The Obama administration is history, yet another scandal has come to light. The latest subterfuge involves unmasking and leaking American names that were identified in foreign surveillance actions by the intelligence services. Not surprisingly the liberal press has been slow in picking up this story. We can only wonder about the level of outrage that would have been expressed if the scandal involved Republicans.
Donna Rice, Obama’s National Security Advisor, routinely received surveillance information about foreign officials. This activity is legal with proper clearances. However in many situations Americans were unmasked, referring to the identification of names that are redacted in transcripts of conversations. For instance if a corporate CEO has a telephone conversation with a foreign national and the intelligence community has reason to tap the discussion, the transcript could become available to the president’s National Security Advisor (NSA).
However identities of Americans that are parties to said conversation are redacted and kept confidential unless permission is obtained to do otherwise. Apparently, the NSA can request the actual names of redacted parties in these transcripts. The rationale for this is not clear, as you will soon understand. This is known as unmasking.
Under no circumstances may unmasked names be revealed to the public through communication with the press or in leaks that are so common in Washington. In fact it is a felony to violate this confidentiality.
What is intriguing is that the NSA and staff is not an investigative group. They are aides to the president and not part of the intelligence community. In fact the NSA uses information gathered by intelligence operatives to advise the president about impending security danger and is not authorized to discuss these issues with the public.
So it is a mystery why Donna Rice would be unmasking individuals in confidential transcripts unless she had a political motivation to do so. This could have been an attempt to spy on the Trump administration before his inauguration. If Rice revealed names to outsiders, it would be a felony.
It is still unclear whom Rice unmasked and what she did with the information that was discovered. But perhaps General Michael Flynn, the short-lived NSA for Trump, was targeted by Rice, unmasked and leaked to the press.
In an early TV interview Rice denied involvement in any inappropriate activity that led to public disclosures about Americans. More recently she changed her story and indicated that unmasking happened regularly. Her latest description of her actions was not totally consistent with her previous comments.
It appears that Rice and others in the Obama administration were snooping on Americans. The ramifications of this are huge. Theoretically Obama and his people could have investigated any business leader or private individual who had a confidential conversation with a foreigner. To what end you may ask? This is the $64,000 question.
Rice is now going to be investigated about whom she unmasked, why she needed information and with whom she discussed the unmasked person’s comments.
It should be pointed out that Rice was the Obama official who twisted the truth about the motivations of the terrorists who attacked the U.S. embassy in Benghazi where four Americans, including the Libyan ambassador were murdered.