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National Security & Defense

‘I Know Nothing About This… Eh, Wait, Nevermind.’

From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

Burned Rice

Recall what House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said on March 22: “These were intelligence reports, and it brings up a lot of concern about whether things were properly minimized or not. What I have read bothers me, and I think it should bother the president himself and his team, because I think some of it seems to be inappropriate.”

Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, discussing Nunes’ allegations with Judy Woodruff on PBS, that day:

JUDY WOODRUFF:  I began by asking about the allegations leveled today by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes that Trump transition officials, including the president, may have been swept up in surveillance of foreigners at the end of the Obama administration.

RICE: I know nothing about this. I was surprised to see reports from Chairman Nunes on that count 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.

But Tuesday, after Eli Lake of Bloomberg reported that Rice herself “requested the identities of U.S. persons in raw intelligence reports on dozens of occasions that connect to the Donald Trump transition and campaign”, Rice appeared on MSNBC with Andrea Mitchell and suddenly seemed to know a bit more than “nothing” about it all:

Every morning, we received from the intelligence community a compilation of intelligence reports that the IC, the intelligence community, has selected for us on a daily basis to give us the best information as to what’s going on around the world.

I received those reports, as did each of those other officials, and there were occasions when I would receive a report in which a U.S. person was referred to. Name not provided, just a U.S. person. And sometimes in that context, in order to understand the importance of the report, and assess its significance, it was necessary to find out, or request the information, as to who the U.S. official was.

So in two weeks, we went from “I know nothing about this” to “yes, I requested the ‘unmasking’ of these individuals, and it was perfectly appropriate and legal.”

Also notice this careful denial:

…the notion that — which some people are trying to suggest, that by asking for the identity of an American person, that is the same as leaking it, is completely false. There’s no equivalence between so-called unmasking and leaking.

No, but once information is unmasked, it’s a heck of a lot easier to leak, now, isn’t it?

On January 12, when Susan Rice and all of her deputies were still in their jobs, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius cited a source that was a “a senior U.S. government official” declaring that Michael “Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29.” That information and the contents of the call are classified; whoever leaked the information to Ignatius committed a crime.

Rice denies leaking the information. Of course, she also insisted the Benghazi attack was a “spontaneous protest” and denied that it was “premeditated or preplanned”; and that Bowe Bergdahl served the United States with “honor and distinction.” Maybe it was her, maybe it wasn’t, but no one with any sense should trust her denial; saying otherwise would be admitting to a crime.

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