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Trump suggests Susan Rice unmasking requests may be criminal

20 April, 2017, 06:50 | Author: Lorena Waters
  • Mark Wilson  Getty Images File

It was reported this week that Rice, in her role as national security adviser, asked intelligence agencies to "unmask" the names of Trump associates mentioned in reports of surveillance activities. "I never have and never will". A spokesman for Rice, Erin Pelton, said Wednesday in an email, "I'm not going to dignify the president's ludicrous charge with a comment".

According to a USA official, President Donald Trump's national security aides discovered after the inauguration that Rice had asked for the identities of Trump associates who were referenced in intelligence reports. The US's intelligence agencies (eg the CIA) "produce" the intelligence and they decide if any Americans incidentally "captured" during the surveillance of foreigners should be "unmasked".

Senior government officials who receive highly sensitive intelligence can ask about the identity of US persons, including their names, to get a better understanding of the intelligence. It's the policy. When anyone's name appears unless there's an intelligence value to it, the name has to be blacked out and masked.

As a procedural matter, an intelligence briefer would have had to clear a requested unmasking with the head of the agency providing the intelligence.

President Trump addresses a joint news conference with Jordan's King Abdullah II in the Rose Garden of the White House on April 5. However, senior national security officials can request the identities of the Americans if that helps understand the intelligence better.

"Yes, I think." But when asked for evidence, the president came up empty, just as he has been unable to produce credible evidence to support his claim that the Obama administration wiretapped Trump Tower.

Rice told MSNBC in an interview Tuesday that she sometimes made those requests while she served as Obama's national security advisor.

"She has no credibility", Paronto said.

Rice did not detail which Trump officials she unmasked or why, but current and former USA officials have told ABC News it happened on a number of occasions.

Trump offered no evidence to back his allegations or any names of other Obama administration officials he said were also involved.

Rice alluded to that Russian Federation probe in her interview, saying it was of "grave concern".

Rice is probably not in any legal trouble, and she denied any improper behavior or leaking any information while working in the White House.

However, the probe into Russia's interference in the election is ongoing and the subject of two congressional investigations.

So Rice didn't do anything wrong in asking for redacted names to be "unmasked" in reports involving Trump people, so long as she kept those names to herself (and the president), but she reportedly is known for playing politics - or at least wanting to play politics - with classified information. "That's absolutely false", Rice said, while also denying having leaked any information.

But House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., is looking at both angles, and recently revealed that he'd learned Trump team members were caught up in surveillance of foreign targets.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer cast Rice's handling of intelligence in the waning days of Obama's term as suspicious, although he did not detail what he found to be inappropriate. "I know nothing about this", she told "PBS NewsHour" last month when asked about Nunes' claim.

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