We've been following this story since it broke -- and as I argued on Special Report, the new developments make it harder for Democrats and their media enablers to continue arguing that Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election is the only story that merits attention and investigation. Not that they aren't giving it the old college try, of course. Since her name again exploded into the headlines, former Obama National Security Advisor Susan Rice has dramatically changed her story. When asked about alleged unmasking of Trump transition officials a few weeks ago on PBS, she said that she knew "nothing" about it. But once it was publicly reported that she had personally requested such unmasking on "dozens" of occasions, Rice has shifted to arguing that she did nothing improper and did not leak any classified material.
Why the initial denial, then the attempted revisionism of the nature of that denial? And if the wiretapped communications in which Trump-tied figures were incidentally monitored were unrelated to Russia, as Devin Nunes and other officials who've seen the documents allege, what was the pressing national security interest in requesting the unmasking? Those are just two of the questions that Ms. Rice ought to answer, preferably under oath, as soon as possible. Another argument that Rice's defenders have advanced -- setting aside obsequious hosannas from fellow ethically-compromised and truth-challenged Obama alumni -- is that she was simply doing her job. This stuff is routine. Nothing to see here. Shut up, you psychotic liars (content warning):
It was her fucking job to know this information! This is utter bullshit. https://t.co/YWInNoJxgI— Jon Favreau (@jonfavs) April 4, 2017
But as convincing as profane Twitter ranting from former Obama speechwriters may be (profanity really shows that you're down for the struggle these days, it seems), that fundamental justification of her alleged actions is not necessarily true, according to former officials:
“From my direct experience dealing at this level, that is never done,” retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer told Fox News. Shaffer has experience in intelligence operations focused on foreign actors in which U.S. citizens’ involvement could surface. “The national security adviser person is a manager position, not an analyst position,” he said. “You have analysts in the intelligence community whose job is to sort through who is doing what with what. Susan Rice is a senior manager looking over the entire intelligence community. She should not have time to be unmasking individuals having conversations. It’s insane. It’s never done.” Ex-CIA analyst Fred Fleitz agreed in a Fox News op-ed. “Rice’s denials don’t add up,” Fleitz wrote. “It is hard to fathom how the demasking of multiple Trump campaign and transition officials was not politically motivated.”
Former Ambassador to the United Nations and Fox News contributor John Bolton told “America’s Newsroom” that Rice’s requests may have been improper depending on what reason she gave for wanting the information. “Now I’m not naïve, a national security adviser’s gonna get her request approved. But she still has to give some reason,” said Bolton, who served under former President George W. Bush. “If she doesn’t even have to give a reason than NSA is really quite negligent. Susan Rice is obviously not gonna say, ‘I want these names unmasked so I can surveil my political opponents.’ And if she said she wanted the names unmasked for national security reasons, that’s a fraud on the intelligence system.” Shaffer said a U.S. citizen’s interaction with a foreign target is not typically reason enough to unmask an American.
So what was the reason? Americans and Congressional investigators deserve to know. One of the most thorough analyses I've seen on this issue comes from former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy, who knows a thing a two about how national security investigations are conducted. His entire column is worth your time, but one key point he makes is that the National Security Adviser is a consumer or intelligence, not a gatherer of it. Rice's "job" was to advise the president on policy, not to conduct investigations:
The thing to bear in mind is that the White House does not do investigations. Not criminal investigations, not intelligence investigations. Remember that...There would have been no intelligence need for Susan Rice to ask for identities to be unmasked. If there had been a real need to reveal the identities — an intelligence need based on American interests — the unmasking would have been done by the investigating agencies. The national-security adviser is not an investigator. She is a White House staffer. The president’s staff is a consumer of intelligence, not a generator or collector of it. If Susan Rice was unmasking Americans, it was not to fulfill an intelligence need based on American interests; it was to fulfill a political desire based on Democratic-party interests...
At a high level, officials like Susan Rice had names unmasked that would not ordinarily be unmasked. That information was then being pushed widely throughout the intelligence community in unmasked form . . . particularly after Obama, toward the end of his presidency, suddenly — and seemingly apropos of nothing — changed the rules so that all of the intelligence agencies (not just the collecting agencies) could have access to raw intelligence information. As we know, the community of intelligence agencies leaks like a sieve, and the more access there is to juicy information, the more leaks there are. Meanwhile, former Obama officials and Clinton-campaign advisers, like [Evelyn] Farkas, were pushing to get the information transferred from the intelligence community to members of Congress, geometrically increasing the likelihood of intelligence leaks.
Read the whole thing. It appears as though the pro-Rice spin doesn't hold water on several levels -- and at the very least, her current incomplete and changing explanations demand additional serious follow-ups. And as ever, nobody should simply take people like Susan Rice or Ben Rhodes at their word. They've forfeited the benefit of the doubt through their own actions. While some in the media (including reporters and anchors whose partisan impartiality is deeply suspect) immediately sought to dismiss the Rice/unmasking angle of this still-unfolding drama as a phony scandal and a non-story, others resorted to more traditional left-wing demonizing and motive-impugning to deflect any serious conversation:
I cannot imagine a better retort to that mindless, inflammatory rubbish than this:
There are genuinely important and unanswered questions that remain about the Kremlin's efforts to undermine faith in the American system, as well as potential abuses of power by outgoing Obama officials -- in addition to the illegal and politically-motivated and targeted national security leaks. Cursing and deploying 'end of discussion' tactics like plunking down the race card won't assist in getting to the bottom of any of them.