the story. Russian collusion is the story and, as Biden stressed, the rest is just a diversion. It is up to the public to decide who has been ultimately unmasked by the Flynn investigation.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can find his updates online @JonathanTurley.

391 thoughts on “The Unmasking of Joe Biden”

  1. DM. Hardly a conspiracy theory since the release of hundreds of classified documents documenting the made up charges against Flynn, exposing Biden of unmasking Flynn, FISA court abuses and outright lying to the court by the FBI and DOJ.
    Good grief, what do you know anyway?

    Crimes are articulated by the AG, not the President who is busy running the country and a Pandemic. Good grief! What do you know anyway?

    You no doubt hold up Judge Sullivan for his integrity at getting to the truth? Well when the Prosecutor says we have insufficient proof to convict General Flynn, that says more than you ever could. Good grief! What do you know anyway?

    You have insufficient proof but the released classified documents disprove your points.
    2000 former DOJ lawyers write a letter and nobody cares what they say! Good Grief. What do you know anyway?


    This is about one political party spying and surveilling another political party, even on a CIA employee that your side tried to charge with crimes – and they nearly got away with it. Good Grief! What do you know anyway?

    But as you like to say ‘HEY, look over here’, when the truth is over there!
    Ur as phony as it gets. Good Grief. What do you know anyway?

    Just exactly how and to whose benefit to Trump’s friends and allies (by name please) has Barr benefited? It was Obama and Biden who were caught red handed in an office meeting where Sally Yates attended and said she was very surprised that Obama knew as much about this as he did about the Flynn matter.
    See, there you go again. HEY look over here, when the truth is over THERE.

    And Judge Sullivan is way over the tips of his skis. He is way outside of this authority and he will be removed from the case, as he should, based on his prior outlandish statements IN COURT (on the record) against Gen. Flynn.

    So long Judge Sullivan.

    1. Del, you write:

      “Well when the Prosecutor says we have insufficient proof to convict General Flynn, that says more than you ever could. ”

      The prosecutor in this case didn’t say that, a presidential crony who is his boss said that about another presidential crony. None of the real prosecutors said that or would sign the order, nor any other career line prosecutors except Barr’s crony, installed in place of the previous USA who wouldn’t go light on Flynn as requested by the President.

      You get that maybe smells a little right? Maybe have it looked at with the accusations against the FBI and DOJ?

  2. Jonathan: The title of you column “The Unmasking of Joe Biden” really deserves the title “The Unmasking of Donald Trump”. Trump has been peddling the conspiracy theory that Obama/Biden were behind the prosecution of Michael Flynn. It is called “Obamagate” but Trump has never articulated what crimes the former President and Vice President committed. Neither have you. But the theory persists and now 15 Republican state attorneys have weighed in on Flynn’s behalf urging Judge Sullivan to dismiss the case. This comes after almost 2,000 former DOJ attorneys condemned the move by Barr to drop the case. So Trump and Barr are way behind in the score count. Barr has used his enormous power to reward Trump’s friends and allies. So if Barr had one scintilla of evidence don’t you think he would investigate Obama and Biden? But now Barr says he has no plans to investigate. In justifying his decision Barr said he would never use the “criminal justice system for partisan political ends”. How could Barr make this statement with a straight face? Trump was not happy with Barr;s “double standard” when it comes to his arch enemies Obama and Biden. So we have probably have not heard the end of this little saga which will play out in Judge Sullivan’s courtroom–not in the fanciful theories in your column.

    1. Dennis McIntyre – depends on the Writ. Oh, and it is 2000 retirees with no power against 15 people who can make you life hell.

      1. Oh, and it is 2000 retirees with no power against 15 people who can make you life hell.
        Obama and Biden were also retirees when the Trump DOJ created the
        phony and false story that Flynn lied to the FBI.

        The FBI had concluded that Flynn had committed no crime for which he could be charged. But the Trump administration appointed Mueller and took the Russia investigation out of the hands of the FBI and put it under the direct control of the Trump DOJ. The Trump DOJ then proceeded to create a bunch of phony and false controversies that were intended to make it look like Trump was doing heroic battle against the deep state and winning. The WWE calls this tactic Kayfabe.
        The Flynn prosecution was just one of many phony controversies that you will find in the Mueller report that are designed to turn into nothing-burgers when scrutinized closely.

    2. What if we soon learn that Obamagate includes spying on not just Trump and his campaign and Trump family, but also journalists (in addition to James Rosen and his parents, and Sharyl Attkisson), plus members of Congress (besides those we already know Obama spied on to get his Iran deal through)….??

      1. Or how about this….Wouldn’t it be incredible to learn that Obama also spied on Justice Roberts which then begins to explain his bizarre Obamacare ruling?

    3. Crimes? So you don’t care what underhanded, sleazy, low-down things Obama & Cohorts did unless they broke a law already on the books?

      They may not be able to prosecute them but every dirty trick they pulled should be revealed to the American people.

      1. They may not be able to prosecute them but every dirty trick they pulled should be revealed to the American people.

        How about revealing all the same dirty tricks by Trump and his cohorts|
        I suspect you think the same activity by Trump is OK because Trump is like Dirty Harry who breaks the law for a good cause.

        1. “How about revealing all the same dirty tricks by Trump and his cohorts|”

          What dirty tricks by Trump? Spell them out with proof. We have the Obama administration FBI records to prove these things. WE have interviews of major people like Brennan where they lied on video and we have them in the transcripts of the House hearings telling a completely different story. You use the word “same” so you must have the same data. Let us hear it.

        2. Anonymous – if there is a dirty trick going on in the WH the press knows about it before the WH does.

  3. The one thing missing from all these analyses, is that not only is there no evidence of collusion with the Russians, and every evidence of a conspiracy, but there is NO evidence of any Russian interference either.

    Now Russian disinformation is being blamed for the contents of the Steele dossier, even though this is the opposite of saying it reveals Russian intentions. Now people are saying that actually the Russians favored Hillary. The fact that nobody can even decide which side the Russians were “helping”, and no discernible political slant can be found in “Russian” click bait by “trolls”, except that they were trying to diminish trust in democracy by “sowing division”, even though all these deep state shadows and the media were themselves in fact subverting democracy more than the wildest claims made of the Russians, and in fact engaged in treason.

    The Russians never “interfered”. FULL STOP.

    1. And the Dems say we were attacked like at Pearl Harbor. What sad pathetic zombies they are.

    2. The Russians never “interfered”. FULL STOP.

      So why did the Trump DOJ investigate the Russia interference nonsense for 2 years after the FBI had already concluded that there was not much to it?

      The answer to that question is of course that it was politically advantageous to Trump to create a phony controversy that could be blamed on Democrats. The slow witted would never bother to figure out that Democrats had absolutely no say in appointing Mueller and absolutely no say in creating the phony controversies that Mueller created.

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