Susan Rice had better lawyer up. According to Fox News, the former National Security Advisor requested to unmask the names of Trump officials who had been ensnared in surveillance operations. Without cause, this is illegal.
Even Bloomberg is covering the story, arriving at a conclusion that “much about this is highly unusual.” If you would like to stick your head back in the sand, the coverage at The Washington Post is happy to oblige with the headline “Anatomy of a fake scandal, ginned up by right-wing media and Trump.” After reading through all the headlines, it is hard to piece together the significance of this revelation, let alone the plain English meaning. We will explore both.
The United States spies. We spy on the entire world. Let’s just get that out of the way. There has been much back and forth about whether or not the U.S. spies on its own citizens, but the official position is “no.” Thanks to the protections afforded by the fourth amendment of the Constitution, American citizens are protected from government surveillance without a warrant. However, this presents a problem when an American citizen talks with a foreigner.
Because the United States can and does monitor the communications of foreigners, American citizens will inevitably be part of those conversations. What the government is supposed to do in those situations is to mask, or erase, the names of the Americans involved in the verbal or written exchange. However, the government will always keep a record of exactly who those deleted names are, just in case they need them in a future criminal or security investigation. When the masked memo goes to an agency, it might hypothetically read something like “U.S. Person One promised Vladimir Putin that he would be sure to stop by Saint Basil’s Cathedral for a photo op.” If the memo were unmasked, it would read “Michael Flynn promised…” and thus reveal the identity of the American participant in the conversation.
The most recent controversy is the discovery that last year Susan Rice directed many names on intercepted communications be unmasked, and then had those communications distributed to over a dozen different recipients. She did all this without establishing a valid security or criminal rationale – the decision was presumably based solely off of her initiative and intuition.
There are only two ways to look at this story. First, that these are the actions of a true patriot, willing to sacrifice the individual freedom of a few to expose possible crimes to the nation. Second, that these are the vindictive death throes of an angry government looking to inflict the maximum amount of damage on the new administration, Constitution be damned.
Viewed in a vacuum, one might see Rice’s actions as warranted, even noble. If a fascist regime was about to sweep into power thanks to the meddling of the country’s chief adversary, an outgoing bureaucrat might reasonably suspect that all evidence of foul play would be swept aside once the dictator assumed power. In a valiant effort to ensure that the truth came to light, she might seek to bend the law and expose the minions responsible for coordinating this coup.
Two things shoot this fantasy full of holes: the state of the story today, and the reputation of Susan Rice.
Over a dozen senior-level intelligence officials received these memos – none have come forward with any evidence of malfeasance. After months of accusations that Russia meddled in the election, not a single supporting fact has surfaced. Those sources of the alleged proof that Vladimir Putin himself personally orchestrated the greatest upset in American political history? Still a mystery. The only thing these unmasked memos do is to further discredit the campaign to find a smoking gun, as well as heap an additional load of dirt onto the grave that is Susan Rice’s reputation.
Remember, this is the same woman who went on national television to preach the official story that Benghazi was a spontaneous attack resulting from an internet video. It is also the same woman who, according to a top White House aide, accused the Prime Minister of Israel of insulting Obama by calling him every name except the N-word. The woman does not have the best judgment, nor does she even pretend to think for herself.
Five months after the election, evidence that President Trump was swept into office through coordinated Russian interference continues to elude the left, and not for lack of effort, either. If there were ever a shred of a scandal to be found, it would certainly have surfaced by now. Instead, all we have are empty accusations and these pathetic revelations that senior Obama officials violated the Constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens in the hopes that one day someone would link them to an actual crime. It is now April, and we are still waiting.