Once again it appears that Trump was right: the conspiracy theory that a close Obama associate worked to "unmask" the Trump team, resulting in the ongoing media spectacle over "collusion" between Trump and the Kremlin, has been confirmed, first by Mike Cernovich, and now by Bloomberg itself.
As noted last night, Journalist and author Mike Cernovich dropped an exclusive bombshell - naming Obama's National Security Advisor Susan Rice as the official responsible for the 'unmasking' of the incoming Trump team during 'incidental' surveillance. This was apparently discovered after the White House Counsel's office reviewed Rice's document log requests:
The reports Rice requested to see are kept under tightly-controlled conditions. Each person must log her name before being granted access to them.
Upon learning of Rice’s actions, [National Security Advisor] H. R. McMaster dispatched his close aide Derek Harvey to Capitol Hill to brief Chairman Nunes.
Cernovich pointed out, as revealed in an article by Circa, that President Obama began loosening the rules regarding "incidental intercepts" starting in 2011 - making it easier for the US Government to spy on individuals who are not the primary target(s) of a surveillance operation.
As his presidency drew to a close, Barack Obama’s top aides routinely reviewed intelligence reports gleaned from the National Security Agency’s incidental intercepts of Americans abroad, taking advantage of rules their boss relaxed starting in 2011 to help the government better fight terrorism, espionage by foreign enemies and hacking threats
And guess who had authorization to unmask individuals who were 'incidentally' surveilled? Former CIA Director John Brennan, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and Obama's National Security advisor Susan Rice. Also of note is the claim that New York Times journalist Maggie Haberman has been sitting on the Susan Rice story for at least two days:
This reporter has been informed that Maggie Haberman has had this story about Susan Rice for at least 48 hours, and has chosen to sit on it in an effort to protect the reputation of former President Barack Obama.
Fox News anchor Adam Housley tweeted on Friday that the surveillance that led to the unmasking began before Trump was the GOP nominee, and that the person who did the unmasking is a "very senior" and "very well known" person in the surveillance community - and not someone in the FBI. As ZeroPointNow noted, "this of course begs the question of whether or not President Obama would have ordered Rice to perform the unmasking."
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Until this morning, the Cernovich report was unconfirmed, with many in the "legacy media" accusing Cernovich, who recently was profiled on 60 Minutes for being a prominent member of the "fake news" dissemination team for being - what else - fake news. However, moments ago Bloomberg's Eli Lake confirmed that it was indeed Susan Rice who was responsible for the repeatedly "unmasking" multiple members of the Trump team, in what may be dubbed yet another "conspiracy" to delegitimize the current US president.
From Eli Lake:
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."
As Lake adds, 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.
The intelligence reports were summaries of monitored conversations -- primarily between foreign officials discussing the Trump transition, but also in some cases direct contact between members of 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.
Rice has not yet responded to a Bloomberg email seeking comment on Monday morning. Her role in requesting the identities of Trump transition officials adds an important element to the dueling investigations surrounding the Trump White House since the president's inauguration.
Making matters worse, Rice appears to have lied: while she has not spoken directly on the issue of unmasking, last month when she was asked on the "PBS NewsHour" about reports that Trump transition officials, including Trump himself, were swept up in incidental intelligence collection, Rice said: "I know nothing about this," adding, "I was surprised to see reports from Chairman Nunes on that account today."
Ironically, it's the same Susan Rice who two weeks ago tweeted the following:
Susan Rice: When the White House twists the truth, we are all less safe. Why veracity matters to our security. https://t.co/eqkReeBIsG— Susan Rice (@AmbassadorRice) March 22, 2017
Lies aside, according to the Bloomberg reports, "Rice's multiple requests to learn the identities of Trump officials discussed in intelligence reports during the transition period does highlight a longstanding concern for civil liberties advocates about U.S. surveillance programs. 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. This suggests Rice's unmasking requests were likely within the law."
Perhaps, but they also served a key political purpose: to create a media firestorm of controversy involving the Trump team, and to delegitimize Donald Trump as much as possible.
Furthermore, the news about Rice also may explain what Bloomberg dubs the "strange behavior of Nunes in the last two weeks."
It emerged last week that he traveled to the White House last month, the night before he made an explosive allegation about Trump transition officials caught up in incidental surveillance. At the time he said he needed to go to the White House because the reports were only on a database for the executive branch. It now appears that he needed to view computer systems within the National Security Council that would include the logs of Rice's requests to unmask U.S. persons.
The ranking Democrat on the committee Nunes chairs, Representative Adam Schiff, viewed these reports on Friday. In comments to the press over the weekend he declined to discuss the contents of these reports, but also said it was highly unusual for the reports to be shown only to Nunes and not himself and other members of the committee.
In a tacit admission by Lake that Rice may have crossed numerous boundaries, the Bloomberg reporter adds "much about this is highly unusual: if not how the surveillance was collected, then certainly how and why it was disseminated."
However the real question goes back to square one: did Obama order the unmasking, and if so, to what political purpose?