Susan Rice: 'Absolutely false' that Obama played politics with intel
- Author: Ismael Montgomery Apr 05, 2017,
Apr 05, 2017, 2:06
Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice denied accusations that the identities of officials associated with President Donald Trump's campaign or transition team were "unmasked" in classified intelligence reports in order to spy on them for political purposes. "In short, the only apparent illegal activity was the unmasking of the people in the calls". But she noted a request is not automatically granted, even to her.
The reports were likely based on routine surveillance of foreign officials. "It does not constitute either wiretapping or surveillance of Americans".
Unlike her flat out denial two weeks ago, the answers Rice provided today to Andrea Mitchell seem to square somewhat with Nunes initial allegations - that perhaps legal and lawful surveillance conducted by the Obama administration likely included American citizens incidentally swept up in the intel dragnet.
Trump also personally accused President Obama of having the "wires tapped" at Trump Tower. Sen. The claim was absurd, and no evidence ever surfaced to support it.
"There is a troubling direction that some of this is going in", White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Monday.
"The allegation is that somehow Obama administration officials utilised intelligence for political purposes, that is absolutely false", she said.
Rice became a favorite target of conservatives after the 2012 attacks on a US compound in Benghazi, Libya, when she was sent out to do television interviews with talking points about the attacks that later proved to be wrong.
During routine surveillance of foreign targets, names of Americans will occasionally come up in conversations. Ms. Rice asked for and learned the identity of the Trump official, whose name hasn't been publicly disclosed and our source declined to share. Or a foreigner could be speaking directly to an American.
"Over eight years, for me and others who served, it was not uncommon, in fact it was necessary at times to make those requests to find out the identity of USA officials, on every topic under the sun when it seemed relevant", she said. I don't solicit reports, I only receive what the intelligence community thinks I or any other senior official needs to see. Records are kept of such requests. But as national security adviser, Rice was authorized to ask an intelligence agency - such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the CIA and the NSA - to unmask a US person.
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Rice allegedly maintained spreadsheets of Trump aides' telephone calls "one year before the 2016 presidential election", according to the Daily Caller. It would not have been unusual for those reports to have involved or mentioned masked individuals.
Rice has not confirmed or denied making the requests, but denies that any requests were politically motivated. "That is absolutely false". So they're giving it to me, if I read it, and I think that in order for me to really understand is it significant or not so significant, I need to understand who the US person is, I can make that request. Each person must log her name before being granted access to them. Citing anonymous "U.S. officials familiar with the matter", Lake reported Monday that the former national security adviser "requested the identities of USA persons in raw intelligence reports on dozens of occasions that connect to the Donald Trump transition and campaign". But there are some likely explanations for why Rice would have been briefed on intelligence involving the incoming administration. Specifically, this provision outlines several possible justifications upon which the government can rely to claim the unmasking was necessary, such as if the information indicates the US person is an agent of a foreign power, is engaged in the unauthorized disclosure of classified information, may be involved in a crime, or may be the target of hostile intelligence activities of a foreign power.
Ms Rice emphasised that reports of Russian interference in the USA election had been " of great concern to all of us on the national security team".
In early December, Obama ordered a review of the Russia-related hacking.
"Fulfilling the president's request for such a report, they went back and scrubbed more reports", Rice said of the intelligence agencies.
This is the necessary safeguard put in place to minimize (if not outright prevent) the politicization of the unmasking process, and there is no indication that safeguard failed here. If that happens, it is considered a compliance incident, said Todd Hinnen, head of the Justice Department's National Security Division during the Obama administration and a National Security Council staff member under George W. Bush. This is a requirement, in my view, why we need a select committee in order to get through all this because there's lots more shoes that will drop. That leak, while it revealed that Flynn was being less than truthful with the United States public, was illegal.
Former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann said on USA Radio host Rusty Humphries's show that Rice's unmasking scandal is "a thousand times worse than Watergate".
"Let me give you just a hypothetical example", Rice said.