Former national security advisor Susan Rice requested the “unmasking” of U.S. citizens connected to President Donald Trump’s campaign and transition on dozens of occasions, according to a bombshell report published Monday.
“The pattern of Rice’s requests was discovered in a National Security Council review of the government’s policy on ‘unmasking,’” according to the report from Bloomberg.
“We really have to be very careful about making sure the power of the government to eavesdrop on communications is not used for political ends, and this clearly had a political benefit to opponents of the Trump administration.”
“National Security Council’s senior director for intelligence, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, was conducting the review,” the report continued. “In February Cohen-Watnick discovered Rice’s multiple requests to unmask U.S. persons in intelligence reports that related to Trump transition activities.”
The revelation would seem to fit with a past pattern of behavior in which Rice placed partisan, political interests over national security concerns — despite the seriousness of her position.
“She has negative credibility based on her shameful deceptions on Benghazi where she and everybody else covered up the Islamist motivation for the attack because it did not conform to the Administration’s politically correct narrative,” Robert Kaufman, a professor of public policy at Pepperdine, told LifeZette. “Her error cost lives.”
Kaufman was referring to an infamous interview given by rice after the Sept. 11, 2012 assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi Libya. Rice, during an interview on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” suggested the attack was in response to a “heinous and offensive video” on YouTube. The claim was later thoroughly discredited and exposed as a red herring meant to distract from security failures in the country that could be placed at the feet of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“We are nowhere close to having that with President Trump’s associates even if you put the worst construction on their activities,” Kaufman added. “No foreign policy official in the Obama Administration — above all President Obama — has any legitimate business criticizing Trump for propitiating enemies. Obama’s deception about Iranian behavior to get his feckless deal approved epitomizes that,” Kaufman said.
Revelations about Rice’s unmasking requests also raise serious questions over the Obama administration’s use of surveillance for political ends — including the push to discredit critics of the Iranian nuclear deal.
“It gets back to a long-standing issue that really predates Trump,” Eli Lake, author of the Bloomberg report, tsaid Monday on “The Laura Ingraham Show.”
Lake detailed how a year and a half ago “the Wall Street Journal broke … that the White House was getting information on members of Congress and members of Jewish organizations as they met with senior Israeli officials — who were legitimately monitored by the U.S. government — during the Iran deal fight.”
“The Republicans were opposed to the Iran deal, the White House was in campaign mode pushing for that as their foreign policy legacy,” said Lake. “And while this was going on conversations between Benjamin Netanyahu, ambassador Ron Dermer, and members of Congress, and other Jewish organizations that were opposed to the Iran deal were finding their way to the White House,” Lake continued.
What appears to make Rice’s numerous unmasking requests that much more questionable is the fact that, according to Lake, the surveillance and intelligence from which Rice was finding individuals to unmask was not of particular national security importance nor did it have anything to do with Russia.
“These reports were just kind of routine things talking about what foreign diplomats thought of the Trump transition … what their ideas on policy were,” said Lake.
Lake warned the apparent overstep of surveillance power has already had a tangible political impact.
“We really have to be very careful about making sure the power of the government to eavesdrop on communications is not used for political ends, and this clearly had a political benefit to opponents of the Trump administration because it forced Flynn to resign,” he said.
“Democrats who have been fighting this tooth and nail and have tried to make this story about [House Intelligence Committee Chairman] Devin Nunes … briefing the president – they ought to be congratulating Devin Nunes and others for bringing this to our attention,” said Lake.
The important question now, said Lake, is “was this standard operating procedure in the last couple years of the Obama administration?”
“We know that something like this happened when it came to the Israelis and members of Congress,” said Lake. “When else did it happen?”