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.
All of this helps to explain the actions in the last week of House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, the one official in Washington who seems interested in pursuing the evidence of politicized surveillance. Mr. Nunes was roundly criticized by Democrats and the media last week for publicly revealing at least one instance of Obama White House unmasking, albeit without disclosing any names.
Now we know he is onto something. And we know that Mr. Nunes had to go to the White House to verify his information because the records containing Ms. Rice’s unmasking request are held at the National Security Council.
Where are the civil libertarians when you really need them? These columns support broad surveillance powers for national security, but executive officials need to be accountable if those powers are abused. If congressional oversight of U.S. intelligence operations is going to be worth the name, then it should include the unmasking of a political opponent by a senior official in the White House.
Democrats certainly raised a fuss during the Bush years and after Edward Snowden kicked off the debate about “metadata,” which are merely telephone numbers without names. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden went so far as to introduce a bill in 2013 to strengthen the ban on “reverse targeting”—in which intelligence agencies surveil foreigners but with the goal of capturing U.S. citizen communications.
Yet now that there’s evidence that the Obama Administration may have unmasked Trump officials, Democrats couldn’t care less. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on House Intelligence, has spent the past week denouncing Mr. Nunes for revealing that a name was unmasked and for having sources at the White House. But he hasn’t raised a peep about the unmasking itself or who was behind it.
The news about Ms. Rice’s unmasking role raises a host of questions for the Senate and House intelligence committees to pursue. What specific surveillance information did Ms. Rice seek and why? Was this information related to President Obama’s decision in January to make it possible for raw intelligence to be widely disbursed throughout the government? Was this surveillance of Trump officials “incidental” collection gathered while listening to a foreigner, or were some Trump officials directly targeted, or “reverse targeted”?
We were unable to locate Ms. Rice Monday to ask for comment, and she hasn’t addressed the unmasking as far as we know. But asked last month on the “PBS NewsHour” that Trump officials might have been surveilled, she said, “I know nothing about this” and “I was surprised to see reports from Chairman Nunes on that account today.” She certainly deserves her turn under oath on Capitol Hill.
None of this should deter investigators from looking into the Trump-Russia connection. By all means follow that evidence where it leads. But the media have been running like wildebeest after that story while ignoring how the Obama Administration might have abused domestic surveillance for its political purposes. Americans deserve to know the truth about both.
New York Post
Again, nothing on the public record so far shows that anyone on Team Trump said anything improper on those calls.
It’s no surprise that US spooks intercept foreign officials’ calls. But intelligence community reports don’t disclose the names of US citizens on the other end. To get that info, a high official must (but rarely does) push to “unmask” the Americans’ names.
Bloomberg’s Eli Lake now reports that Rice started doing just that last year.
That was perfectly legal. But we also know that the Obama administration later changed the classification of the “unmasked” transcripts, and other similar material, in order to spread the information as widely as possible within the government.
The motive for that was (supposedly) to prevent Team Trump from burying it all once it took over. But the result was that it made it relatively safe for someone (or someones) to leak the info to the press.
Which made it likely somebody would leak. So Team Obama’s “spread the info” initiative certainly broke the spirit of the laws.
Those leaks have produced a nagging political sore for the new administration — leading to the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn, helping to drive down President Trump’s approval ratings and making it harder for him to push his program through.
Rice certainly wasn’t politically naive about the political uses of intelligence information. She was, after all, the Obama official who famously made the rounds spouting the false “Our intel says it was about the video” line on the Benghazi attack back during the 2012 campaign.
All of this puts the actions of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes in clearer perspective. After viewing the Rice requests at the White House, he disclosed that Trump officials had been caught up in incidental surveillance.
All of which is a reminder that two issues are in play here: Russian meddling in the election, about which the nation already knows plenty — and the Obama team’s efforts to sabotage Team Trump.
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 [Iran deal fixer] 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. [bold mine]
The Daily Caller
“What was produced by the intelligence community at the request of Ms. Rice were detailed spreadsheets of intercepted phone calls with unmasked Trump associates in perfectly legal conversations with individuals,” diGenova told The Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group Monday.
“The overheard conversations involved no illegal activity by anybody of the Trump associates, or anyone they were speaking with,” diGenova said. “In short, the only apparent illegal activity was the unmasking of the people in the calls.”
Other knowledgeable official sources with direct knowledge and who requested anonymity confirmed to TheDCNF diGenova’s description of surveillance reports Rice ordered one year before the 2016 presidential election.
Also on Monday, Fox News and Bloomberg News, citing multiple sources reported that Rice had requested the intelligence information that was produced in a highly organized operation. Fox said the unmasked names of Trump aides were given to officials at the National Security Council (NSC), the Department of Defense, James Clapper, President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, and John Brennan, Obama’s CIA Director.
Joining Rice in the alleged White House operations was her deputy Ben Rhodes, according to Fox.
Critics of the atmosphere prevailing throughout the Obama administration’s last year in office point to former Obama Deputy Defense Secretary Evelyn Farkas who admitted in a March 2 television interview on MSNBC that she “was urging my former colleagues,” to “get as much information as you can, get as much intelligence as you can, before President Obama leaves the administration.”
Farkas sought to walk back her comments in the weeks following: “I didn’t give anybody anything except advice.”
Col. (Ret.) James Waurishuk, an NSC veteran and former deputy director for intelligence at the U.S. Central Command, told TheDCNF that many hands had to be involved throughout the Obama administration to launch such a political spying program.
“The surveillance initially is the responsibility of the National Security Agency,” Waurishuk said. “They have to abide by this guidance when one of the other agencies says, ‘we’re looking at this particular person which we would like to unmask.’”
“The lawyers and counsel at the NSA surely would be talking to the lawyers and members of counsel at CIA, or at the National Security Council or at the Director of National Intelligence or at the FBI,” he said. “It’s unbelievable of the level and degree of the administration to look for information on Donald Trump and his associates, his campaign team and his transition team. This is really, really serious stuff.”
Michael Doran, former NSC senior director, told TheDCNF Monday that “somebody blew a hole in the wall between national security secrets and partisan politics.” This “was a stream of information that was supposed to be hermetically sealed from politics and the Obama administration found a way to blow a hole in that wall.”
Doran charged that potential serious crimes were undertaken because “this is a leaking of signal intelligence.”
“That’s a felony,” he told TheDCNF. “And you can get 10 years for that. It is a tremendous abuse of the system. We’re not supposed to be monitoring American citizens. Bigger than the crime, is the breach of public trust.”
Waurishuk said he was most dismayed that “this is now using national intelligence assets and capabilities to spy on the elected, yet-to-be-seated president.”
“We’re looking at a potential constitutional crisis from the standpoint that we used an extremely strong capability that’s supposed to be used to safeguard and protect the country,” he said. “And we used it for political purposes by a sitting President. That takes on a new precedent.”
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URL to article: http://dailycaller.com/2017/04/03/susan-rice-ordered-spy-agencies-to-produce-detailed-spreadsheets-involving-trump/
By Margaret Brennan
Susan Rice asked for "unmasking" for national security, source says
Then-National Security Adviser Susan Rice did at times ask that certain names in intelligence reports be “unmasked” in order to understand the context in which they were mentioned in intelligence reports, a former national security official told CBS News.
Rice asked for the identities of those Americans picked up during surveillance of foreign nationals when it was deemed important context for national security, and she did not ask that the information be disseminated broadly, according to this former official.
A Monday report by Bloomberg’s Eli Lake said that Rice requested the unmasking of Trump officials. Names of Americans swept up incidentally in the collection of intelligence are normally masked, or kept redacted, in intelligence briefings. However, the law provides for much leeway when it comes to unmasking by National Security Council officials, which suggests that Rice’s request was legal.
This type of request was not a special practice related to the Trump transition team, though the former official did not dispute the reporting by Bloomberg.
As a procedural matter, an intelligence briefer would have had to clear a requested unmasking with the head of the agency providing the intelligence. It is unclear why these intelligence intercepts were considered so important that they would need to be shared with the president’s national security adviser.
A former national security official told CBS News that when such information on U.S. individuals is approved and provided by the intelligence community, it is typically given directly to the senior official who made the request and is not broadly disseminated.
On some occasions, the official added, it is necessary to know the identity of U.S. persons in order to understand the context and substance of the intelligence. There is nothing improper, unusual or political about such requests.
President Donald Trump tweeted last month that Trump Tower had been wiretapped by President Obama, a claim for which there is still no evidence. Later, House Intelligence chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said he had obtained evidence showing that the names of Trump associates that were swept up incidentally by intelligence agencies had been unmasked. That evidence is believed to have been provided to Nunes by the White House.
Rice had said that she was unaware of the names of Trump officials being swept up incidentally by intelligence agencies. “I know nothing about this,” she told “PBS NewsHour” last month when asked about Nunes’ claim.
JAMES ROSEN, "SPECIAL REPORT" GUEST HOST: Brit, you have covered a lot of major stories in your five decades as a leading reporter. How significant is this revelation about Ambassador Susan Rice and the unmasking?
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: Well, I think it changes the atmosphere quite a bit, and it makes it clear that there is a legitimate case here to be investigated by the committees that are looking into this whole intelligence-Russia-Trump connection and the rest of it.
And some Republicans have been suggesting for some time that there's an aspect to this maybe not what Trump said exactly about him being surveilled or wiretapped but there is something here. This indicates that indeed there may be. Now, it doesn't prove it, it doesn't establish it finally but it certainly indicates that there is something to be investigated here because Susan Rice, as [FOX NEWS correspondent] John Roberts report pointed out, has a considerable reputation here.
She has always been quite political and if she was trying to get this information on who these people were, whose names were caught up in surveillance of foreign officials, that's something that is going to have to be something to be investigated. She'll probably have to testify. And so we now have an investigation that's very much on two tracks now. Despite efforts on at least one side to say really there is only the Trump-Russia, there are not two matters. That and this.