Susan Rice Unmasked Trump Transition Team, Leaked Information-Truth! & Fiction! & Unproven!
Summary of eRumor:
Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice requested that the identities of Trump transition team officials be unmasked in intelligence reports on dozens occasions, and Rice later leaked that intelligence to the media.
Claims that Susan Rice unmasked President Trump’s transition team staffers in intelligence reports and leaked information about their communications to the press true, false and unproven.
While it’s true that Susan Rice unmasked Trump team members who communicated with foreign agents, it appears that she acted legally in doing so. And claims that Susan Rice leaked information to the press or others can’t be backed up with solid evidence at this point. That’s why we’re calling this one truth, fiction and unproven.
Susan Rice’s role in unmasking Trump transition team officials in intelligence reports during the lead-up to inauguration day surfaced in early April 2017 after two White House lawyers reportedly found “repeated” requests from Rice to provide the identities of Trump staffers whose communications with foreign agents were incidentally swept up in U.S. intelligence reports.
It became clear that a high-ranking White House official with the Obama administration had unmasked Trump transition team staffers when GOP Congressman Devin Nunes of California, who led the House Oversight Committee’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia during the 2016 election before stepping aside on April 6th due to alleged ethics violations, announced that he’d become aware of the unmasking and circulation of the staffer’s names in the course of his investigation. Nunes, a Trump transition team member himself, indicated that the information gathering had not been illegal in a press conference:
“I have seen intelligence reports that clearly show that the president-elect and his team were, I guess, at least monitored. It looks to me like it was all legally collected, but it was essentially a lot of information on the president-elect and his transition team and what they were doing.”
Controversy stirred after it was reported that Nunes received the information from the White House and had failed to share it with members of the House Oversight Committee conducting the investigation before briefing President Trump and the press on his findings. Then, on April 3rd, Bloomberg reporter Eli Lake identified Susan Rice as the high-ranking Obama White House official who had unmasked the Trump transition team members:
White House lawyers last month learned that the former national security adviser Susan 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, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.
The pattern of Rice’s requests was discovered in a National Security Council review of the government’s policy on “unmasking” the identities of individuals in the U.S. who are not targets of electronic eavesdropping, but whose communications are collected incidentally. Normally those names are redacted from summaries of monitored conversations and appear in reports as something like “U.S. Person One.”
The National Security Council’s senior director for intelligence, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, was conducting the review, according to two U.S. officials who spoke with Bloomberg View on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly. In February Cohen-Watnick discovered Rice’s multiple requests to unmask U.S. persons in intelligence reports that related to Trump transition activities. He brought this to the attention of the White House General Counsel’s office, who reviewed more of Rice’s requests and instructed him to end his own research into the unmasking policy.
Accusations and speculation that Susan Rice unmasked Trump officials in intelligence reports, leaked information, and is probably going to prison followed the Bloomberg report on April 3rd. However, while it appears clear that Rice requested the identifies of Trump staffers in communications with foreign agents, it’s not clear that she acted illegally, or that Rice personally leaked information about Trump’s team.
In fact, it appears that Rice did not act illegally. Lake notes in his report: “The standard for senior officials to learn the names of U.S. persons incidentally collected is that it must have some foreign intelligence value, a standard that can apply to almost anything,”
The Atlantic, meanwhile, quoted former CIA analyst and national security commentator Nada Bakos as saying it would not have been unusual for a National Security Advisory to request the identifies of American citizens involved in those communications:
“In a situation where there’s incidental collection and it appears that they’re discussing U.S. incoming or current officials, it would not be unusual for a national security adviser to try to understand what it is this foreign government is trying to do to manipulate their position against the U.S. That’s how the game is played.”
In the end, claims that Susan Rice acted illegally in unmasking Trump officials and leaking information are true, false and unproven.