Taking the mask off Susan Rice
Revelations that Susan Rice, President Obama's national security advisor, requested and got the name of at least one Trump transition official from security intercepts raises a host of uncomfortable questions that must be answered. The Wall Street Journal has a few it hopes the congressional intelligence committees will ask:
The news about Ms. Rice’s unmasking role raises a host of questions for the Senate and House intelligence committees to pursue. What specific surveillance information did Ms. Rice seek and why? Was this information related to President Obama’s decision in January to make it possible for raw intelligence to be widely disbursed throughout the government? Was this surveillance of Trump officials “incidental” collection gathered while listening to a foreigner, or were some Trump officials directly targeted, or “reverse targeted”?
We were unable to locate Ms. Rice Monday to ask for comment, and she hasn’t addressed the unmasking as far as we know. But asked last month on the “PBS NewsHour” that Trump officials might have been surveilled, she said, “I know nothing about this” and “I was surprised to see reports from Chairman Nunes on that account today.” She certainly deserves her turn under oath on Capitol Hill.
But she most certainly should be called to testify before Congress about what she was doing -- and why, and who else thought the unmasking was so important.
There are also questions about how all of this fits with the resignation of Mr. Trump's first national security advisor, Michael Flynn. As Charles Krauthammer notes:
Clearly there were some improprieties in the gathering of information about the Trump people. There probably was a felony committed in the leaking of the information about General Flynn. The story today about Susan Rice is, well, if she did order or allow herself to go in and unmask all these people, the question is this: Was it in pursuit of national-security interests (in which case it’s proper) or was it not (in which case it’s improper, possibly illegal)? That’s an important story because you don’t want to have — look, it could be the reverse four years or eight years from now — one party that controls the intelligence apparatus and gets the information using the information as a weapon against the other party. This is an issue that, until this election campaign, was one about privacy and the misuse of power that Democrats would’ve argued. Now they are pretending it is not an issue. It’s an issue. There are several. The idea that there can only be one at a time is simply silly and partisan.
We are still at the stage of this story where we do not know enough to make firm conclusions. Crimes may have been committed, laws and policies bent to serve political interests, not to mention the ongoing concerns about Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election.
All of these issues, and more, deserve serious investigation. We should demand it, and let the evidence and facts -- not talking points -- determine where the investigation goes.