That's not how this works. That's not how any of this works

Andrew McCarthy explains: No, Susan Rice would have had no legitimate reason to ask for the unmasking


By —— Bio and Archives April 5, 2017

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The reason I so often reference Andrew McCarthy is that there are so many things that happen concerning the workings of the Justice Department, national security and intelligence agencies . . . and much of what you hear about it comes from people who have never worked in or around these environments and don’t really know how they work.

McCarthy has, and he does.

So when we get a story like the Susan Rice unmasking case, and the media tell you it’s no big deal and not a story, check with McCarthy. Because he can not only tell you if it is or is not a legitimate story, he can also explain how and why:

Understand: 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.

The FBI, CIA, and NSA generate or collect the intelligence in, essentially, three ways: conducting surveillance on suspected agents of foreign powers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and carrying out more-sweeping collections under two other authorities — a different provision of FISA, and a Reagan-era executive order that has been amended several times over the ensuing decades, EO 12,333.

As Director Comey explained, in answering questions posed by Representative Trey Gowdy (R., S.C.), those three agencies do collection, investigation, and analysis. In general, they handle any necessary unmasking — which, due to the aforementioned privacy obsessiveness, is extremely rare. Unlike Democratic-party operatives whose obsession is vanquishing Republicans, the three agencies have to be concerned about the privacy rights of Americans. If they’re not, their legal authority to collect the intelligence — a vital national-security power — could be severely curtailed when it periodically comes up for review by Congress, as it will later this year.

Those three collecting agencies — FBI, CIA, and NSA — must be distinguished from other components of the government, such as the White House. Those other components, Comey elaborated, “are consumers of our products.” That is, they do not collect raw intelligence and refine it into useful reports — i.e., reports that balance informational value and required privacy protections. They read those reports and make policy recommendations based on them. White House staffers are not supposed to be in the business of controlling the content of the reports; they merely act on the reports.

Thus, Comey added, these consumers “can ask the collectors to unmask.” But the unmasking authority “resides with those who collected the information.”

Of course, the consumer doing the asking in this case was not just any government official. We’re talking about Susan Rice. This was Obama’s right hand doing the asking. If she made an unmasking “request,” do you suppose anyone at the FBI, CIA, or NSA was going to say no?

So Rice’s request to unmask the names came after the collecting agencies decided there was no particular reason to do so. Rice was after something that they had not deemed worthwhile in their initial work. What was that? Could it have been political? If it had nothing to do with Russia or any other FBI investigation, the chances seem pretty good that it was.

 

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They could have told her no, of course, but she was the National Security Adviser and she worked directly for the president. Were they like to tell someone with that kind of standing no? According to McCarthy, they were not.

But, her media defenders will ask, doesn’t she have the right to unmask the names to help her understand what she’s reading? The problem with that defense is twofold: 1. If the collecting agencies believed the information couldn’t be understood without the names being unmasked, they would have unmasked them. Revealing the names of innocent Americans who are not the targets of surveillance is a big deal, which is why it’s not normally done unless there’s a very good reason for it. 2. You have to consider the event in context of what happened next. The allegation is not just that Rice unmasked the names, but that the information including the names was then disseminated widely within the Obama Administration. The ultimate result of this was that the information with the names was leaked.

That’s the real problem here. Rice insists she wasn’t the leaker, and maybe she wasn’t, but if there was a systematic leaking of information going on, then the leaker is dependent on the unmasker to have something to leak. She can play innocent and say she didn’t leak it, but her role in the wrongdoing is just as important as that of the leaker himself.

As is usually the case, the media are functioning as defense attorneys for Obama and everyone in his administration. It’s clear that what went on here was rotten, but their focus will be on any doubt, however implausible, that Rice’s actions were improper. McCarthy explains why we have so many reasons to doubt this defense. Rice could theoretically have had a legitimate reason to unmask the names, but if you know how things really work, you know it’s highly unlikely that was actually the case.


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Dan Calabrese’s column is distributed by CainTV, which can be found at caintv.com

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