If Susan Rice is behind the unmasking then it most certainly means that Barack Obama was aware of what was going on and could have very well been behind the entire spying, surveillance and wiretapping of candidate Donald Trump.
Once again it appears that Trump was right: the conspiracy theory that a close Obama associate worked to “unmask” the Trump team, resulting in the ongoing media spectacle over “collusion” between Trump and the Kremlin, has been confirmed, first by Mike Cernovich, and now by Bloomberg itself.
As noted last night, Journalist and author Mike Cernovich dropped an exclusive bombshell – naming Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice as the official responsible for the ‘unmasking’ of the incoming Trump team during ‘incidental’ surveillance. This was apparently discovered after the White House Counsel’s office reviewed Rice’s document log requests:
The reports Rice requested to see are kept under tightly-controlled conditions. Each person must log her name before being granted access to them.
Upon learning of Rice’s actions, [National Security Advisor] H. R. McMaster dispatched his close aide Derek Harvey to Capitol Hill to brief Chairman Nunes.
Cernovich pointed out, as revealed in an article by Circa, that President Obama began loosening the rules regarding “incidental intercepts” starting in 2011 – making it easier for the US Government to spy on individuals who are not the primary target(s) of a surveillance operation.
As his presidency drew to a close, Barack Obama’s top aides routinely reviewed intelligence reports gleaned from the National Security Agency’s incidental intercepts of Americans abroad, taking advantage of rules their boss relaxed starting in 2011 to help the government better fight terrorism, espionage by foreign enemies and hacking threats.
And guess who had authorization to unmask individuals who were ‘incidentally’ surveilled?
Former CIA Director John Brennan, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and Obama’s National Security advisor Susan Rice. Also of note is the claim that New York Times journalist Maggie Haberman has been sitting on the Susan Rice story for at least two days:
This reporter has been informed that Maggie Haberman has had this story about Susan Rice for at least 48 hours, and has chosen to sit on it in an effort to protect the reputation of former President Barack Obama.
Fox News anchor Adam Housley tweeted on Friday that the surveillance that led to the unmasking began before Trump was the GOP nominee, and that the person who did the unmasking is a “very senior” and “very well known” person in the surveillance community – and not someone in the FBI. As ZeroPointNow noted, “this of course begs the question of whether or not President Obama would have ordered Rice to perform the unmasking.”
Bloomberg has more details…
White House lawyers last month learned that the former national security adviser Susan Rice requested the identities of U.S. persons in raw intelligence reports on dozens of occasions that connect to the Donald Trump transition and campaign, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.
The pattern of Rice’s requests was discovered in a National Security Council review of the government’s policy on “unmasking” the identities of individuals in the U.S. who are not targets of electronic eavesdropping, but whose communications are collected incidentally. Normally those names are redacted from summaries of monitored conversations and appear in reports as something like “U.S. Person One.”
The National Security Council’s senior director for intelligence, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, was conducting the review, according to two U.S. officials who spoke with Bloomberg View on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly. In February Cohen-Watnick discovered Rice’s multiple requests to unmask U.S. persons in intelligence reports that related to Trump transition activities. He brought this to the attention of the White House General Counsel’s office, who reviewed more of Rice’s requests and instructed him to end his own research into the unmasking policy.
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.
Rice did not respond to an email seeking comment on Monday morning. Her role in requesting the identities of Trump transition officials adds an important element to the dueling investigations surrounding the Trump White House since the president’s inauguration.
Both the House and Senate intelligence committees are probing any ties between Trump associates and a Russian influence operation against Hillary Clinton during the election. The chairman of the House intelligence committee, Representative Devin Nunes, is also investigating how the Obama White House kept tabs on the Trump transition after the election through unmasking the names of Trump associates incidentally collected in government eavesdropping of foreign officials.
Rice herself has not spoken directly on the issue of unmasking. Last month when she was asked on the “PBS NewsHour” about reports that Trump transition officials, including Trump himself, were swept up in incidental intelligence collection, Rice said: “I know nothing about this,” adding, “I was surprised to see reports from Chairman Nunes on that account today.”
Rice’s requests to unmask the names of Trump transition officials do not vindicate Trump’s own tweets from March 4 in which he accused Obama of illegally tapping Trump Tower. There remains no evidence to support that claim.
But Rice’s multiple requests to learn the identities of Trump officials discussed in intelligence reports during the transition period does highlight a longstanding concern for civil liberties advocates about U.S. surveillance programs. The standard for senior officials to learn the names of U.S. persons incidentally collected is that it must have some foreign intelligence value, a standard that can apply to almost anything. This suggests Rice’s unmasking requests were likely within the law.
The news about Rice also sheds light on the strange behavior of Nunes in the last two weeks. It emerged last week that he traveled to the White House last month, the night before he made an explosive allegation about Trump transition officials caught up in incidental surveillance. At the time he said he needed to go to the White House because the reports were only on a database for the executive branch. It now appears that he needed to view computer systems within the National Security Council that would include the logs of Rice’s requests to unmask U.S. persons.
Israel is restraining the settlements because it doesn’t trust Trump
Israeli decision makers have difficulties in trusting Trump because they don’t know him. Because it seems impossible to know him – in the sense of being able to anticipate his next move.
Maybe it is all a brilliant political maneuver. Maybe Prime Minister Netanyahu planned ahead and manufactured the public storm over the future of Israel’s public broadcasting corporation – a storm that threatened to topple his coalition and that Israelis still can’t stop debating. Maybe it is all a smoke screen aimed at saving the real decisions from being the center of attention. Such as the decision to have a de-facto freeze on settlement construction behind the current lines of existing settlements.
This is not a small thing. Just two-three months ago, Israeli settlers and their supporters believed that the Trump era will be their era of unconstrained development. They now must adjust to a new reality. Trump is not as enthusiastic about their project as they assumed he’d be – and is a lot more enthusiastic about advancing an Israeli-Palestinian deal than they assumed he’d be.
Netanyahu, thus far, has been able to wisely deliver the devastating news without much opposition. This is partly due to the media’s attention deficit disorder – we are too busy trying to understand his motivation concerning the broadcasting corporation to have time for settlements. It’s also partly due to the realization, even understood by the hardcore rightwing, that picking a fight with Donald Trump might not be the best of ideas and to how Netanyahu sweetened the bitter pill with a promise to build one new settlement for the evacuated settlers of Amona.
Not that the rightwing is satisfied with these last moves. The narrative its leaders are now advancing – and we are likely to hear a lot more of that when elections will be on the horizon – is that Netanyahu missed an opportunity. It goes like this: had Netanyahu been decisive and forgone the two-state-solution mantra when Trump was elected, the administration would have gone along with it and accepted the new reality. But since Netanyahu was cautious and kept his posture of support for the two-state-solution, the administration had no choice but to also stick with it.
The result is self-restraint. There is no official agreement between Israel and the US on settlements – the exact state of negotiations between the countries on this topic is not even clear. There is surely no understanding with the Palestinians that Israel’s decision will lead to renewed negotiations. There is hardly any outcry of enthusiasm from the Palestinians of from other world powers following Israel’s statement of restriction. The decision concerning settlements is an internal manifestation of caution: Netanyahu is not yet certain where the Trump administration is going, and he prefers to play it safe with a president whose policies can shift with the speed of a tweet.
Israel’s lack of certainty is not a good opening for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. True – it makes Netanyahu cautious with regards to the Americans. It will also make him cautious when it comes to taking other risks, and all moves forward in negotiations involve risks.
Note this: Israel has only moved forward – or was assumed to move forward – in negotiations with the Palestinians when the support of the American administration seemed solid, only when an Israeli leader assumed that he had the strong backing of a US president. That was the case with Rabin and Clinton; that was the case with Barak and Clinton; that was the case when Ariel Sharon decided to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip, backed by President George W. Bush; and that was the case with Ehud Olmert, backed by Bush. In the last eight years there was no moving forward not just because of Netanyahu’s term in office – the lack of movement was also because Israel’s government, and public, did not feel that they have the backing of an American president that can be counted on when Israel takes risks.
President Obama did not give Israelis a lot of reasons to trust him. And they did not trust him. Donald Trump – in a different way – is repeating a similar path. Obama put Israelis at unease by hinting that he sees Israel as the principle culprit in blocking Middle East peace. Trump put Israelis at unease with his abrupt manner and unexpected bursts. In other words: Israeli decision makers did not trust Obama because they assumed they knew him. Israeli decision makers have difficulties in trusting Trump because they don’t know him. Because it seems impossible to know him – in the sense of being able to anticipate his next move.
Thus, restricting settlement building is not a sign that Israel is willing to move forward and take more risks in order to have peace with the Palestinians. It is a sign that Israel is hesitant to move forward and prefers to play it safe. It is taking the necessary steps so as not to hand President Trump any ammunition with which he can hammer Israel or blame it for his failure to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian final-status agreement. It is taking the steps that one takes when one feels uncertainty – not the steps that one takes when one feels secure in having the backing of one’s ally.