Former Obama National Security Adviser and shameless liar Susan Rice has been in the news today. It all started out with an Eli Lake article in Bloomberg, my colleague Martin Walsh covered it here. Lake reported:
White House lawyers last month learned 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.”
Adam Housley at Fox News moves the story a bit further:
Multiple sources tell Fox News that Susan Rice, former national security adviser under then-President Barack Obama, requested to unmask the names of Trump transition officials caught up in surveillance.
The unmasked names, of people associated with Donald Trump, were then sent to all those at the National Security Council, some at the Defense Department, then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and then-CIA Director John Brennan – essentially, the officials at the top, including former Rice deputy Ben Rhodes.
The names were part of incidental electronic surveillance of candidate and President-elect Trump and people close to him, including family members, for up to a year before he took office.
When names of Americans are incidentally collected, they are supposed to be masked, meaning the name or names are redacted from reports – whether it is international or domestic collection, unless it is an issue of national security, crime or if their security is threatened in any way. There are loopholes and ways to unmask through backchannels, but Americans are supposed to be protected from incidental collection. Sources told Fox News that in this case, they were not.
Circa has a bit more color:
The intelligence reports included some intercepts of Americans talking to foreigners and many more involving foreign leaders talking about the future president, his campaign associates or his transition, the sources said. Most if not all had nothing to do with the Russian election interference scandal, the sources said, speaking only on condition of anonymity given the sensitive nature of the materials.
Ordinarily, such references to Americans would be redacted or minimized by the NSA before being shared with outside intelligence sources, but in these cases names were sometimes unmasked at the request of Rice or the intelligence reports were specific enough that the American’s identity was easily ascertained, the sources said.
Things to keep in mind at this point: This is directly related to the documents Devin Nunes reviewed last week. None of the foreign officials involved were Russian. This does not vindicate Trump’s claim of having come under personal surveillance but until we know the names of the people who were unmasked it certainly does not refute the claims. Rice’s actions, to the extent that she requested the unmasking, were probably not illegal but it is difficult to find any aboveboard and sane reason why the President’s National Security Adviser would be interested in the conversations of members of the Trump campaign. There is, in my view, no conceivable reason for listening into the conversations of the Trump transition.
One can’t help but note that this story fits very neatly into what a cadre of former Obama officials were bragging about at the time, that is, that they were spreading classified information far outside usual channels to “preserve” that information from Vladimir Putin personally destroying it.
Naturally, anytime an impropriety is alleged to have taken place during the Obama administration, be it Fast & Furious or Benghazi or the IRS or whatever, the Washington Post is always johnny-on-the-spot in trying to bat the story down. To try to knock down the Rice story the cretinous Paul Waldman is dragooned into service because no one is more trustworthy on political matters than a guy who writes for American Prospect and Media Matters.
I’d say that if members of the Trump team were in communication with foreign actors who were under surveillance, that damn sure has “foreign intelligence value,” and it’s not too surprising that the national security adviser would want to know about it. We’re talking about associates of a presidential candidate communicating with representatives of a foreign power.
Maybe, maybe not. What we do know is that the Obama administration routinely used legal surveillance of foreign nationals in order to carry out very illegal surveillance of Americans, particularly members of Congress who weren’t on the White House pad. As I said, what we do know is that these conversations do not involve Russia, and communicating with foreign diplomats is neither illegal nor improper.
In his “take down,” Waldman manages to not mention a single relevant issue and appoints himself as someone who is looking out for Trump’s best interests by telling people to stop talking about Rice.
Whether this becomes a significant scandal is dependent upon exactly one thing: Do any measurable number of Americans still believe that the federal intelligence apparatus placing you under surveillance — and I’m willing to bet good money as more of this story comes out we’re going to find a non-trivial part of this surveillance of US persons was targeted on members of the Trump team without any regard to foreign intelligence applicability — and then sharing your name widely within the federal government is wrong? Everything I’ve read from conservatives so far leads me to believe that the Post is correct. This is not a scandal because the objective was to damage Trump and that makes everything fine.