If Susan Rice does not have a lawyer by now, she had better get to finding one. Rumor has it that Hillary Clinton is still looking for a job. Oh, wait, her license to practice law has been suspended for over a decade. It looks like Mrs. Rice may have to defend herself if a pending Senate investigation turns up evidence of lawbreaking. According to Breitbart, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) just asked Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Mark Warner (D-VA) to lead a bipartisan investigation into Rice’s actions late last year.
For those new to the story, Susan Rice, of Benghazi fame, appears to be yet again a puppet on a string for what is shaping up to be another full-sized scandal. Ms. Rice apparently ordered the unmasking of American citizens names captured during routine espionage of foreign officials and then had those transcripts sent to intelligence officials throughout the government. This exposure is an action that is only legal to take when there is a valid criminal or security reason to do so. Absent that requirement, her unmasking those names is an egregious breach of an American citizen’s privacy and rights under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – specifically to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.
Mrs. Rice took to the internet to defend herself, tweeting out “I said I did not know what reports Nunes was referring to when he spoke to the press. I still do not. But the full [House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence] needs to know.” She also spoke on MSNBC, claiming “The allegation is that somehow the Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political purposes, that’s absolutely false.”
Legally speaking, she has a robust firewall to hide behind. Even Fox News reports as much:
Under the U.S. Signals Intelligence Directive (section 18), Rice was authorized to unmask the names of U.S. citizens, as long as it was essential to national security. Sure enough, Rice claims that national security was her reason.
The problem for Ms. Rice is that as the months go by, evidence of any collusion between Russia and the Trump team has yet to materialize. Assuming the link never appears, Ms. Rice’s actions will continue to be viewed as suspicious and purely partisan. As she continues to tap dance around the issue of her potential lawbreaking, this story is increasingly becoming about her. Rice has backed herself into a corner with only three ways out:
- She can try to convince the Senate committee which will now investigate her that her actions were lawful due to a legitimate foreign intelligence concern.
- She could admit that this was something she frequently did because she has no regard for the Constitutional rights of Americans.
- Alternatively, she can reveal that she was a player in a plot to undermine the incoming Trump administration by leaking names of his associates caught up in foreign surveillance.
Still, Ms. Rice will be swimming upstream to find a reasonable way out of this one. Andrew McCarthy over at National Review hits the nail on the head:
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.
As the story continues to unfold and the investigation into Mrs. Rice begins, the most critical piece of information to look for is the answer to the question of why. Why did Susan Rice unmask those names? Hopefully, she will have the decency to give an explanation to that vital question.