A report by Bloomberg published Monday alleged that Obama-era 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.”
If true, this so-called “unmasking” could mean that Rice was the individual responsible for revealing the identities of Trump transition officials incidentally caught up in surveillance of other individuals, lending further credence to revelations made last month by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes.
The names of U.S. citizens who are not the targets of surveillance are usually redacted from raw intelligence reports and instead referred to by identifiers 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,” Bloomberg reporter Eli Lake wrote.
“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.”
Fox News reported that it wasn’t clear how Rice knew that the individuals named in the report were associated with Trump or his team.
As late as March 22, the Washington Free Beacon reported, Rice had publicly denied any knowledge on the unmasking of Trump officials.
Rice did not respond to Bloomberg requests for comment. However, the revelation that Rice was the official who likely requested the unmasking of Trump officials was the first major report linking high-level Obama administration officials with surveillance of the Trump transition team.
The president took to Twitter to express vindication over the reports.
Such amazing reporting on unmasking and the crooked scheme against us by @foxandfriends. “Spied on before nomination.” The real story.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 3, 2017
Meanwhile, former Obama administration officials moved to minimize the appearance of politically motivated manipulation of intelligence.
“What I know is this … If the intelligence community professionals decide that there’s some value, national security, foreign policy or otherwise in unmasking someone, they will grant those requests,” former Obama State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told Fox News.
“And we have seen no evidence … that there was partisan political notice behind this and we can’t say that unless there’s actual evidence to back that up.”
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