It is outrageous, unconscionable, and illegal. Even so, mounting evidence indicates that the Obama Administration and its loyalists had a habit of using information gleaned from classified foreign surveillance to smear and perhaps blackmail its political opponents. In fact, whether it’s the IRS scandal or spying on Israeli officials lobbying against the Iran nuclear deal, the practice didn’t begin in 2016.
Even if the original collection of information may have been legal, under current circumstances, the evidence shows that the subsequent unmasking, disclosure, and leaking constitutes an illegal abuse of power.
Targeting political opponents did not start with former National Security Adviser Susan Rice’s decision to rifle through classified transcripts for over a year, apparently in an effort to snaffle information about members of Trump’s operation. Nor did it start with the issuance of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court warrant allowing investigators to monitor an informal advisor of the Trump campaign, Carter Page. Indeed, news reports indicate that the Obama Administration previously advanced targeted surveillance in order to stifle debate about the proposed Iran nuclear deal.
In essence, the Obama Administration conducted surveillance on Israeli officials that “also swept up the contents of some of their private conversations with U.S. lawmakers and American-Jewish groups.” Lee Smith, writing in Tablet Magazine, notes that such spying efforts were done in order to help the Obama White House fight its domestic political opponents rather than keep the nation safe from national security threats.
It should therefore surprise no one to discover that Obama loyalists deployed similar surveillance techniques to collect classified information on members of the Trump team and then selectively leak such information to compliant members of the news media in an effort to delegitimize such officials.
After all, this is the same administration that targeted Fox News Reporter James Rosen for doing his job in reporting how the North Korean government would respond to the imposition of U.N. sanctions. To be sure, not all targeting involved surveillance conducted by the NSA or others. For instance, members of the Obama Administration within the Internal Revenue Service targeted Obama’s political opponents by denying some grassroots conservative groups the tax-exempt status that they deserved under the law.
Americans who have followed every twist and turn in the Obama Administration’s multi-year targeting saga should not be surprised to learn that the fingerprints of Susan Rice, the White House’s falsifier-in-chief, can be found nearby.
Recently, in a PBS interview, she denied any knowledge of the effort to unmask the identities of Trump folks. After reports surfaced showing that she had directed efforts to unmask Trump officials, Ms. Rice admitted her participation but claimed it was not done for political purposes.
Such denials strain credulity. In addition, they confirm her reputation as a dissembler. Ms. Rice, evidently, participated in the unmasking of Americans and then after her Orwellian denials crumbled, she denied that any unmasking occurred for political purposes. Here it is worth noting that the President’s National Security Adviser is a consumer of information, not an investigative agency like the CIA, FBI or NSA. As ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow notes, “Unmasking U.S. citizens in surveillance requires very specific legal and factual circumstances. By all appearances, the unmasking of Trump transition members was done for political, not national security reasons – a direct violation of agency policies and likely of federal law.” In the absence of a defensible explanation, unmasking amounts to an abuse of power.
Ms. Rice’s apparent falsehoods mirrors her participation in the cover-up of the Benghazi attack, her contention that Bowe Bergdaghl, a deserter, served his country with honor and distinction, and her mendacious contention that the Obama Administration had successfully negotiated the removal of all chemical weapons from Syria, a contention that Bashar Al-Assad blew up a few days ago.
Remarkably, Susan Rice’s activities did not occur in a void. Instead, as the ACLJ noted earlier, her conduct appears to be consistent with the conduct of former Obama Administration officials such as Evelyn Farkas, Loretta Lynch, and others. Taken together, this gave rise to the deduction that there was a plan to disseminate raw intelligence throughout the intelligence community in concert with both an unmasking effort and selective disclosure to a compliant press. This scheme led inevitably to the leaking of classified information, which is a crime.
Unmasking and disclosure for purposes other than national security weaponizes surveillance and results in the unjustified political destruction of American citizens, who are caught in this web of deceit. Although this approach has been often used in the developing world, it violates both the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution and the rule of law.
While all Americans should be prepared to immediately and unconditionally condemn the misbehavior of the Obama Administration, the United States Department of Justice ought to convene a grand jury expeditiously. This reprehensible behavior warrants more than mere condemnation.
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