Because You Asked: What Did Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice Do and Was It Wrong?
An ATP Report Production – On this episode, Barry Nussbaum discusses Susan Rice’s involvement in the Trump transition team wire taps and how she caused the unmasking of names and information.
Welcome to this segment of Because You Asked, I’m Barry Nussbaum.
In the early morning hours of March 4, 2017 President Trump posted a series of tweets in which he accused his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, of wiretapping him during the 2016 elections. Trump wrote that he “just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” Trump then compared Obama’s alleged wiretapping with President Richard Nixon and the Watergate controversy that led to Nixon’s resignation. “How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”
On March 15, President Trump told FOX’s Tucker Carlson, “I think you’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.” As the President continued to reassert the charge in a number of different formats, the mainstream media heaped ridicule on the White House repeating over and over again that the President was making up fake news.
By the end of March, the news was supporting the President’s claims. It appears that the President was right and all of the media was wrong! Today on Because You Asked, we answer, “what did former National Security Advisor Susan Rice do and was it wrong?” I have 5 responses:
Susan Rice’s story changed dramatically from two weeks ago. Two weeks ago, PBS’ Judy Woodruff asked Rice a softball question regarding claims that had been made by House member Devin Nunes. Judy Woodruff, “I began by asking about the allegations leveled today by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes that Trump transition officials, including the President, may have been swept up in surveillance of foreigners at the end of the Obama administration.” Susan Rice, former U.S. National Security Adviser said, “I was surprised to see reports from Chairman Nunes on that count today. I know nothing about this.” Then days later in a damage control interview with prominent Democratic journalist Andrea Mitchell, Rice admitted her unmasking efforts and said they were routine. Mitchell’s 16-minute interview involved no tough questions. Mitchell asked, “did you seek to unmask the names of people involved in the Trump transition?” Rice responded like a lawyer, “absolutely not for any political purposes.” A natural follow-up would have been if she requested the unmasking for any other purpose. It didn’t occur to Mitchell. Instead she followed-up with the related question, “did you leak?” To which Rice responded, somewhat confusingly, “I leaked nothing to nobody.”
Somehow Rice tried to claim later that her initial statement of having no clue about Nunes’ earlier claim was not at odds with her 16-minute answer about her unmasking efforts. Rice has a reputation for dishonesty, also called lying! Most notably for her claim that a September 11, 2012 attack in Libya that killed four Americans was a spontaneous result of anger at a video critical of Islam. At the time she said this the state department knew well that it was a coordinated terrorist attack. Rice also falsely claimed that Bowe Bergdahl “served the United States with honor and distinction,” when critics began raising questions about why President Obama traded high-value Taliban detainees and a ransom for the army deserter. Bergdahl is expected to face a court-martial in August for desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. His desertion was already known at the time Rice made her comments, so, Rice lied as she has in the past.
The unmasking was related to political information when Congressman Nunes first alerted the public about his concerns on the White House lawn in an impromptu press conference about the wire taping and then subsequent unmasking of the names involved (including President elect Trump) and dissemination of the details. He noted that the information had nothing to do with Russia and had little to no intelligence value. It was then elsewhere that Rice’s multiple unmasking requests were related to reports on Trump transition activities. Rice is said to have requested the identities of Americans in reports of monitored conversations between foreign officials discussing the Trump transition and in surveilled contact between 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,” this is not a legal use of the information!
Susan Rice worked in the White House. Rice was known as Obama’s “right-hand woman”, “like his sister,” and was his national security advisor throughout his second term. For the few weeks, experts are now suggesting that if Rice were involved, this would implicate President Obama.
Let me be very clear. There would have been no intelligence need for Susan Rice to ask for identities to be unmasked. If there had been a real need to reveal the identities — an intelligence need based on American interests — the unmasking would have been done by the investigating agencies. The national-security adviser is not an investigator, she is a White House staffer. The President’s staff is a consumer of intelligence, not a generator or collector of it. If Susan Rice was unmasking Americans, it was not to fulfill an intelligence need based on American interests, it was to fulfill a political desire based on Democratic-party interests.
It is unclear what President Obama knew about Rice’s successful request to unmask information on Trump transition members. If he knew, this is Watergate 2017!
This substantiates Nunes’ claim. When Congressman Nunes told the public that information about the Trump team had been collected, unmasked, and widely disseminated, many media figures questioned the legitimacy of his claim. With the news that no less than Susan Rice requested unmasking of political operatives, it appears that Nunes was onto something and the story just continues to grow with more and more Congressman demanding an investigation that includes calling Susan Rice.
Did Susan Rice break the law? Rice acknowledged in the interview that she requested that names be unmasked, but she insists she did not do it for political purposes. It is an important distinction.
Under the U.S. signals intelligence directive (section 18), Rice was authorized to unmask the names of U.S. citizens, as long as it was essential to national security. Sure enough, Rice claims that national security was her reason. If it can be proven that she did it for political reasons, the punishment starts at 5 years in prison, if the then President of the United States, Barack Obama, was involved….wow, wow, wow!
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