"There’s a reason why Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) called Susan Rice the ‘Typhoid Mary of the Obama administration.” Whenever disaster strikes, she’s somehow involved. The latest episode: she reportedly requested that at least one member of Donald Trump’s transition team be unmasked from the incidental collection by our intelligence services. This whole saga began when President Trump tweeted allegations that Trump Tower was wiretapped by the Obama White House. Granted, the word choice could have been better, but we now know that the surveillance of Donald Trump and his campaign began before he was the GOP nominee, and that the person who did the unmasking was high up the food chain, well known, and not a member of the FBI. That was when the roads merged with Rice.
Now, in March, Rice said she didn’t know about the incidental collection. Now, she says it was part of the job. Keep in mind that Rice is not an arbiter of truth and is a known liar who told the nation that the Benghazi terror attack was a spontaneous reaction to a YouTube video that had been posted months before the assault, when in fact the Obama administration knew from the get-go that this was an act of terrorism. But 2012 election optics took priority.
The evidence of the unmasking occurred when House Intelligence chair Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) held a brief presser on the Hill about the unmasking before taking a stroll to the White House to brief the president. He also viewed the documents in question on White House grounds, which stirred controversy. He took heat from the rest of the committee for keeping them in the dark on this development, but it must’ve been significant because ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) viewed the documents last week—and has gone silent. Schiff is an attack dog. This is out of character. Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer tweeted that this is news, and that it’s interesting that the Obama White House is unmasking Trump officials when the FBI is the authority investigating the Trump-Russia collusion allegations.
Well, this isn’t good for the liberal narrative that Trump might have colluded with Russia. They’re waiting like kids on Christmas for the smoking gun—that the Trump team did collude with Russian intelligence to sink Hillary Clinton—to be unveiled. There is zero evidence to prove this, kids. And from the looks of it, neither the House nor the Senate Intelligence Committees have found any solid evidence to substantiate such an explosive claim. So, what to do about this Rice angle. Well, you deny or bury it. As David Burge tweeted some time ago, you cover this story “with a pillow,” until it stops moving.
Mollie Hemingway at The Federalist noted how CNN outright denied that the Rice story could be true, with Chris Cuomo dismissing it as a right wing conspiracy theory. Why? Well, because associates of Rice said it was false. That’s right—friends of a known liar says all of this is fiction. Well, I’m sold. Said by no one ever. No, wait—that’s not quite right. CNN went dark of the story on the day the story broke from Bloomberg’s Eli Lake, so I guess they were sold. Only to have Fox News and MSNBC (what a time to be alive, huh?) cover the story pervasively. MSNBC even had an interview with Rice, who denied leaking anything. Again, she’s lied before. The trust ship left a long time ago for fried Rice. CNN’s Jim Sciutto, the national security correspondent at the network, also dismissed the development. There’s a possible catch here though. Sciutto worked for the State Department between 2011 and 2013. As Matt Balan at Mediaite wrote, CNN allowed an State Department alum, someone who formerly worked with Rice, to run interference on the story and keep the anti-Trump narrative on track.
T. Becket Adams had a rational suggestion to the news media that thinks this story is a “distraction.” How about just doing your jobs?
It may be that the "unmasking" of Americans was perfectly legal, and that the role Rice played was minuscule. Once the facts come out, it may be that the entire story has been overblown, and that nothing unusual or unethical occurred.
However, the facts are still being collected.
Reporters are wrong to blow off the story as a "diversion." There are legitimate questions that need to be answered. Audiences deserve that much. Dismissing the story outright as a "distraction" before all the facts are in rightly raises additional concerns – and suspicion.
Well, that’s not happening. Instead, MSNBC went into full meltdown mode, where host and resident Hitler scholar Chris Matthews said that the whole story is—you guessed it—racist and sexist.
Concerning unmasking overall, a review by the Director of National Intelligence found that Americans caught on FISA intelligence reports were unmasked roughly 25 percent of the time in 2015. Fox News's Catherine Herridge and Pamela K. Browne also noted that the information that Rice unmasked was detailed to the point where it could be viewed as a private investigator’s file. Requests for unmasking must be approved by the NSA, and that such information can only been viewed by the requester. That obviously did not happen.
The intelligence reports at the center of the Susan Rice unmasking controversy were detailed, and almost resembled a private investigator’s file, according to a Republican congressman familiar with the documents.
"This is information about their everyday lives," Rep. Peter King of New York, a member of the House Intelligence committee said. "Sort of like in a divorce case where lawyers are hired, investigators are hired just to find out what the other person is doing from morning until night and then you try to piece it together later on.”
The Office for the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the 17 intelligence agencies, said "...in 2015, NSA disseminated 4,290 FAA Section 702 intelligence reports that included U.S. person information. Of those 4,290 reports, the U.S. person information was masked in 3,168 reports and unmasked in 1,122 reports."
The report said "NSA is allowed to unmask the identity for the specific requesting recipient only under certain conditions and where specific additional controls are in place" and those conditions were met for "654 U.S. person identities" in 2015.
That means Americans were identified in 26 percent of the cases, or roughly one in four intelligence reports.
While not commenting on the individual case, a former senior intelligence official explained the request must be approved by the NSA. Rice would have understood that there is an extensive government paper trail, that can be audited within the NSA, that shows who requested the unmasking, on what basis, and whether it was granted. This raises more questions about Rice, her motivation and whether it was authorized higher up, offering cover.
If approved, the former senior intelligence official said, only the requester, in this case Rice, would receive the information. Based on Fox News’ reporting, the information was shared beyond Rice, but it is not clear if those who received it had a “need to know.”
This story isn’t going away until all avenues of inquiry are answered. CNN would do well to be part of that effort." -- Matt Vespa