Why Susan Rice May Be a Shiny Object

A bunch of Republican propagandists are outraged that the press isn’t showing more interest in PizzaGate Mike Cernovich’s “scoop” that the woman in charge of ensuring our national security under President Obama, then National Security Advisor Susan Rice, sought to fully understand the national security intercepts she was being shown.

There are two bases for their poutrage, which might have merit — but coming from such hacks, may not.

The first is the suggestion, based off Devin Nunes’ claim (and refuted by Adam Schiff) that Rice unmasked things she shouldn’t have. Thus far, the (probably illegally) leaked details — such as that family members, perhaps like Jared Kushner (who met with an FSB officer turned head of a sanctioned Russian bank used as cover for other spying operations), Sean Hannity (who met with an already-targeted Julian Assange at a time he was suspected of coordinating with Russians), and Erik Prince (who has literally built armies for foreign powers) got spied on — do nothing but undermine Nunes’ claims. All the claimed outrageous unmaskings actually seem quite justifiable, given the accepted purpose for FISA intercepts.

The other suggestion — and thus far, it is a suggestion, probably because (as I’ll show) it’s thus far logically devoid of evidence — is that because Rice asked to have the names of people unmasked, she must be the person who leaked the contents of the intercepts of Sergey Kislyak discussing sanctions with Mike Flynn. (Somehow, the propagandists always throw Ben Rhodes’ name in, though it’s not clear on what basis.)

Let me start by saying this. Let’s assume those intercepts remained classified when they were leaked. That’s almost certain, but Obama certainly did have the authority to declassify them, just as either George Bush or Dick Cheney allegedly used that authority to declassify Valerie Plame’s ID (as some of these same propagandists applauded back in the day). But assuming the intercepts did remain classified, I agree that it is a problem that they were leaked by nine different sources to the WaPo.

But just because Rice asked to unmask the identities of various Trump (and right wing media) figures doesn’t mean she and Ben Rhodes are the nine sources for the WaPo.

That’s because the information on Flynn may have existed in a number of other places.

Obviously, Rice could not have been the first person to read the Flynn-Kislyak intercepts. That’s because some analyst(s) would have had to read them and put them into a finished report (most, but not all, of Nunes’ blathering comments about these reports suggest they were finished intelligence). Assuming those analysts were at NSA (which is not at all certain) someone would have had to have approved the unmasking of Flynn’s name before Rice saw it.

In addition, it is possible — likely even, at least by January 2017, when we know people were asking why Russia didn’t respond more strongly to Obama’s hacking sanctions — that there were two other sets of people who had access to the raw intelligence on Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak: the CIA and, especially, the FBI, which would have been involved in any FISA-related collection. Both CIA and FBI can get raw data on topics they’re working on. Likely, in this case, the multi-agency task force was getting raw collection related to their Russian investigation.

And as I’ve explained, as soon as FBI developed a suspicion that either Kislyak was at the center of discussions on sanctions or that Flynn was an unregistered agent of multiple foreign powers, the Special Agents doing that investigation would routinely pull up everything in their databases on those people by name, which would result in raw Title I and 702 FISA collection (post January 3, it probably began to include raw EO 12333 data as well).

So already you’re up to about 15 to 20 people who would have access to the raw intercepts, and that’s before they brief their bosses, Congress (though the Devin Nunes and Adam Schiff briefing, at least, was delayed a bit), and DOJ, all the way up to Sally Yates, who wanted to warn the White House. Jim Comey has suggested it is likely that the nine sources behind the WaPo story were among these people briefed secondarily on the intercepts. And it’s worth noting that David Ignatius, who first broke the story of Flynn’s chats with Kislyak but was not credited on the nine source story, has known source relationships in other parts of the government than the National Security Advisor, though he also has ties to Rice.

All of which is to say that the question of who leaked the contents of Mike Flynn’s conversations with Sergey Kislyak is a very different question from whether Susan Rice’s requests to unmask Trump associates’ names were proper or not. It is possible that Rice leaked the intercepts without declassifying them first. But it’s also possible that any of tens of other people did, most of whom would have a completely independent channel for that information.

And the big vulnerability is not — no matter what Eli Lake wants to pretend — the unmasking of individual names by the National Security Advisor. Rather, it’s that groups of investigators can access the same intelligence in raw form without a warrant tied to the American person in question.

30 replies
  1. SpaceLifeForm says:

    Which is why I believe that the Obama EO on intel sharing came into existence.  He figured out that the intel was being shared secretly inside the IC, violating procedure.

    So, instead of this problem remaining hidden, he just made it explicitly allowed.

    Now, the real patriots inside IC can find the moles.

    Spy vs Spy.

    • PeasantParty says:

      I think you nailed it!  That MO appears to be the tradition with this stuff.  Make it lawful after the fact.


      I also think that somebody was fishing real hard with spotlights.  If what I’ve read is true, they went back to 2013 and prior.  It was not just an incidental chatter catch in my opinion.  It was a deliberate hunt, for a specific reason, by specific people.

      • SpsveLifeForm says:

        I’m not sure you caught my point or not.

        In spy vs spy, which are the good guys?

        Who is watching the watchers?

        Who inside IC is doing the leaking?

    • greengiant says:

      I doubt if there are any real patriots inside the IC or the MIC,  just useful fools and criminals.   BCCI,  Sibel Edmonds, 9-11, FBI revolving door with Russian Mafia,2008 financial crisis,Madoff,  Binney and Drake already left,   blah blah blah,  And explain how the US permits hacking/farming via computer fraud,  tax evasion,  off shoring,  money laundering.   It is pay to play,  via donations to the politicians.

      • PeasantParty says:

        I think there are still some.  They just either don’t know what exactly the up stairs folks are doing, or they do and don’t know how to get it out without going to prison.

        I hate Trump as President, but this Intell involvement in our political process is TREASON.  Not honorable at all, especially when they still have not come clean about the Clinton Foundation, and all those foreign entities they deal with.

  2. PeasantParty says:

    She asked THREE TIMES!

    I’m still not clear on whom she asked, for exactly what.  Maybe my eyes have missed the factoids in all of this, and I am behind the times.  There are blank spaces in my mind.  What exactly caused her to turn NSA upside down to hunt for these?  I mean what exactly caused her to think something was being done with foreigners that all the other DC types don’t do on a daily basis?

    We have plenty of proof of even Congress people doing business with foreign countries.  They even changed the insider trading laws for themselves in Congress to combat the ugly appearances of it.  After the fact, again like always.  Would she not have had to have some inkling there was nefarious dealings to start with?  I don’t know, but things just are not adding up for me.  Yes, it was legal.  After the fact.  I’m not questioning that.  Just the fact that legal as Bmaz knows can be a split hair at times.  What came first?

  3. SpaceLifeForm says:

    How this nothingburger became such a big deal

    “Nothing in this story indicates anything improper,” Susan Hennessey, a former attorney for the National Security Agency and current Brookings Institution fellow, tweeted. “What we’re seeing here is US officials doing jobs to respond to what had markers of a counterintelligence threat: the Trump campaign.”






  4. person1597 says:

    What if the Flynn leaks were not from us but ru? The details were known to both sides. Maybe ru felt like flameing Flynn for some reason. This thread alludes to anomalies that give rise to such an inference.

  5. person1597 says:

    Maybe retaliation for sanctions was delivered as enveloping chaos… Nine leakers? That’s an army! In ru, quantity has a quality all its own…

  6. TomA says:

    Marcy, you seem unable to even admit the possibility that Susan Rice may have unmasked these names for purely political reasons. Whitehouse staff are consumers of intelligence reports, not investigators. If she was indeed attempting her own investigation by soliciting these names, then she should come forward with the results and tell us if she found the smoking gun that proves Trump was complicit with Putin. Otherwise, her silence is damning.

    • bmaz says:

      What?? The only activity reported so far is not only legal, it is exactly what a NSA should do. It is easy to see the discussion as to what authorities specific parts of the Executive Branch ought to have to IC surveillance, but the picture you are painting is silly. It was the GOP who framed the post 9/11 construct. You “now” want to advance your political argument in the face of that construct? Okay.

  7. Anon says:

    Hi Marcy interesting report as always but one question. Why do we assume that these reports were compiled post-hoc? That is why is it always assumed that the contacts were first noticed when everyone saw no big Russia response and then wondered why?

    I would think, and this is just guessing, that if you knew sanctions were about to drop you would want to prepare for or at least know about any Russian retaliation as soon as possible at which point you would have people begin monitoring the raw data and perhaps even sending early reports of what they find constantly. In such an environment of high monitoring it would seem that there would be even more people who might know about Flynn far earlier than the Susan Rice timeline.

    Perhaps that is consistent with some reporting I missed but it would seem to expand the space of possible leakers.

  8. person1597 says:

    Kinetic information exchanged by permission of Maxwell’s demon has raised our temperature at little cost to the demon master. Efficient!

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Maxwell was thinking, but thinking from inside the box. He thought there would be no sneaky molecules that ‘leaked’ thru the door. These days, we know there are lots of sneaky leaking molecules (ok, complex organisms). See IC and WH. And Koch, Devos, Anschutz, Prince, Gorsuch.

      Always, always, think *OUTSIDE* the box.

  9. Avattoir says:

    If you’re like me in wanting to breathe in some wingoshere on the currency of issues like this, you will have already noticed that it’s become New Benghazi.

    Posts like emptywheel’s here — that are precise in delineating the role of the NSA; carefully explain key differences between, OTOH, an NSA making and enforcing a request  to ‘unmask’ one or more otherwise unidentified co-communicator(s) with foreign agents, and, on the other, publicizing the product at all, or within the intelligence community, or via or beyond that to include political officers of the administration, are addressing an entirely difference audience than those who breathe only in the wingosphere; and are as thorough as one might reasonably ask in laying out all the OTHER officials within the intel community who might well have reason or incentive & certainly authority to make the same requests — are being read by liberals, progressives, the reality-oriented community & apparently quite a few rw trolls and/or rw or ru bots.

    In contrast, in the heady gases of the wingosphere, it is currently being asserted, re-asserted, and reinforced constantly, in post after post, that Rice is a caricature completely captured by that one minor role on the Sunday shows; that Rice is completely suffused with animus & neither had nor has any other purpose or even life; that ‘unmasking’ is something the “customer” should never been allowed to request and instead should be left entirely to the interception service to exclusively decide upon – guess, really, I suppose – that the “customer” ‘needs’; that illegitimate preznit Obama threw up some pixie dust & created a nifty self-serving amendment to a long-standing executive order (going all the way back to Saint Ronnie at the beginning of time, or to one of the Bush disciples inspired by being in his company) that provided the only route to allowing Rice this access in the first place; that Rice provided the interception services with a detailed, itemized list of Trump campaign & Trump transition team officials, essentially hoovering up every conceivable innocent contact with any and all Rooskies, down to janitors, maids, doorman, landscapers & receptionists; used the product of that hoovering to create a massive file, a “dossier” if you will, to be distributed lib’rully thru the Deep State; and then reported by to Fearless Leader Barry, who ordered the massive redistribution he intended from the outset.

    And those folks reading that and not reading this, or the leftosphere, or the ‘lying dailies’ of which WaPo and the NYT are just the most prominent.

    To the mouth-breathers of the wingosphere, this is a continuation of Bbbeeennnggghhhaaazzziii!!!

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      *YOU* ok?

      By my count, you wrote nearly 550 words (I am not counting the ampersands), and only used
      a grand total of *FIVE* periods (full stops).
      Averaging over 100 words per sentence.
      Seriously, are you ok?

      Seriously, Is the pressure that bad?

      Unless you are working for a TLA, you need to relax. Yes, things are a mess, but not likely you can do much about it. Do not stress. Keep up the work, but seriously, you are the one thats needs to breathe. Try Pink Floyd.

  10. SpaceLifeForm says:

    Compare:  MSM vs REAL investigative journalism.


    The students began digging into a weeks-long investigation that would result in an article published Friday questioning the legitimacy of the principal’s degrees and of her work as an education consultant.
    On Tuesday night, Robertson resigned.


    • Charles says:

      Obviously we need more high school students in major newspapers.


      The current batch of journalists, with a handful of exceptions, doesn’t seem to be able to descry corruption within a writhing, scalding, foaming, stinking, phosphorescent fountain of it in the Executive Branch.

  11. SpaceLifeForm says:

    Ever heard of ‘due process’?

    Or Stellar Wind?



    Charlie Savage of the New York Times has obtained another document detailing the internal guidelines of the NSA’s STELLAR WIND program as a result of the NYT’s long-running FOIA lawsuit against the government. The new document is a memo from the Department of Justice, which details its lawyers’ attempts to suss out the government’s obligation to defendants when it comes to evidence derived from classified surveillance programs.






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