President Donald Trump’s allegations against former National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, that she was acting illegally when she asked for the identities of Trump aides referred to in U.S. surveillance transcripts, have been refuted by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes raised the question that Rice had illegally unmasked the names of private citizens working for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, and Trump later asserted that he also believed she had acted illegally by revealing the names.
NBC News reported that, following a review by Congress of the flagged surveillance material of foreign targets, Democratic and Republican Congressional aides said the material they reviewed did not indicate Rice had acted inappropriately or illegally in requesting to know the blacked out names of people in the transcripts, despite the allegations made by President Donald Trump to the contrary. Previously, Rice had denied she had done anything illegal in regards to requesting the identities of the blacked out names.
Rice readily admitted she had asked for the names of certain individuals in the transcripts to be “unmasked,” or revealed, but only to make the information she was reading more understandable. She said the information and names she requested to be unmasked went no further than herself.
Rep. Devin Nunes, on the other hand, asserted the claim that Rice had the names unmasked inappropriately and that she furthermore circulated or leaked the names illegally, possibly to the media. An investigation conducted by Congressional members of both parties in the intelligence committees of the House and Senate concluded she had acted appropriately and had not circulated the names. One of the officials who reviewed the documents, who wished to remain unnamed, stated everything Rice had done when it came to requesting the identities of the blacked out names “was all completely normal.”
On April 5, when President Donald Trump was asked by the New York Times if he thought Susan Rice had acted illegally, Trump answered in the affirmative, saying, “Yes, I think.” He added he believed it would “be the biggest story,” and called it “an important story,” for not only the United States, but also for the rest of the world.
According to Business Insider, President Trump claimed in the interview with the New York Times he thought Rice might have even committed a “crime,” when she asked the National Security Agency (NSA) to reveal the names of American citizens that had been blacked out in the surveillance transcripts. The transcripts involved monitored conversations held between Trump aides and foreign officials.
President Donald Trump did not offer any proof to back up his allegations against Susan Rice. According to Yahoo Finance, Trump’s allegations against Susan Rice came after Rep. Nunes went behind his committee’s backs and told Trump about “classified executive-branch reports” which mentioned the names of members of President Trump’s transition team. Other members of the investigative committee Nunes had been heading until he recused himself, who have since seen the reports, have not voiced the same concerns that Nunes had upon seeing them.
Another of the problems with his allegations is that both former and current U.S. intelligence officials have gone on record stating Rice would have had to make any unmasking requests to either the director of the FBI or the NSA director. They would have had to okay any request that Rice made to have names unmasked. Both of these officials not only served under President Obama, but continue on serving in President Trump’s administration.
One concern, some members of Congress had, was regarding how the names of certain Trump campaign aides, like Michael Flynn, got leaked to the media. The Wall Street Journal reported that Flynn’s name was not leaked by Rice. That leaves it a mystery as to how sources like The Washington Post obtained Flynn’s name and other details, like ones regarding his “numerous conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergei Kislyak,” according to Yahoo Finance.
Twenty-eight-year CIA veteran, Paul Pillar, stated Rice’s unmasking request was “likely routine.” He suggested that the allegations made by Nunes and President Trump against Rice were probably “more of the effort to divert attention from the issue of the relations that Trump and his associates have had with Russia.”
Former and current intelligence officials have stated when national security advisers ask for the names of Americans blacked out in intelligence reports to be unmasked, such requests “are not inappropriate.” Besides being appropriate requests, the requests are also “routine” ones.
Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have refuted President Donald Trump’s allegations against Susan Rice that she inappropriately, and perhaps illegally, unmasked names of members of Trump’s transition team and then leaked the names to the media. The press did get information about conversations and meetings held between members of Trump’s transition team, like Michael Flynn, and foreign officials, but the evidence does not indicate that Susan Rice is the person who leaked their names.
By John Samuels
Photo Courtesy State Department