The “well-known, high up” Obama intel official who requested the unmasking of members of Trump’s transition team who had been intercepted in unrelated surveillance operations has been unmasked herself. The culprit is none other than Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice, best known for misleading the country about the nature of the Benghazi terror attack:
Eli Lake of Bloomberg News has the scoop:
White House lawyers last month discovered that the former national security adviser Susan Rice requested the identities of U.S. persons in raw intelligence reports on dozens of occasions that connect to the Donald Trump transition and campaign, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.
The pattern of Rice’s requests was discovered in a National Security Council review of the government’s policy on “unmasking” the identities of individuals in the U.S. who are not targets of electronic eavesdropping, but whose communications are collected incidentally. Normally those names are redacted from summaries of monitored conversations and appear in reports as something like “U.S. Person One.”
The National Security Council’s senior director for intelligence, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, was conducting the review, according to two U.S. officials who spoke with Bloomberg View on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly. In February Cohen-Watnick discovered Rice’s multiple requests to unmask U.S. persons in intelligence reports that related to Trump transition activities. He brought this to the attention of the White House General Counsel’s office, who reviewed more of Rice’s requests and instructed him to end his own research into the unmasking policy.
The intelligence reports were summaries of monitored conversations — primarily between foreign officials discussing the Trump transition, but also in some cases direct contact between members of the Trump team and monitored foreign officials. One U.S. official familiar with the reports said they contained valuable political information on the Trump transition such as whom the Trump team was meeting, the views of Trump associates on foreign policy matters and plans for the incoming administration.
Rice did not respond to an email seeking comment on Monday morning. Her role in requesting the identities of Trump transition officials adds an important element to the dueling investigations surrounding the Trump White House since the president’s inauguration.
Lake also notes that “Rice’s requests to unmask the names of Trump transition officials does not vindicate Trump’s own tweets from March 4 in which he accused Obama of illegally tapping Trump Tower,” pointing out that “there remains no evidence to support that claim.” There likely will not be. Trump was, as is his habit, somewhat imprecise in his words. As Lake and everyone else in the media should know, all of our electronic communications are collected by the NSA.
Kurt Schlichter explained how it works at Townhall:
You don’t go plant a bug in Trump Tower. You wiretap the opposition party’s nominee for president by running a search through the communications that the government “incidentally” collected. And if you find something juicy, then you call up your buddy at the Post and hand it over.
As Nunes has acknowledged, the unmasking requests were probably lawful because the only standard for senior officials to learn the names of U.S. citizens incidentally collected is that “it must have some foreign intelligence value.” That standard can be very broad.
That isn’t to say that the unmasking was not politically corrupt, or that the person who leaked the information was not breaking the law. Spying on one’s political opponents in order to damage an incoming president’s agenda is Third World, banana republic-style political corruption. And whoever leaked Michael Flynn’s intercepted communications to the media did indeed commit a felony.
Fox News’ Adam Housley reported on Friday that his intelligence sources were concerned not only about the unmasking of the names, but about the leaking of names for political purposes that had nothing to do with national security — and everything to do with “hurting and embarrassing the Trump transition and his team.”
Housley noted that his sources were “not Trump people,” but intel officials “frustrated with the politicization of our intelligence agencies.”
This morning, Housley tweeted that there is “more coming.”
Drip….Drip….more coming. Only on @FoxNews…tho others are going to catch on
— Adam Housley (@adamhousley) April 3, 2017
Last month, Susan Rice appeared on television — of course — and denied any knowledge of “incidental collection of intelligence” on Trump transition officials. On PBS NewsHour, she said “I know nothing about this,” and “I was surprised to see reports from Chairman Nunes on that account today.”
Perhaps after appearing on five Sunday talk shows on September 16, 2012, to lie about the Benghazi terror attack, we should have known she was the culprit then: