Eli Lake at Bloomberg wrote an explosive piece that set the political world on fire for a few hours yesterday. Lake detailed how Susan Rice, President Obama’s National Security Adviser sought to “unmask” the identities of Trump campaign transition members and his campaign.
From Lake’s story:
White House lawyers last month discovered 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.”
One absurdity uncovered with Lake’s story is it shines a light on her ability to lie at the drop of a hat:
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.”
A smarter person would say, “The FBI, House, and Senate are all investigating, so it’s better that I don’t say anything about it.” Did she not think the information would come out at some point?
Where it all gets somewhat ridiculous is when CNN’s Jim Sciutto tweeted the following:
Just in: "The idea that Ambassador Rice improperly sought the identities of Americans is false." – person close to Rice tells me
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) April 3, 2017
For the record, Jim Sciutto worked in the Obama administration. It is a fact not mentioned in Sciutto’s CNN biography, but it certainly should be.
Two things about this tweet:
1. Note the careful language – The anonymous source says “improperly sought.” It likely means Lake’s reporting is valid and Rice did in fact, make requests to unmask. The question of whether it was proper or not remains to be seen.
2. The “person close to Rice” is likely somebody Sciutto knows – Before Sciutto worked at the White House, he worked at ABC. Do you know who he worked with at ABC? Ian Officer Cameron. Do you know who’s married to Cameron? Susan Rice.
Total mystery who Sciutto's trusted source close to Rice is pic.twitter.com/n2Hpx5mKSx
— Stephen Miller (@redsteeze) April 4, 2017
As the Church Lady would say…”How convenient!”
Sciutto later tweeted:
Statement cont'd: "There is nothing unusual abt making these requests when serving as a sr. national security official, whether Dem or GOP"
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) April 4, 2017
Well except for the part where she denied knowing at all about it.
CNN would be wise to have a different reporter work on the story. We don’t know for sure if Cameron is Sciutto’s source, but he’s likely not going to say anything. The use of an anonymous source to “ho-hum” the story is not where CNN should go especially since Jim Scuitto is tied to the Obama administration and to Susan Rice.