In what has become a bombshell scoop, Eli Lake has reported on Bloomberg that it was former National Security Adviser Susan Rice who prompted the unmasking of Trump campaign and transition team members in reports on electronic eavesdropping of foreign nationals.
Lake writes of how Rice’s actions were discovered:
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.
Unmasking occurs when a senior official asks that an American who has been incidentally caught up in surveillance to identified. Typically these American’s names are obscured with unidentifiable monikers like “American 1.” But if an official can make the case that they need to know who the American is for further analysis, the American’s identity may be “unmasked.”
The Wall Street Journal has verified the Bloomberg report, and explained that Rice was gathering a trove of political information on the Trump team. None of which had anything to do with Russia, incidentally.
A U.S. intelligence official confirms to us the bombshell news, first reported Monday by Bloomberg, that Ms. Rice requested the name of at least one Trump transition official listed in an intelligence report in the months between Election Day and Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Ms. Rice received summaries of U.S. eavesdropping either when foreign officials were discussing the Trump team, or when foreign officials were conversing with a Trump transition member. The surveillance was legally authorized, but the identities of U.S. citizens are typically masked so they cannot be known outside intelligence circles. Ms. Rice asked for and learned the identity of the Trump official, whose name hasn’t been publicly disclosed and our source declined to share.
Our source did confirm that Ms. Rice also examined dozens of other intelligence summaries that technically masked Trump official identities but were written in such a way as to make obvious who those officials were. This means that the masking was essentially meaningless. All this is highly unusual—and troubling. Unmasking does occur, but it is typically done by intelligence or law-enforcement officials engaged in antiterror or espionage investigations. Ms. Rice would have had no obvious need to unmask Trump campaign officials other than political curiosity.
We’re told by a source who has seen the unmasked documents that they included political information about the Trump transition team’s meetings and policy intentions. We are also told that none of these documents had anything to do with Russia or the FBI investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. While we don’t know if Ms. Rice requested these dozens of reports, we are told that they were only distributed to a select group of recipients—conveniently including Ms. Rice.
This information comes mere weeks after Rice claimed she knew nothing about the intelligence reports (see the video below). Alex Griswold writes at The Washington Free Beacon that even before Rice was denying any knowledge, White House lawyers had discovered her unmasking activities.
White House lawyers discovered Rice’s dozens of requests last month, during 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,” Eli Lake of Bloomberg reported Monday, citing U.S. officials.
But Rice, who Newsweek once called Obama’s “right-hand woman,” denied during a PBS interview last month having any knowledge of the intelligence community’s alleged incidental surveillance of Trump’s transition team.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, asserted in March that he had seen evidence that some of the Trump transition team’s communications with foreign actors were surveilled by the Obama administration.
“What I’ve read seems to be some level of surveillance activity, perhaps legal, but I don’t know that it’s right and I don’t know if the American people would be comfortable with what I’ve read,” Nunes said.
I’ve been warning about Susan Rice since she became Obama’s U.N. “Czar” back in 2009. Rice has bungled nearly everything she’s touched. Starting with helping to squash a planned handover of Osama bin Laden in 1996. In 2009 I cited Joseph Klein on Rice’s record.
On FrontPageMag.com, Joseph Klein writes that as a staff member on President Clinton’s National Security Council, Susan Rice “helped persuade Clinton to rebuff Sudan’s offer in 1996 to turn Osama bin Laden over to us while he was living in Sudan. The reason that Rice did not want any dealings with Sudan whatsoever, even to obtain custody of the terrorist mastermind or to receive intelligence information on terrorists from Sudanese authorities, was her consternation over Sudan’s human rights record. Instead we allowed bin Laden to move his terrorist operations to Afghanistan and spread mass killings all over the world, thanks in no small measure to Rice’s mindless advice.”
After the massacre in Benghazi, Susan Rice was the chief architect of the preposterous “spontaneous protest” story. It’s no surprise that Susan Rice is at the center of yet another scandal in Washington.