Former White House National Security Advisor to President Obama, Susan Rice, appeared on Andrea Mitchell Reports on Tuesday in her first interview since news broke that she was allegedly involved in the “unmasking” requests of Trump campaign and transition officials. Eli Lake reported for Bloomberg News on Monday that Rice was behind the requests to unmask the identities of members of the Trump transition team inadvertently caught up in intelligence signals intercepts.
From almost the outset of the interview, Rice did not make any effort to deny that she was involved in requests to unmask the identities of Americans inadvertently caught up in intelligence signals intercepts. However, she refused to disclose the identities of any of the individuals who were unmasked, saying it would be a violation of classification laws to do so. Furthermore, she denied that any of it was done for political purposes or as part of a coordinated effort to target the Trump transition team.
“The allegation is that somehow the Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political purposes, ” Rice told Andrea Mitchell. “That’s absolutely false.”
Yet, Rice did acknowledge that sometimes after receiving “masked” reports, it would be necessary to find out the identity of the American citizen in order to make the report more useful. It was those instances, she said, a request would be made to “unmask” the American’s identity. She then provided a rather generic hypothetical of how it may have happened.
“Let me give you just a hypothetical example,” Rice said. “Let’s say there was a conversation between two foreigners, about a conversation they were having with an American, who was proposing to sell to them high-tech bomb making equipment.”
She explained it would be necessary to find out the identity of the American to see if he was a legitimate threat or just some “kook.”
Nonetheless, the significant fact remains that Rice acknowledged involvement in the “unmasking” process and review of phone calls that included the names of American citizens. After all, it was just two weeks ago that Rice appeared on PBS and seemed to deny that she had any idea about recent reports then from Congressman Devin Nunes of California that suggested that he had viewed transcripts that showed top officials in the Obama administration caught up incidental surveillance on Trump transition officials.
“What I’ve read seems to be some level of surveillance activity, perhaps legal, but I don’t know that it’s right and I don’t know if the American people would be comfortable with what I’ve read,” Nunes told reporters a few weeks ago.
In response to Nunes claims, Rice was interviewed on PBS and seemed completely taken aback by the implications and even suggested that Nunes was merely peddling falsehoods related to alleged “wiretapping” of Trump Tower by the Obama administration.
“I know nothing about this,” Rice said of Nunes remarks in the PBS interview. “I was surprised to see reports from Chairman Nunes on that count today.”
She then went into criticizing President Trump over his tweets that suggested Obama had his “wires tapped” at Trump Tower during the campaign and transition.
She also added, “So, today, I really don’t know to what Chairman Nunes was referring, but he said that whatever he was referring to was a legal, lawful surveillance, and that it was potentially incidental collection on American citizens.”
Unlike her flat out denial two weeks ago, the answers Rice provided today to Andrea Mitchell seem to square somewhat with Nunes initial allegations — that perhaps legal and lawful surveillance conducted by the Obama administration likely included American citizens incidentally swept up in the intel dragnet.
So, it would appear that Rice is now rapidly changing her story as more facts continue to come out about what really took place in the final months of the Obama administration, related to potential surveillance, even initially incidental, of members of the Trump transition team.
[image via screengrab]
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