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 – and she wasn’t the only one
- Obama national security advisor Susan Rice is accused of repeatedly asking U.S. agencies to ‘unmask’ Trumpworld names from raw intelligence reports
- A new report says Rice wasn’t the only one in the Obama White House to do this
- It’s not unusual for a high-ranking national security official to ask for the names of people ‘incidentally’ surveilled, in order to understand a report’s context
- But the name of Rice’s successor Mike Flynn was subsequently leaked to the press – which constitutes a felony
- The new report also says Flynn was just one of at least two Trump officials whose names were left exposed
Former national security advisor Susan Rice wasn’t the only Obama administration official to request the ‘unmasking’ of members of President Donald Trump’s transition team – and her successor Mike Flynn was just one of at least two who were left exposed.
Flynn was forced out of his job after a transcript of an intercepted phone call was leaked to The Washington Post, detailing a conversation he had last year with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. – a discussion that reportedly included mention of rolling back U.S. sanctions on Moscow.
It’s not known who the second Trump transition official is, but The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday night that there were two – based on information from a Republican linked to the House Intelligence Committee.
‘The official said Ms. Rice had requested the unmasking of at least one transition official—not Mr. Flynn—who was part of multiple foreign conversations that weren’t related to Russia,’ the Journal reported.
And ‘Rice wasn’t the administration official who instigated Mr. Flynn’s unmasking.’ That puts at least one other Obama White House official in the picture.
Retired Gen. Mike Flynn (left), who served briefly as National Security Advisor before being forced out, wasn’t the only Trump transition official whose name was ‘unmasked’
Rice forcefully denied on Tuesday that she purposely collected classified intelligence information about anyone associated with the Trump campaign or transition, and said any suspicion that she leaked names to the press was ridiculous.
‘The allegations that somehow Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political purposes, that’s absolutely false,’ she said.
She used the same words – ‘absolutely false’ – to deny a report in The Daily Caller that she had requested intelligence information on Trump associates and compiled it into a spreadsheet.
‘No spreadsheet, no nothing of the sort,’ Rice said.
she blasted Trump’s tweeted claims on March 4 that Obama had authorized surveillance of him and his team before and after the November election.
‘There was no such collection, surveillance on Trump Tower or Trump individuals … and by that I mean directed by the White House or targeted at Trump individuals,’ she said.
Rice forcefully denied on Tuesday that she or anyone in the White House ever went out of their way to ‘unmask’ the identities of Trump or his associates, but The Wall Street Journal says at least two White House officials – and two from Trumpworld – are in the picture
White House officials, including any president, Rice added, ‘do not have the ability to order such collection.’
‘That can only come from the Justice Department through an established process. It never originates in the White House. So not only did it not occur, it didn’t occur and it could not have occurred – directed by the White House.’
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.
Rice said she was ‘surprised’ and ‘shocked’ by Trump’s accusation, saying ‘it had no basis in fact.’
‘And it wasn’t typical of the way presidents treat their predecessors, she said on MSNBC.
Host Andrea Mitchell asked her whether she ever intentionally ‘unmasked’ Trump-related names ‘in order to spy on them and expose them.
‘Absolutely not for any political purposes, to spy, expose, anything,’ Rice responded.
She also flatly denied leaking the name of Gen. Michael Flynn, her successor, to reporters.
‘I leaked nothing to nobody, and never have and never would,’ Rice insisted.
Tuesday on CNN, Rep. Adam Schiff – the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee – defended Rice and said she has been ‘a perennial target for the hard right.’
Schiff said there is ‘a strong desire by the White House that we lose our focus, that we not pursue the investigation of Russia, particularly as it might impact the Trump campaign.’
He also said continuing Rice-bashing ‘is appealing to the Breitbart crowd.’
Rice explained Tuesday that it isn’t uncommon for White House or cabinet officials to request the unmasking of names of U.S. citizens when they are incidentally snared in a spying net.
‘There were occasions when I would receive a report in which a U.S. person was referred to. Name not provided, just “U.S. person”,’ she recalled.
‘And sometimes in that context, in order to understand the importance of the report, and assess its significance, it was necessary to find out, or request the information as to who that U.S. official was.’
Rice said intelligence officials ‘can’t be passive consumers’ of information.
But ‘there’s no equivalence between so-called unmasking and leaking,’ she insisted.
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.
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.
Rice sat down with MSNBC reporter Andrea Mitchell for a noontime interview that the network hastily began promoting at 11:30 a.m.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said a half-hour before Rice’s interview that some news outlets defending Rice have ‘an invested angle and narrative’
House Intelligence Committee ranking Democrat Adam Schiff said Susan Rice is ‘a perennial target for the hard right’
President Trump retweeted a message from Internet newsman Matt Drudge on Tuesday, pointing to an article that claimed Rice ordered intelligence agencies to spy on him
Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul appeared on Morning and demanded that Rice testify under oath before Congress
Rice is being blamed for requesting that members of President Trump’s teams names were unmasked in intelligence reports
Rice, shown in the White House situation room (at left) listening to former president Barack Obama, is now at the center of the firestorm over whether they snooped on Trump during the 2016 election season
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
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes got a sneak peek last week at intelligence reports at the White House which are now believed to be security logs showing how often Rice asked to know which Trump officials were identified ‘incidentally’ in court-approved foreign snooping
White House Press secretary Sean Spicer said Friday that unspecified documents seen by Nunes were uncovered ‘in the normal course of business’
Trump hasn’t stopped tweeting about reports that support his March claims that he was surveilled for political purposes