(Bob Unruh, WND) In the waning days of the Obama administration, bureaucrats ensconced in their posh Washington offices were resting in the prospect of a Hillary Clinton victory that would protect Obama’s legacy and their positions.
But then-National Security Adviser Susan Rice may have had some doubts. Or maybe she was just curious. Or maybe there was another motive. Regardless, she “unmasked” a number of Trump campaign individuals who were caught up in various federal surveillance tactics.
That means they were recorded talking on the phone or meeting with someone who was under surveillance by the Obama administration.
Normally, the identity of American citizens in such situations is withheld.
But not so in this case. In fact, Rice gave the identifications to the National Security Council, the Defense Department, the Director of National intelligence Office and the CIA, according to media reports citing illegal leaks.
It’s been part of the flood of leaks of secret or protected information by the Obama-leaning Washington bureaucracy, dubbed by some as the “deep state,” apparently in an effort to undermine the agenda of the president chosen by American voters.
Now there’s an organization that thinks the people should know what went on – who did the surveillance, who “unmasked” the names of American citizens and who spread the names around Washington.
The American Center for Law and Justice has sued the National Security Agency for refusing to respond to its questions submitted under the Freedom of Information Act.
ACLJ said the lawsuit seeks to enforce its demands “for government records that will shed light on the Susan Rice ‘unmasking’ scandal that rocked the intelligence community.”
The questions were submitted under FOIA, but the NSA has refused to follow the law.
Fox News explained the big picture: “Susan Rice, former national security adviser under then-President Barack Obama, requested to unmask the names of Trump transition officials caught up in surveillance. The unmasked names, of people associated with Donald Trump, were then sent to all those at the National Security Council, some at the Defense Department, then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and then-CIA Director John Brennan – essentially, the officials at the top, including former Rice deputy Ben Rhodes.”
The ACLJ said the “only way we even know about the Obama administration’s apparent politically motivated unmasking is because this raw intelligence information – classified national security secrets – was illegally leaked to the media.”
Its formal request asked for “records pertaining to any and all requests former National Security Adviser Susan Rice made to National Security Agency officials or personnel regarding the ‘unmasking’ of the names and/or any other personal identifying information of then candidate and/or President-elect Donald J. Trump, his family, staff, transition team members, and/or advisers who were incidentally caught up in U.S. electronic surveillance.”
The request was acknowledged by the NSA and even granted “expedited processing” status.
But the answers never came.
“So … we filed a critical lawsuit and we will force the NSA to answer to a federal court for its blatant disregard for the law,” ACLJ announced.
It is seeking an order to release “any and all non-exempt records.”
“This is not our first time we’ve taken the NSA to federal court,” ACLJ explained. “We filed a lawsuit earlier this year to force the NSA to produce government records that could expose the people and purposes behind the Obama administration’s eleventh hour rule change that dramatically expanded access to raw signal intelligence – signed by the Obama administration officials on their way out the door.
“It was these changes that have [led] to an unprecedented avalanche of dangerous national security leaks,” the group explained.
“The deep state shadow government bureaucracy must not be allowed to endanger the national security of the American people as it carries out a vicious vendetta against the current administration.”
The lawsuit states, “Plaintiff is being irreparably harmed by reason of defendant’s unlawful withholding of requested records, and plaintiff will continue to be irreparably harmed unless defendant is compelled to conform their conduct to the requirements of the law.”
WND reported only weeks ago that some of the key documentation may be under lock and key now – and kept their for five years – at the former president’s library.
It was another watchdog on government, Judicial Watch, that said its National Security Council denied Freedom of Information Act requests for documents related to Rice’s alleged unmasking of the “identities of any U.S. citizens associated with the Trump presidential campaign or transition team.”
The NSC said the documents have been transferred to the Barack Obama Presidential Library, while pointedly adding “you should be aware that under the Presidential Records Act, presidential records remain closed to the public for five years after an administration has left office.”
It was unclear what was in the statement and what that would mean for the members of Congress who are investigating, the FBI, or even special counsel Robert Mueller.
The Wall Street Journal reported the House Intelligence Committee issued seven subpoenas recently, a sign that its investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election is ramping up in scope and intensity.
Three of the subpoenas specifically addressed how and why the names of associates of President Donald Trump were unredacted and distributed within classified reports by Obama administration officials during the transition between administrations.
Back in April, WND reported Rice, speaking to MSNBC, did not deny unmasking the names of Trump associates.
She implicitly acknowledged and explicitly defended unmasking: “It was not uncommon. It was necessary at times to make those requests.”
But weeks earlier, speaking to PBS, Rice denied any knowledge of such unmasking after it was revealed by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif.
She told PBS, “I know nothing about this” and, “I was surprised to see reports from Chairman Nunes on that count today.”