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A recent article on Politico mentions a list of names from the Obama administration that was recently sent to Republican senators:

Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell on Wednesday sent top Republican senators a list of former senior Obama administration officials who might have been involved in efforts that “unmasked” former national security adviser Michael Flynn — including former Vice President Joe Biden.

What exactly does "unmasking" entail? I'm asking specifically with regard to Lieutenant General Michael Flynn being the object of many unmasking requests made by senior officials in the Obama administration.

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    The word "unmasking" is quoted. Please specify who is being quoted. Context for the quote would help also. – agc May 14 at 3:50
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    @agc Unmasking refers to an internal process by the US Federal Government. It is likely not a direct quote of anything in particular. See the below answer for more details (I guess you already did, given that you edited the answer below. Nvm then). – Chipster May 14 at 6:32
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    @agc My interpretation for the "quotes" is to signify the word OP is asking a more concrete definition for in this context. I've voted to re-open since the subject itself is pretty topical and I don't think answerers should have a problem understanding what is being asked. But I do agree adding a citation describing current events would improve the question when Googlers from the future stumble here. – Jeff Lambert May 14 at 11:39
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    When I first read the title, I thought this was about a new conspiracy theory I hadn't heard of. The lack of any context in the question body doesn't help. It wasn't until I read the answer below that I realized this question might fit on politics.stackexchange. But before I can vote to re-open, the question should add more details to address this. – BurnsBA May 14 at 12:17
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    @BurnsBA Might as well be a conspiracy theory. It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone how far the FBI are willing to go to break the law. But it is certainly suprising how partisan they have been and in this case how far they not only went to break the law to entrap Flynn. But more surprisingly how far the liberal media and the Democrats were willing to go to defend these illegal tactics. Which really sucks because I'm not fan of Trump. But as much as I dislike the guy, I dislike how they hand the guy victory after victory on a silver platter., way more – dan-klasson May 15 at 22:44
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According to Stefan Becket of CBS News:

The names of U.S. citizens who are caught on intercepts of foreign officials' communications are typically concealed in intelligence reports, but certain senior officials can request to learn their identities to better understand the information, a process known as "unmasking." According to an annual transparency report released by ODNI in April, the identities of 10,012 U.S. persons were unmasked by the NSA in response to specific requests in 2019.

According to Matt Zapotosky, Ellen Nakashima and Shane Harris of the Washington Post:

Unmasking is a routine practice used to identify a U.S. person who is anonymously referred to in an intelligence document, meant to help government officials better understand what they are reading. But conservatives have long seized on Flynn’s unmasking to imply he was treated unfairly by U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials.

(The links within the two paragraphs were in the original articles and have been copied here for completeness)

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  • I guess it rolls off the tongue better than "un-redacting." – PoloHoleSet May 14 at 17:03
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    @agc those were quotes. I'm not sure it's OK to change the wording like that. – CGCampbell May 14 at 18:18
  • @PoloHoleSet - Redacting implies that the information was just blotted out. Substituting different information (the anonymous identifer) is closer to masking, but I'd probably choose "obscuring". At least in how I use those words - others may disagree. – Bobson May 14 at 18:33
  • @Bobson - ah, very good. I was completely unaware of that distinction. Thanks! – PoloHoleSet May 14 at 20:19

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