A pair of anonymous U.S. officials told Bloomberg View columnist Eli Lake that former national security adviser Susan Rice requested the unmasking of U.S. persons in several intelligence reports containing information related to the Trump transition and campaign officials.
As Lake noted in his Monday report, a senior official must believe that there is “some foreign intelligence value” in unmasking a U.S. person’s name, so Rice’s alleged requests were “likely within the law.” The National Security Council reportedly discovered the requests while reviewing how the government decides to unmask the redacted names of U.S. persons who get swept up in legal surveillance of foreign nationals.
Here’s how Lake described the raw intelligence reports in which Trump staffers’ names were unmasked:
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.
The individual leading the NSC review was the council’s senior director for intelligence, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, according to the report. Cohen-Watnick was recently reported to be one of three White House staffers who allegedly played a role in providing House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) with intelligence reports in which Nunes claimed Trump transition officials’ identities were inappropriately unmasked.
That revelation burned Lake, who had reported that Nunes told him his source was an intelligence, not White House, official. “He misled me,” Lake wrote of the California lawmaker last week.
Rice did not respond to Bloomberg’s request for comment. In an interview last month on “PBS NewsHour,” Rice said she knew “nothing” about reports that Trump and his transition officials were swept up in foreign surveillance.
“I was surprised to see reports from Chairman Nunes on that account,” she said at the time.
Reports that Rice prompted the unmasking of Trump associates were first surfaced in a Sunday post on Medium by far-right blogger Mike Cernovich, a noted promoter of the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory.
As Nunes’ backchanneling with the Trump administration has prompted calls for his recusal from the committee’s investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. election, the White House has been trying to retrain attention on Trump’s predecessor. The President this weekend sent tweets referring to the “crooked scheme against us” and claiming the Trump team had been “spied on before he was nominated.”
Such amazing reporting on unmasking and the crooked scheme against us by @foxandfriends. "Spied on before nomination." The real story.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 3, 2017
Wow, @FoxNews just reporting big news. Source: "Official behind unmasking is high up. Known Intel official is responsible. Some unmasked….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 1, 2017