CNN had a good segment last night with terrorism expert Juliette Kayyem, among others. Kayyem raised an excellent point about “unmasking,” that proves that whatever Susan Rice, or anyone else in the Obama administration did, it’s simply impossible that their motive was political.
As background, you know that Donald Trump has been claiming, falsely, for a good month now that President Obama “tapped his wires.” As that claim imploded — even Mitch McConnell says there’s no evidence — Trump, in coordination with the GOP Congress (led by Devin Nunes) and the white supremacist Alt Right movement, latched on to a new fake conspiracy theory: former Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice unmasked him!
Now, a bit more background as to what Trump is alleging, and why it’s bogus. The “unmasking” claim is mixed up with the “incidental collection” claim that Trump has been using to argue that Obama tapped his wires. Incidental collection is when the US legally eavesdrops on foreigners who then either speak with an American (like Michael Flynn did with the Russian ambassador) or who mention an American. So even two foreigners under surveillance mentioning someone’s name in a conversation is considered incidental collection on that person.
Generally speaking, when an American citizen’s name, or voice, is incidentally collected, their name is hidden in the intelligence documents where the collection is reported. Back to Juliette Kayyem. Kayyem explained that the intelligence document that Susan Rice was looking at would have mentioned “Person A” or “American Citizen A” either speaking with the Russian ambassador or being mentioned by the Russian ambassador. Rice would have no idea who that American was, whether they were Trump or his campaign staff or just the postman. There is no way to know who was caught up in the incidental collection unless and until you “unmask” it.
Unmasking is the process by which Rice, for example, would have to ask the NSA to reveal the name of the American to her, and to her only. And Rice can’t just ask for it, she has to have a good argument as to why she needs the name in order to better understand the intelligence. And even then, if the NSA isn’t satisfied with her argument, they won’t release the name.
So, there is no way that Susan Rice’s unmasking of this intelligence could have been political because Rice would have had no way of knowing that “American Citizen A” was anyone associated with Donald Trump. She wouldn’t know who they were until AFTER she asked that the information was unmasked, and after the NSA agreed to the unmasking. So there is simply no way she could have done the unmasking in order to politically hurt Donald Trump.
The entire unmasking argument is a red herring.
Kayyem makes one final point. The people who are doing the unmasking here are Trump and his associates, who are busy colluding with the Russians. They’re unmasking themselves by having conversations with Russian spies and other foreigners who the US deems it necessary to spy on. If Team Trump didn’t have so many creepy, surreptitious connections to the Russians, we wouldn’t be discussing any of this.
Here’s a clip of Kayyem discussing this on CNN:
— John Aravosis (@aravosis) April 4, 2017
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