Former Obama administration National Security official Susan Rice denied allegations that she tried to “unmask” individuals linked to President Trump who were caught on intelligence surveillance in a spy sweep in the period following the 2016 election.
She told NBC News Tuesday that the accusations that she and other Obama administration officials used intelligence for the purpose of spying on Trump’s associates were “absolutely false.” She also said that her role as National Security Adviser gave her the ability to request the names of those individuals, which would typically be redacted in intelligence reports for national security reasons.
She said that government officials received communications from the global intelligence community on a daily basis. At times, an American, whose name was not provided, would be referred to in the information. “Sometime in that context, in order to understand the importance of the report and assess its significance, it was necessary to find out or to request the information as to who that U.S. official was,” she explained. The intelligence community would then make a determination if the name of the person could be provided.
She was asked if she leaked the name of Mike Flynn, who resigned as National Security Adviser under President Trump in February and is now seeking immunity from investigations into Russia’s meddling in the election, and flatly said: “I leaked nothing to nobody and never have and never would.” She did not say whether or not Flynn’s name is one of the ones that came up on the intelligence reports. But she also explained that requesting the name of an American whose name came up on the report is “not the same as leaking it.”
She said she does not know what reports that are particularly being described by those who have alleged that she spied on the Trump associates, and denied that she created and distributed a spreadsheet of the names and said “nothing of the sort” exists.
The White House has tried to use the allegations of politically-motivated spying to shift focus away from the FBI and congressional investigations into possible Trump campaign ties to Russia. Trump launched the first salvo last month when he tweeted that Obama had wiretapped his New York skyscraper, an explosive allegation that senior intelligence and law enforcement officials have denied.
The U.S. official said Trump’s National Security Council began an intelligence policy review after the inauguration that included looking into how widely raw intelligence and the names of Americans were disseminated. Rice’s unmasking requests were found during that review, according to the official, who insisted on anonymity in order to discuss the sensitive information.
After viewing the findings, the White House counsel’s office told the NSC to stop the review and not conduct an independent investigation into whether there was improper handling of intelligence.
With Reporting by AP.