WASHINGTON – Multiple reports indicate former National Security Adviser Susan Rice was the Obama administration official who requested the unmasking of incoming Trump administration officials.
Mike Cernovich broke the story in an article in Medium on Sunday that said, "The White House Counsel’s office identified Rice as the person responsible for the unmasking after examining Rice’s document log requests."
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Unmasking is the revealing of names within the intelligence community of U.S. citizens whose communications were monitored during foreign surveillance.
According to Fox News, the unmasked names of people associated with Donald Trump were sent widely to top officials in the Obama administration.
That is a potential felony.
The unmasked names were reportedly sent to every member of the National Security Council, former Rice deputy Ben Rhodes, then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, then-CIA Director John Brennan and some officials at the Defense Department.
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The NSA is required to remove the names of Americans incidentally collected during foreign surveillance before sharing intelligence with other agencies unless there is an issue of national security, but Rice reportedly requested the unmasking of the identities of Trump associates.
Sources said some identities of those who were not unmasked were easy to discern because of telling details in the intelligence reports.
Cernovich also reported that New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman has had the information about Rice for at least two days, but "has chosen to sit on it in an effort to protect the reputation of former President Barack Obama."
Sources described as U.S. officials familiar with the matter told Bloomberg that White House lawyers discovered last month that 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."
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The information reportedly came to light during a National Security Council review of the government's policy on unmasking the identities of people not targeted for electronic monitoring but whose communications were intercepted incidentally.
Two sources told Bloomberg the review was conducted by the National Security Council's senior director for intelligence, Ezra Cohen-Watnick.
The sources told Bloomberg that "Cohen-Watnick discovered Rice's multiple requests to unmask U.S. persons in intelligence reports that related to Trump transition activities."
One source said the reports "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."
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Circa News reported that National Security Council staff in the Trump administration discovered evidence of Rice's involvement in the unmasking in computer logs left behind by the Obama administration.
Intelligence sources told Circa News that the logs indicated Rice began to show interest in NSA materials that included unmasked Americans' identities last July when Trump became the GOP presidential nominee, then accelerated after he won the election in November.
Circa News also reported that "most if not all" of the surveillance information collected on the Trump team had nothing to do with any of the alleged election interference by Russia.
Investigators will now want to determine if President Obama was aware of the unmasking, or perhaps even requested it.
Rice and Obama were particularly close.
In a Newsweek profile of Rice in 2014, a member of the National Security Council said she was "like a sister" to Obama.
Last month on PBS, Rice denied knowing anything about reports that information on Trump and his associates was incidentally collected.
However, Rice's credibility previously has come under question.
She went on all the major Sunday talk shows in September 2012 after the terrorist attack on the U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya, to blame the incident on a spontaneous protest over an Internet video defaming Islam, even though evidence has since shown the Obama administration knew that not to be true at the time.
As someone both in the intelligence community and in the White House, Rice would seem to fit the profile of whoever it was who sought to discredit the then-incoming Trump administration by claiming it had ties to the Russian government.
However, as WND reported, in early March, intelligence chiefs who have seen the classified information in question, including Obama’s own former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper as well as former acting CIA Director Michael Morell, have said they have seen no evidence of collusion between the Trump team and the Russian government.
That would appear to indicate the real reason the Obama administration was feverishly collecting and sharing the classified information was not for national security purposes but for political reasons.
The new information on Rice comes on top of bombshell revelations Friday that the spying by the Obama administration on then-presidential candidate Trump reportedly was even worse than what he has alleged.
And it had nothing to do with Russia but everything to do with politics.
Sources in the intelligence community claimed the unmasking of people in the Trump camp who were under surveillance was done purely "for political purposes" to "hurt and embarrass (candidate) Trump and his team."
The revelations came from rank-and-file members of the intelligence community who are fighting back against a stonewall by the leaders at the nation's spy agencies, according to Fox News.
Reporter Adam Housley said the sources were "not Trump" people but are "frustrated with the politics that is taking place in these (intelligence) agencies."
Here is what they told Fox:
1) Surveillance targeting the Trump team during the Obama administration began months ago, even before the president had become the GOP nominee in July.
2) The spying on the Trump team had nothing to do with the collection of foreign intelligence or an investigation into Russia election interference.
3) The spying was done purely "for political purposes" that "have nothing to do with national security and everything to do with hurting and embarrassing Trump and his team."
4) The person who did the unmasking was someone "very well known, very high up, very senior in the intelligence world, and is not in the FBI."
5) Congressional investigators know the name of at least one person who was unmasking names.
6) The initial surveillance on the Trump team led to "a number of names" being unmasked.
7) House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., has known about the unmasking since January.
8) Two sources in the intelligence community told Nunes who did the unmasking and told him at least one of the names of someone in the Trump team who was unmasked. The sources also gave Nunes the serial numbers of the classified reports that documented the unmasking.
9) It took Nunes a number of weeks to figure out how to see those intelligence reports because the intelligence agencies were stonewalling him and not allowing the chairman or other people to see them.
10) There were only two places Nunes could have seen the information: where the sources work, which would have blown their cover; and the Eisenhower Executive Office building on the White House grounds, which houses the National Security Council and has computers linked to the secure system containing the reports he sought.
11) Nunes got access to that system on March 21 with the help of two Trump administration officials.
The Wall Street Journal's Kimberly Strassel reported the documents Nunes saw confirming the Obama administration spied on the Trump team for months "aren’t easily obtainable, since they aren’t the 'finished' intelligence products that Congress gets to see."
She said there were "dozens of documents with information about Trump officials."
Strassel also reported there was a stonewall against the Intelligence committee chairman because, "for weeks Mr. Nunes has been demanding intelligence agencies turn over said documents—with no luck, so far."
She also learned that, along with former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, one other Trump official was unmasked.
(Flynn resigned after his unmasking was leaked to the press as part of reports that he spoke on the phone with the Russian ambassador before the new administration took office. President Trump said the two discussed nothing inappropriate and Flynn was just doing his job, but the president asked for the aide's resignation because he was not completely honest in his initial account of the conversation.)
But even the reports that did not unmask identities "were written in ways that made clear which Trump officials were being discussed."
And, importantly, the documents were "circulated at the highest levels of government."
Strassel concluded, "To sum up, Team Obama was spying broadly on the incoming administration."
Fox News also reports the Senate Judiciary Committee is looking into whether leaks of information targeting the Trump team could have come from the FBI, because it requested Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, warrants that led to the acquisition of some of the foreign surveillance.
Nunes has said the FBI has not responded to his requests for information, and a source told Fox the agency is refusing to cooperate with the House investigation.
Fox also reported the Senate Judiciary Committee is looking into "whether the FBI wrongly included political opposition research from Trump’s opponents in its probe."
The panel also is probing whether the FBI paid a former British spy who wrote a sensational and discredited report alleging wild improprieties by Trump and his aides.
On Friday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer noted the day before the president tweeted his accusation that Obama had spied on him, comments were made by "a senior administration official, foreign policy expert, Dr. Evelyn Farkas, (which) together with previous reports that have been out, raised serious concerns on whether or not there was an organized and widespread effort by the Obama administration to use and leak highly sensitive intelligence information for political purposes."
As WND reported in depth, Farkas appeared to have inadvertently confirmed the former president's administration spied on Trump's transition team for political purposes.
Speaking on MSNBC March 2, she confirmed that not only was the previous administration collecting intelligence on the Trump team, it was attempting to share it as far and wide as possible.
Farkas claimed the information was about Russian collusion with the Trump campaign, but just days later, intelligence chiefs who had seen the classified information in question, including Obama's own former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper as well as former acting CIA Director Michael Morell, said they have seen no evidence of collusion between the Trump team and the Russian government.
That would appear to add more credence to the assertion that the real reason the Obama administration was feverishly collecting and sharing the classified information was not for national security purposes but for political reasons.
On Friday, Spicer said, "Dr. Farkas’s admissions alone are devastating."
He said that "in the ordinary course of their work, NSC – National Security Council – staff discovered information that may support the questions raised by the president and Dr. Farkas’ claim."
"These are serious issues. They raise serious concerns. And if true, the issues would be devastating," Spicer said.
Spicer then lectured reporters for ignoring the Farkas story and growing evidence that Obama did indeed spy on the Trump team.
"[I]f everyone was treating the president and the administration fairly, you’d ask a series of much different questions," he said.