Nate Jackson / April 3, 2017

So, Susan Rice Was the One ‘Unmasking’

Was Obama’s adviser pushing the “Russia hacked the election” narrative?

Bloomberg’s Eli Lake has a critical update on the kerfuffle involving Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Devin Nunes, U.S. intelligence and Russia.

> 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.”

The relevant intelligence reports pertained largely to conversations between foreign leaders regarding the Trump administration’s transition, though some of those conversations involved members of Trump’s team. And, as Lake notes, Rice’s behavior highlights the issue so many Americans have with the wide net of government surveillance — trusting those who are doing the surveilling.

It doesn’t help that back in March she insisted, “I know nothing about this.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and the one leading the congressional investigation into the whole affair, has been embattled by controversy because of a visit to the White House to review relevant material. Unfortunately, he’s come off looking more like a Trump surrogate than an independent investigator. But Lake explains why that visit wasn’t what it seems:

> The news about Rice also sheds light on the strange behavior of Nunes in the last two weeks. It emerged last week that he traveled to the White House last month, the night before he made an explosive allegation about Trump transition officials caught up in incidental surveillance. At the time he said he needed to go to the White House because the reports were only on a database for the executive branch. It now appears that he needed to view computer systems within the National Security Council that would include the logs of Rice’s requests to unmask U.S. persons.

Knowing what we know about the Obama administration, political considerations trumped all other concerns. So while Rice may have acted within the law, a legal battle may also ensue to determine where she was acting in the interest of national security or Obama’s political objectives. The overarching thing to remember is that Democrats are heavily invested in the “Russia hacked the election” narrative so as to delegitimize Donald Trump. Whatever Rice did was almost surely motivated in part by that objective. Readers will recall how adept Rice is at shaping narratives — she was the first to trot out the “YouTube video” excuse for Benghazi


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