Mike Baker, a former CIA covert operations officer and President of Diligence LLC, a global intelligence and security firm, says no matter how strenuously Rice may deny it, if she "weaponized" information gathered by the nation's intelligence community to "unmask" members of Trump's transition team for political reasons, it must be investigated.
Let me explain how this works: I was the National Security Advisor. Former Obama Administration official Evelyn Farkas appeared to acknowledge Trump officials had been the subject of surveillance. But we also know that the Obama administration later changed the classification of the "unmasked" transcripts, and other similar material, in order to spread the information as widely as possible within the government.
While Graham prefaced by saying he would not "prejudge" Rice, he did note that Americans deserve to know if Obama's national security adviser was "involved in unmasking Trump transition figures for political purposes". "No spreadsheet, nothing of the sort". "The notion that some people are trying to suggest, is that by asking for the identity of a person is leaking it, is unequivocally false".
Rice said recently in an interview with PBS that she knew nothing about the claims that Trump transition officials' names might have been collected in the surveillance of foreigners after the election.
If that's where the story ends, then she was nearly certainly legally exercising the broad powers high-level USA national security officials have to review reports produced by the intelligence community.
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At a March 20 House intelligence committee hearing, FBI Director James Comey addressed this issue when asked if Rice would have access to an unmasked American's name.
Typically, when US citizens get caught up in incidental surveillance of foreign actors, their names are redacted.
MITCHELL: At the same time, the president, his associates, their names could have been bandied about by foreign officials, they could have been picked up in incidental collection?
'Masking and unmasking in this context are the set of rules governing how agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation or NSA will treat the information of a US citizen if they come across said citizen in the course of surveilling a foreign adversary, and only a foreign adversary.
RICE: That is exactly right, Andrea. "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 that information as to who that USA official was". In order to protect the privacy rights of those US persons, the government has imposed procedures for "minimizing" or "masking" those persons' identities.
That comes back to me, not to anybody broadly in the national security world, and that is necessary for me to do my job. "To not understand it would be a dereliction of duty".
Rice also batted away reports that she allegedly had a "spreadsheet" of telephone calls made by Trump campaign officials. I was shocked. I think many people were.