By Pogo, a Trail Mix Contributor
Over recent days we’ve seen reports Susan Rice repeatedly asked to unmask the identities of Trump transition members who were incidentally surveilled. Sources: Bloomberg, NYT, Fox, Wapo, The Atlantic.
From the Atlantic:
Ever since Devin Nunes’s mysterious announcement of supposed surveillance of Trump transition team members two weeks ago, the story has operated on two levels. The first is why Nunes behaved the way he did—with mysterious cloak-and-dagger maneuvers—and who he got his information from. It now appears that despite rushing to brief President Trump on his news, the GOP chairman of the House Intelligence Committee received his information from the White House in the first place.
The second, and more obscure, concerns the actual material that Nunes had. He was cagey about it, in part because it is apparently classified. He said that Trump transition team members were subject to “incidental collection,” which refers to U.S. persons being caught up in legal surveillance of foreign targets. There was no indication of illegality, but the names Americans who are incidentally collected are typically meant to be redacted, and Nunes said some names were possibly improperly revealed, or “unmasked,” by the Obama administration.
If that is true, who was behind the unmasking? Bloomberg View’s Eli Lake reports one answer Monday:
White House lawyers last month discovered 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.
Lake further reports that Rice’s pattern of requesting unmasking was discovered by Trump National Security Council staffer Ezra Cohen-Watnick, whom The New York Times reported last week was one of Nunes’s sources. Cohen-Watnick informed the White House Counsel’s office, Lake reports.
Rice has not commented on the report. It would likely be legal for Rice to request the unmasking — “The standard for senior officials to learn the names of U.S. persons incidentally collected is that it must have some foreign intelligence value, a standard that can apply to almost anything,” Lake notes.
As Lake notes, nothing he — or anyone else — has uncovered lends credence to President Trump’s outlandish and unsupported claim that Obama ordered surveillance of him at Trump Tower prior to the election. Nor does the new story suggest any illegal behavior on Rice’s part. As with each step in the story, this one offers only a small sliver of information. Many experts seem to think the Bloomberg View story does not imply anything improper or unusual. Others withheld judgment, saying there’s simply not enough information to judge.
The article goes on …
So what’s a poor Congress to do with this? Rand Paul wants Susan Rice under oath about it before Congress. My question is “Why?” Although the “revelation” is new, there is no indication anything Rice did was illegal, and I’ve seen nothing indicating it was outside normal channels. Most importantly, it does nothing to back up Trump’s bogus claim about Obama surveilling Trump Tower. The information should come out though – to determine if anyone on the Trump team was doing what Eric Prince (Betsy DeVos’ brother) was doing to open back channel communication with our enemies. Now THAT would be worth investigating.
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