10 April, 2017
President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he thought that former National Security Adviser Susan Rice may have committed a crime by seeking the identities of Trump associates who were swept up in the surveillance of foreign officials by US spy agencies.
Asked by the New York Times if Rice committed a crime, Trump said, "Do I think?" We don't know precisely the question she was asked due to how the interview was edited, but PBS host Judy Woodruff led into Rice's comment by saying she asked Rice about Nunes's disclosure that Trump associates "may have been swept up in surveillance of foreigners at the end of the Obama administration".
These intelligence reports became the subject of controversy after reports surfaced that former National Security Adviser Susan Rice "unmasked" U.S. citizens who were swept up in the incidental surveillance.
Rice's official role would have given her the ability to make those requests for national security purposes.
Also factor in House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes's disclosure in a March 22 press conference that the names of Trump campaign or transition officials were demasked from NSA reports that had nothing to do with Russian Federation or alleged wrongdoing by the Trump campaign.
The latest so-called smoking gun - where, in fact, a federal official appeared to follow federal rule to assess information in intelligence documents in pursuit of her job - is a far cry from Trump's earlier claim that Obama went so "low" as to "tap" the phones at his home.
Rice correctly said in her interview that policymakers sometimes request to know the identities of Americans from NSA reports to understand these reports in certain circumstances.
"I leaked nothing to nobody, and never have and never would", Rice told MSNBC. "I think it's a massive, massive story", said Mr. Trump. "I think it's going to be the biggest story".
Nunes said during a March 22 press conference that he was "troubled" because the reports he'd seen were not connected to Russian Federation or any foreign intelligence.
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The list reportedly revealed the names of individuals tightly-affiliated with Trump, including the names of people related to Trump.
The House and Senate Intelligence Committees are now investigating allegations the Obama administration spied on Trump associates - and possibly Trump himself - for as long as the year preceding his inauguration.
Conservatives - even some who have been skeptical of Trump's claim that the Obama administration surveilled him - saw it as highly suspicious. Sen.
The names of USA citizens "incidentally" mentioned in NSA reports are masked to preserve their identities because America's intelligence agencies are barred from spying on American citizens except in extraordinary circumstances with court approval. Following Nixon's resignation, the intelligence community was reformed via the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, with the hopes of imposing accountability measures for federal officials that spy on political opponents.
Nunes was heavily criticized for making the announcement to the press and briefing the White House before he shared the information with the rest of the intelligence committee.
If Rice or someone else in the Obama administration did request the unmasking of Trump associates, would it be a crime?
"I leaked nothing to nobody and never have and never would", she said on MSNBC.
Not necessarily. Intelligence agency lawyers would need to sign off on such a request. So, just as clearly, Rice is hiding something.