Jim Schiutto of CNN obtained a statement Monday from former national security security adviser Susan Rice about the allegation that she improperly requested the “unmasking” of Donald Trump officials that were incidentally surveilled by U.S. intelligence agencies.
“Well, just a short time ago,” Schiutto reported, “I spoke with someone close to Ambassador Rice, and this is the first comment from someone close to Rice today on these allegations. I’ll read it in quotes.”
The idea that Ambassador Rice improperly sought the identities of Americans is false. There is nothing unusual about making these requests when serving as a senior national security official, whether Democrat or Republican.
“That coming from someone who works for Ambassador Rice,” he continued, “but, let’s go beyond that, because I spoke today with senior former senior U.S. intelligence officials, the senior-most, who served both Republican and Democratic administrations and this is what they’ve told me about this story.”
“They said, one, this is not unusual,” Schiutto added. “This happens, when you are briefed on intelligence, communications like this, sometimes senior national security officials can ask the intelligence community to identify the Americans either mentioned in those conversations or on the other side of those phone calls.”
“It’s not up to that senior U.S. national security official to make that decision,” he explained. “It’s then up the intelligence agencies, the NSA, they decide what’s appropriate to unmask for that senior official. It is legal. There are protocols that have been put in place since 9/11 to allow this to happen. And I’m told, it’s very meticulously logged, someone said to me, described, it’s like, it’s like Catholic baptismal records, it’s so well logged. You can’t do this in secret. And you have to do it with the approval of the intelligence community.”
“And finally, Anderson, I would just say,” Schiutto concluded, “why would someone do this? Every day they’re getting briefings on intelligence. Their briefer chooses what they’re briefed on, including Ambassador Rice. In those briefings, and officials such as Rice might say, ‘to further understand it, I’d like to know who those names are,’ and that’s why they would make that request. Which then, as I said, has to be approved by the intelligence community.”
The short statement from Rice’s associate denied that the unmasking was “improper,” but appeared to confirm that it indeed happened. Many have taken the report as further evidence to prove Trump’s accusation of wiretapping, or surveillance more broadly, against former President Barack Obama.