While the media have been desperate to tie Donald Trump to Russia and shame him for daring to accuse the Obama administration of wiretapping his phone, they’ve missed the real story, as Bloomberg reported on Monday:
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 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.
Bloomberg is careful to note that this news doesn’t “vindicate” Trump’s tweets about Obama illegally wiretapping Trump Tower, but that it “does highlight a longstanding concern for civil liberties advocates about U.S. surveillance programs.” However, the article posits that Rice was well within her legal limits, an assertion panned by Powerline.
“That strikes me as a generous interpretation,” writes John Hinderaker. “In any event, if Rice and others conspired to leak confidential information or publicly disclose information about individuals like General Flynn, it would be a crime.”
In her appearance last month on PBS's NewsHour, Rice was asked about the incidental collection of information regarding the Trump transition and said, “I know nothing about this. I was surprised to see reports from Chairman Nunes on that account today."
But that's not what the evidence shows.
Calling this a potential “bombshell,” Hinderaker adds, “We know from her tour of the Sunday morning talk shows to misrepresent Benghazi that Rice was a political hack, more than willing to do dirty work on behalf of President Obama. Her alleged role here would fit with that history."
Bloomberg’s conclusion wasn’t as pointed: “Indeed, much about this is highly unusual: if not how the surveillance was collected, then certainly how and why it was disseminated.”