Former national security advisor Susan Rice asked dozens of times for the names of Donald Trump associates to be ‘unmasked’ in foreign surveillance reports.
Rice is the Obama administration official whose name became a punchline after her repeated false claims that the 2012 Benghazi terror attacks were caused by a crude Internet video.
From her position as chief of the National Security Council, according to a Bloomberg columnist, Rice asked government agencies to identify names that had been withheld from raw intelligence reports linked with Trump campaign and transition figures.
There is not necessarily anything illegal or unusual about a national security adviser seeking to unmask names in raw reports, in order to fully understand the meaning of intercepted conversations.
Former U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice asked intelligence agencies dozens of times to ‘unmask’ the names of Donald Trump associates that were redacted from raw intelligence reports, it has emerged
President Donald Trump claimed in a series of March 4 tweets that Obama had ‘wiretapped’ him before the November election; he later clarified that he was talking broadly about secret surveillance
But in this case those identities – including the name of then-National Security Advisor Mike Flynn – were subsequently leaked and made public.
That is a federal felony.
The first drip of information hinting at Rice’s involvement came Friday when Fox News reported that the names of several Trumpworld figures were exposed by someone ‘very well known, very high up, very senior in the intelligence world.’
WHAT IS UNMASKING?
When U.S. intelligence services conduct surveillance of foreign targets, it’s possible that American citizens can be swept up in recorded conversations, intercepted emails or other surveillance.
That can happen when Americans who are not targets of an investigation are ‘incidentally’ captured talking to a target. it can also occur when targets merely mention them during a conversation or in a document.
When this happens, intelligence analysts routinely delete the Americans’ names and replace them with vague identifiers like ‘U.S. Person Number One’ or ‘Person A’ – masking their identity from other government officials who may look at reports.
Senior intelligence officials can request the ‘unmasking’ of those names under certain circumstances, but that creates a risk that the names will be leaked.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said last week that the Trump administration had uncovered unspecified material ‘in the normal course of business,’ which was then shared with the House Intelligence Committee’s Republican chairman Devin Nunes.
Bloomberg reports that the National Security Council was conducting a review of U.S. policy on how people’s identities can be unmasked after their communications are captured incidentally in the course of conducting foreign surveillance.
That routine inquiry apparently uncovered a pattern of Rice’s requests.
The names of U.S. citizens who aren’t the targets of court-approved snooping are typically replaced with designations such as ‘U.S. Person One’ or ‘Person A’ before reports can be circulated to the broad variety of American intelligence agencies.
Ezra Cohen-Watnick, one of the Trump administration intelligence officials who showed Nunes the mysterious materials last week, was conducting the ‘unmasking’ review.
He brought his concerns about Rice’s behavior to the White House counsel’s office in February – before President Trump began tweeting claims on March 4 that the Obama administration ‘wiretapped’ him at his private New York city office.
Rice had access to intelligence reports that also 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,’ according to Bloomberg.
It’s not known whether the president was told, before his now famous tweet storm, what the White House counsel’s office had learned.
But Trump told Financial Times on Saturday that his tweets are ‘turning out to be true.’
Rice insisted last month that she was in the dark about any efforts to identify Trump-linked private individuals in intelligence reports, after Nunes publicly referred to ‘unmasking.’
‘I know nothing about this,’ she told PBS. ‘I was surprised to see reports from Chairman Nunes on that account today.’
(via Daily Mail)