Susan Rice, the national security advisor for President Obama, made dozens of requests seeking to unmask the identities of Donald Trump associates identified in raw intelligence reports.
Rice’s involvement in the request to unmask the Trump officials was discovered by White House lawyers last month, Bloomberg View’s Eli Lake reported on Monday.
Michael Cernovich, the pro-Trump publisher of Cernovich Media, first identified Rice in a report on Sunday night.
According to Lake’s sources, Rice’s requests to unmask Trump advisers was discovered by Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the National Security Council’s senior director for intelligence.
He began reviewing computer logs for requests of intelligence reports last month and took the information of Rice’s involvement to the White House’s general counsel.
Lake reports further on what information Rice obtained:
The intelligence reports were summaries of monitored conversations — primarily between foreign officials discussing the Trump transition, but also in some cases direct contact between members of the Trump team and monitored foreign officials. One U.S. official familiar with the reports said they contained valuable political information on the Trump transition such as whom the Trump team was meeting, the views of Trump associates on foreign policy matters and plans for the incoming administration.
Cohen-Watnick was in the news last week after it was revealed that he was one of the White House officials who was in contact with House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes about surveillance that may have been conducted against Trump’s campaign. While Nunes has been heavily criticized for withholding information about his interactions with the White House, Rice’s involvement in the unmasking request does appear to support his concerns about potentially improper meddling by the Obama White House.
The question that now needs to be answered about Rice’s requests is whether she unmasked the Trump advisers out of legitimate national security concerns or for political reasons.
Joseph diGenova, a former U.S. attorney, believes it is the latter.
“This is now at a point where Ms. Rice and three other people are going to need lawyers. This is going to make the General Flynn look like a picnic. These folks are in very, very serious trouble,” diGenova said during an interview with WMAL radio station.
The retired prosecutor claimed to have information about Rice’s involvement and that of three other Obama White House officials.
“What was done by the Obama White House…was to use the American intercept capability of [National Security Agency] and the CIA for political purposes, not the determine intelligence,” he said.
But Bradley Moss, a national security attorney, says that more needs to be known about Rice’s activities and that there could be legitimate reasons for the Obama White House to have sought the names of Trump officials whose names were incidentally collected.
“Without more detail, this shows little more than the fact that senior Obama Administration national security officials were expressing interest in the particular details of the intelligence collection that was incidentally implicating Trump associates,” Moss told The Daily Caller.
“It may come to pass that evidence emerges showing Susan Rice (or other officials) had improper political motivations for requesting the unmasking of the identities of the Trump associates. Whatever those motivations might have been, however, it has nothing to do with the authority to unmask in and of itself, which resided with the [National Security Agency] and its lawyers.”
As Lake notes in his report, Rice’s requests for the identities of Trump advisers still does not support Trump’s claim last month that Obama ordered wiretaps and surveillance against Trump Tower and Trump advisers.
Last month, Rice denied knowing anything about Nunes’ claims about surveillance.
“I know nothing about this,” she said in an interview with PBS.