The story is a blockbuster.
Over at Bloomberg, longtime national security reporter Eli Lake headlines this:
Top Obama Adviser Sought Names of Trump Associates in Intel
Lake reports, in part, the following:
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.
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.
Also on this trail was Fox’s Adam Housley. The Housley headline:
Susan Rice requested to unmask names of Trump transition officials, sources say
Housley’s story begins:
Multiple sources tell Fox News that Susan Rice, former national security adviser under then-President Barack Obama, requested to unmask the names of Trump transition officials caught up in surveillance.
The unmasked names, of people associated with Donald Trump, were then sent to all those at the National Security Council, some at the Defense Department, then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and then-CIA Director John Brennan — essentially, the officials at the top, including former Rice deputy Ben Rhodes.
The names were part of incidental electronic surveillance of candidate and President-elect Trump and people close to him, including family members, for up to a year before he took office.
In a word? Wow.
Whatever else is learned in these two bombshell stories, it is that word is beginning to get out about who in the Obama administration not only had access to this classified information, but actually requested or “consumed it.” The fact is that people who do not have access to certain information are in no position to leak information they don’t have. NSC adviser Rice had this access, and according to multiples of sources here, she used it — over and over and over again. And she didn’t hesitate to spread it around, either.
Who did Susan Rice share this info with? According to Housley, the names include Rice’s deputy Ben Rhodes, then-CIA Director John Brennan, then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and — get this — “all those at the National Security Council, (and) some at the Defense Department.”
Let’s go back to a column in this space on March 7, titled “Investigate ObamaGate.” In that column I cited several stories first brought to light by Mark Levin. Several were from the New York Times, and one additional story from the Washington Post. Among other things these stories said the following:
Intercepted Russian Communications Part of Inquiry Into Trump Associates
WASHINGTON — American law enforcement and intelligence agencies are examining intercepted communications and financial transactions as part of a broad investigation into possible links between Russian officials and associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump….
The F.B.I. is leading the investigations, aided by the National Security Agency, the C.I.A. and the Treasury Department’s financial crimes unit. The investigators have accelerated their efforts in recent weeks but have found no conclusive evidence of wrongdoing, the officials said. One official said intelligence reports based on some of the wiretapped communications had been provided to the White House.
Stop. Read that first sentence again, bold print supplied here:
American law enforcement and intelligence agencies are examining intercepted communications and financial transactions…
Question: Where did these people get the “intercepted communications”? Was it from Dr. Rice?
Then there was this from the Times:
N.S.A. Gets More Latitude to Share Intercepted Communications
WASHINGTON — In its final days, the Obama administration has expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections.
The new rules significantly relax longstanding limits on what the N.S.A. may do with the information gathered by its most powerful surveillance operations, which are largely unregulated by American wiretapping laws. These include collecting satellite transmissions, phone calls and emails that cross network switches abroad, and messages between people abroad that cross domestic network switches.
Stop. Read that first sentence again: “In its final days, the Obama administration has expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections.”
Question? Who in the “Obama administration” did this? Was it Dr. Rice?
Then there was this:
Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking
WASHINGTON — In the Obama administration’s last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election — and about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russians — across the government. Former American officials say they had two aims: to ensure that such meddling isn’t duplicated in future American or European elections, and to leave a clear trail of intelligence for government investigators.
Stop. Note that phrase “some White House officials”?
Question: Was Dr. Rice one of those “White House officials”? Was her deputy, Ben Rhodes?
Then there was this:
Flynn Is Said to Have Talked to Russians About Sanctions Before Trump Took Office
WASHINGTON — Weeks before President Trump’s inauguration, his national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, discussed American sanctions against Russia, as well as areas of possible cooperation, with that country’s ambassador to the United States, according to current and former American officials.…
But current and former American officials said that conversation — which took place the day before the Obama administration imposed sanctions on Russia over accusations that it used cyberattacks to help sway the election in Mr. Trump’s favor — ranged far beyond the logistics of a post-inauguration phone call. And they said it was only one in a series of contacts between the two men that began before the election and also included talk of cooperating in the fight against the Islamic State, along with other issues.
Stop. Michael Flynn is, right here, “unmasked.” Note the story refers to “current and former American officials…”
Question: Was one of those officials Dr. Rice? Was she deliberately sabotaging her successor?
And in the Washington Post on February 9 was this story headlined:
National security adviser Flynn discussed sanctions with Russian ambassador, despite denials, officials say
Buried deep in this story about Flynn and his contacts with Russian officials was this line, bold print supplied:
Nine current and former officials, who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.
Question: Did these “Nine current and former officials” who spoke to the Post include Dr. Rice? Or did they get their information from Dr. Rice?
And the last — and possibly the most important — question here? That would be that gold standard question from Watergate posed by the late Tennessee Senator Howard Baker:
“What did the President know — and when did he know it?”
There is a long way to go here. But the work by Eli Lake and Adam Housley has just moved this investigation a considerable way down the field.
Is Rice fried? Stay tuned.