Susan Rice, former President Barack Obama's national security adviser, reportedly requested on several occasions the identities of "masked" U.S. persons in intelligence reports linked to President Trump's transition and campaign. The revelation contradicts Rice's past comments on March 22, when she claimed she knew "nothing" about the intelligence reports.
White House lawyers discovered Rice's dozens of requests last month, during 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," Eli Lake of Bloomberg reported Monday, citing U.S. officials.
But Rice, who Newsweek once called Obama's "right-hand woman," denied during a PBS interview last month having any knowledge of the intelligence community's alleged incidental surveillance of Trump's transition team.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, asserted in March that he had seen evidence that some of the Trump transition team's communications with foreign actors were surveilled by the Obama administration.
"What I've read seems to be some level of surveillance activity, perhaps legal, but I don't know that it's right and I don't know if the American people would be comfortable with what I've read," Nunes said.
On "PBS NewsHour" on March 22, Judy Woodruff asked Rice about Nunes' claims.
"I know nothing about this," Rice responded at the time. "I was surprised to see reports from Chairman Nunes on that count today."
"So, today, I really don't know to what Chairman Nunes was referring, but he said that whatever he was referring to was a legal, lawful surveillance, and that it was potentially incidental collection on American citizens," added Rice, who went on to criticize Trump for his accusation that Obama wiretapped him during the presidential campaign.
Lake's reporting on Monday for Bloomberg appears to contradict Rice's answer.
Lake's sources told him that Rice wanted to "unmask" the names of the Trump team members in the intelligence reports, who otherwise would show up with generic titles like "U.S. Person One." "Unmasking" is not illegal when tied to a legitimate investigation, but civil liberty advocates worry the practice allows for backdoor surveillance of U.S. citizens.
"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," Lake reports.
The House Intelligence Committee is expected to soon receive top-secret documents that investigators believe will show whether the private communications of Trump and his transition team were improperly gathered.