At least one prominent person caught up in the Obama administration’s “unmasking” effort — American businessman Erik Prince — is calling on U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to launch a formal investigation into the Obama administration’s “incidental” surveillance of Americans who met with foreign officials.
Prince told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an exclusive interview that he wants Sessions to launch a formal investigation into his case, where Obama administration officials “unmasked” him and later leaked what he called false information to the news media.
The businessman said a meeting he had with a Russian businessman overseas last January was deliberately leaked by the Obama administration and splashed in a front-page Washington Post article in April.
Prince called upon the attorney general to investigate the unmasking scandal, telling TheDCNF: “This is an abuse of an intelligence service’s powers. It is dangerous. This is a problem for American liberty.”
The conservative businessman also charges the Obama administration had previously unmasked him on numerous occasions.
Relying solely on unnamed sources, the Post claimed in its April article that Prince was in the Seychelles Islands Jan. 11 as part of an elaborate conspiracy by then President-elect Donald Trump to establish a secret, back-channel to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Seychelles is a remote archipelago nation in the Indian Ocean.
Prince is an authority on government surveillance as the founder of Blackwater USA, one of the legendary international security firms whose teams operate in some of the most dangerous parts of the world. He sold his stake in the company in 2010.
In the April 3 article, the Post slammed Prince as part of a United Arab Emirates-led effort to help Trump open up a “back-channel” between himself and Moscow.
“The United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian close to President Vladimir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump,” the Post charged.
The Post claimed that the meeting with the Russian allegedly took place over a two-day period, stating, “The Seychelles encounter, which one official said spanned two days, adds to an expanding web of connections between Russia and Americans with ties to Trump.”
“The thing that really bothers me is I was unmasked for political purposes to the Washington Post,” the businessman charged.
Prince’s version of the meeting did not take place over two days, but apparently was over a beer at a restaurant at the island’s Four Seasons Hotel.
“I was there on a business meeting to see some Emirates,” Prince recalled. The reference to Emirates describe citizens of the UAE.
“They said, ‘there’s this Russian guy in town on some Russia-Emirates related business,’” he recalled. “I met him. I think the meeting lasted five or ten minutes and that was it.”
The American businessman said his conversation had nothing to do with the United States, U.S.-Russian relations, the election, or a future Trump administration. He said the meeting was so forgettable he cannot remember the Russian’s name.
“We talked about the Russian business climate, where we thought oil was headed price-wise and how much he thought Russia would like to do business in America,” he said.
“It had nothing to do with national security, the Trump campaign or anything else,” he said.
Because of his previous business activities with Blackwater, Prince has a home in Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi, a part of the UAE in the Persian Gulf, currently is the regional headquarters for Academi, the name of the company that took over Blackwater.
Prince personally knows the country’s Crown Prince as well as many UAE businessmen and government officials.
The businessman had no formal ties to either the Trump Presidential campaign or to the administration. But he was an enthusiastic donor to Trump and to conservative causes in 2016 and his sister is Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Prince also told TheDCNF the January meeting wasn’t the only time the Obama administration unmasked him.
“I’ve had on numerous times, when I lived in the Emirates that my rights as a citizen were violated. I would meet with an Emirate official and minutes later, they would get a phone saying, ‘why are you meeting with that guy?’ That’s just not America. This was America under the Obama intelligence groups. That’s disgusting,” he said.
Rice admitted in private testimony before the House Intelligence Committee last September she unmasked actual Trump transition officials who met in New York with the UAE’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan last December, according to CNN.
The Trump officials who Rice unmasked were former national security advisor Michael Flynn, campaign strategist Steve Bannon and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Republican California Rep. Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee, sparked an uproar last March when he announced he had viewed National Security Agency surveillance intercept records that had been called up by Obama officials identifying innocent Americans, including Trump transition officials, who only had incidental contact with foreign officials.
Democrats challenged the accuracy of the NSA documents Nunes had viewed, but they fell silent after California Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, viewed the unmasked NSA documents in April.
Four former Obama national security officials reportedly have been tied to the unmasking effort. They are former Obama White House national security advisor Susan Rice, her deputy Ben Rhodes, former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power and former CIA Director John Brennan.
The House Intelligence Committee is continuing its investigation into the unmasking scandal. The committee plans to privately interview Power soon on the extent of her own unmasking activities.
The Justice Department continues to remain mum about the status of any investigation into the unmasking of Americans.
“As a matter of general policy, the department will neither confirm nor deny the existence of any ongoing investigation,” said Wynn Hornbuckle, a deputy public affairs official at the Justice Department, in a statement to TheDCNF.
The Office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller also declined to comment on whether the unmasking campaign was part of its investigation. “We will decline to comment on the ongoing investigation,” a spokesman emailed TheDCNF.
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