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    #Ricegate: Did Former National Security Adviser Rice Really Cross the Red Line?

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    Former national security adviser Susan Rice has come under heavy criticism for reportedly seeking to "unmask" the identities of Donald Trump’s transition officials incidentally swept up by the intelligence community. Wall Street analyst Charles Ortel commented on the looming scandal in his interview with Sputnik.

    Former Obama administration national security adviser Susan Rice has found herself in an awkward position after Eli Lake of Bloomberg disclosed that she had made multiple requests to "unmask" US persons in intelligence reports related to Trump transition activities.

    Only two weeks ago Rice insisted in a PBS interview that she didn't know whether Trump transition officials could have been "swept up in surveillance of foreigners" in the last few months of the Obama administration.

    On March 22, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes confirmed that the intelligence community "incidentally collected information about US citizens involved in the Trump transition."

    Speaking Tuesday to MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell, Rice admitted that "it wasn't uncommon" to make such requests. Still, according to Rice, it was "absolutely not for any political purposes."

    "There were occasions when I would receive a report in which a US person was referred to, name not provided, just a US person, and sometimes in that context in order to understand the importance of that report, and assess its significance, it was necessary to find out or request the information as to who that US official was," the former national security adviser said.

    As Howard Kurtz of Fox News remarked on the matter, Rice has "now gone from professed ignorance to nothing improper."

    However, Rice's actions raise a lot of questions, observers argue.

    New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin calls attention to the fact that although Rice denied either leaking details about "unmasked" Trump transition officials to the media or using this information for political purposes, facts prove otherwise.

    Goodwin noted that surveillance information involving at least three people related to Trump's team — Gen. Michael Flynn, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Jared Kushner — has been recently leaked to the media and used to rock Trump's boat.

    Commenting on the issue, American pundit Tucker Carlson tweeted Tuesday: "Let's drop the euphemisms. Monitoring the conversations of your political opponents, isn't 'incidental collection.' It's spying."

    ​Sputnik asked Charles Ortel, a Wall Street analyst who exposed financial fraud at General Electric ahead of the 2008 financial crisis, to comment on the issue.

    Did Susan Rice really cross the red line?

    "The first issue is what was the nature of the inquiry that led to identifying US persons as having been in contact with foreign nationals…. Specifically by what authority were branches of our government surveilling foreign nationals, and what national security interests were at stake? We have heard one story, that Russia and Russian interests were suspected of interfering in the 2016 election. And we have recently heard a conflicting story that the national security inquiry that led to identifying US persons had nothing to do with Russia. What is the truth?" Ortel asked referring to Nunes' March 22 press conference.

    Indeed, during the conference Nunes highlighted that "none of this surveillance [incidentally collected on Trump's associates] was related to Russia or the investigation of Russian activities or of the Trump team."

    "If there was a valid National Security investigation (not a politically inspired witch hunt), then Rice had every right to know the names of US persons who may have been caught up in surveillance. However, she also had legal duties to protect the identities of US persons," Ortel told Sputnik.

    The Wall Street analyst remarked that the Obama administration "played loose with laws from the beginning."

    "Walking illegal guns into Mexico ('Fast and Furious'), then lying about dread consequences. Investigating Fox News anchor James Rosen and his family under false pretenses, then lying about it. Sticking the IRS on conservative charities but letting the Clinton charity frauds escalate, and lying about it. Entering Libya and other unstable nations to foment regime change, and lying about it. I could go on," he said.

    National Security Advisor Susan Rice listens as US President Barack Obama talks with members of his cabinet during a meeting at the White House in Washington, DC
    © AFP 2019 / Jim WATSON
    Susan Rice

    According to Ortel, the prospect of Hillary Clinton losing in the presidential race "likely terrified" Team Obama.

    "First, elements did all they could to rob maverick Bernie of the nomination, then they did all they could to tip the general to Hillary," the Wall Street analyst noted.

    "In these efforts, Team Obama was aided by like-minded interests in other nations allied with globalist leaders including the UK, Germany, and France. Doubtless, security services of these and other nations worked towards the ends of keeping the EU together, stopping Trump, and demonizing Russia," Ortel suggested.

    Interestingly enough, a similar thought was voiced by Willy Wimmer, former vice president of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and ex-state secretary of the German Defense Ministry, back in November 2016.

    "We are dealing with a sort of international 'collective policy' pursued by Democrats together with the 'war establishment' of Democrats and Republicans in Washington," Wimmer told Sputnik Germany following Trump's victory.

    Ortel assumed that new evidence of Obama-era transgressions may start emerging soon.

    "After spending months claiming that Russian interests interfered with the 2016 election, what if the truth is that mainstream media, and the Obama/Clinton/Bush 'uniparty' is the true culprit?" the Wall Street analyst asked rhetorically.

    "If this is true, then Watergate will seem a mere sideshow by comparison," Ortel added.

    President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama talk on the East front steps of the US Capitol after inauguration ceremonies on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC.
    © AFP 2019 / Robyn BECK
    President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama talk on the East front steps of the US Capitol after inauguration ceremonies on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC.

    If the Trump team manages to prove that the information on the presidents associates was obtained and disseminated illegally, will it deal a blow to FBI Director James Comey's inquiry into non-existent "collusion" between Trump's team and Russia?

    "I am told that the FBI and other security agencies (as well as portions of the military) have been infected with political partisans. In essence, there are at least three camps: objective law and order types who ignore politics, Obama/Clinton operatives, and Bush operatives," Ortel responded.

    "For many reasons, I believe Comey is on shaky ground virtually with all camps and likely with the Trump Administration. For the sake of public integrity, and so that we do examine the record fairly, he and his deputy McCabe should both resign, and replacements should get appointed who are drawn, in proven ways, from the apolitical, law and order camp," the Wall Street analyst said.

    "Then, ideally using existing wheels of Justice, Congress, and the global (not American or western alone) media, let's find out what really happened, including whether elected US officials attempted to interfere in the 2016 US election," he highlighted.

    Meanwhile, citing two officials familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the House Intelligence Committee wants Susan Rice to testify in an inquiry of alleged Russian election interference, "as the investigation widens to include allegations that Obama officials improperly used intelligence information involving President Donald Trump or his associates."

    For its part, the Senate Intelligence Committee signaled on the same day that it is not ruling out interviewing Rice over reports that she sought to have the identities of Trump's transition team unmasked, The Washington Post wrote.

    "If the reports are right, then she will be of interest to us," Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said.

    The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

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    Tags:
    spying, investigation, intelligence, surveillance, US Congress, U.S. Department of State, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Devin Nunes, Jared Kushner, Jeff Sessions, Hillary Clinton, Willy Wimmer, Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Susan Rice, Germany, United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, Libya
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