(NationalSentinel) Corruption:Â While the pathetic establishment media continues to treat allegations that former Obama National Security Advisor Susan Rice and her deputy, Ben Rhodes, intentionally unmasked the identities of Trump transition and campaign officials for political purposes, others are beginning to wonder if that operation had been conducted before.
Writing inÂ The Tablet,Â Lee Smith, a senior editor at theÂ Weekly StandardÂ and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, opined that what took place with Team Trump had been done before: During the Obama administration’s push to get the Iran deal done.
He opinesÂ that theÂ picking up of Trump team members – American citizens – incidentally through legitimate surveillance of foreign figures – Russians – was used as cover to essentially spy on transition and campaign officials, in an attempt to learn something that may be useful to leak to the press at a later time.
As conspiratorial as that may sound, Smith said it is eerily similar to what happened to Israeli officials andÂ U.S. lawmakers who had discussions with them during the Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran:
In a December 29, 2015Â article,Â TheÂ Wall Street JournalÂ described how the Obama administration had conducted surveillance on Israeli officials to understand how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials, like Ambassador Ron Dermer, intended to fight the Iran Deal. TheÂ JournalÂ reported that the targeting â€œalso swept up the contents of some of their private conversations with U.S. lawmakers and American-Jewish groups.â€
Despite this reporting, it seemed inconceivable at the time thatâ€”given myriad legal, ethical, political, and historical concerns, as well as strict National Security Agency protocols that protect the identity of American names caught in interceptsâ€”the Obama White House would have actually spied on American citizens. In a December 31, 2016, TabletÂ articleÂ on the controversy, â€œWhy the White House Wanted Congress to Think It Was Being Spied on By the NSA,â€ I argued that the Obama administration had merely used theÂ appearanceÂ of spying on American lawmakers to corner opponents of the Iran Deal. Spying on U.S. citizens would be a clear abuse of the foreign-intelligence surveillance system. It would be a felony offense to leak the names of U.S. citizens to the press.
Increasingly, I believe that my conclusion in that piece was wrong. I believe the spying was real and that it was done not in an effort to keep the country safe from threatsâ€”but in order to help the White House fight their domestic political opponents.
At some point, the administration weaponized the NSAâ€™s legitimate monitoring of communications of foreign officials to stay one step ahead of domestic political opponents,â€ a pro-Israel political operative who was deeply involved in the day-to-day fight over the Iran deal, told Smith.
â€œThe NSAâ€™s collections of foreigners became a means of gathering real-time intelligence on Americans engaged in perfectly legitimate political activismâ€”activism, due to the nature of the issue, that naturally involved conversations with foreigners,” the operative continued. “We began to notice the White House was responding immediately, sometimes within 24 hours, to specific conversations we were having. At first, we thought it was a coincidence being amplified by our own paranoia. After a while, it simply became our working assumption that we were being spied on.â€
Smith later wrote:
This is what systematic abuse of foreign-intelligence collection for domestic political purposes looks like: Intelligence collected on Americans, lawmakers, and figures in the pro-Israel community was fed back to the Obama White House as part of its political operations. The administration got the drop on its opponents by using classified information, which it then used to draw up its own game plan to block and freeze those on the other side. Andâ€”with the help of certain journalists whose stories (and thus careers) depend on high-level accessâ€”terrorize them.
Once you understand how this may have worked, it becomes easier to comprehend why and how we keep being fed daily treats of Trumpâ€™s nefarious Russia ties.
The early reporting on Trump Team members, Michael Flynn in particular, was all smoke and no facts. Indeed, bothÂ The New YorkÂ TimesÂ andÂ Washington Post, which led off with leaked intelligence (the leaking of which is a crime), later reported that no evidence of any criminal activity – by Flynn orÂ any of Trump’s associates who had legitimate contact with Russian and other foreign officials during the campaign and after – existed.
As was the case with U.S. lawmakers and Israel,Â Obama and his political operatives inside the White House knew that Trump Team members would be in contact with foreign nationals, so they usedÂ legitimate to spy onÂ them as well. Then, as happened in the Iran deal, names were leaked and insinuations made – though to facts existed to back up the insinuations:
This is familiar territory. In spying on the representatives of the American people and members of the pro-Israel community, the Obama administration learned how far it could go in manipulating the foreign-intelligence surveillance apparatus for its own domestic political advantage. In both instances, the ostensible targetsâ€”Israel and Russiaâ€”were simply instruments used to go after the real targets at home.
In order to spy on U.S. congressmen before the Iran Deal vote, the Obama administration exploited a loophole, which is described in the originalÂ JournalÂ article.Â The U.S. intelligence community is supposed to keep tabs on foreign officials, even those representing allies. Hence, everyone in Washington knows that Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer is under surveillance. But itâ€™s different for his American interlocutors, especially U.S. lawmakers, whose identities are, according to NSA protocol, supposed to be, at the very least, redacted. But the standard for collecting and disseminating â€œintercepted communications involving U.S. lawmakersâ€ is much less strict if it is swept up through â€œforeign-foreignâ€ intercepts, for instance between a foreign ambassador and his capital. Washington, i.e. the seat of the American government, is where foreign ambassadors are supposed to meet with American officials. The Obama administration turned an ancient diplomatic convention inside outâ€”foreign ambassadors were so dangerous that meeting them signaled betrayal of your own country.
Rice has admitted to the unmasking, but obviously she wouldn’t admit to leaking because it’s a blatant violation of law. And it’s quite possible that she didn’t do the leaking, but clearly through her actions of gathering intelligence on Team Trump – though as a political functionary, she isn’t supposed to be doing intelligenceÂ investigations – and Obama’s unusual directive days before he left office to spread the intelligence throughout the government,Â both Rice and the former president knew those two actionsÂ dramatically increased the odds that the surveillance intelligence would be leaked.
The Trump administration has a golden opportunity to fix this, but it will only happen if he has the will to go after theÂ lawbreakingÂ involved in the Obama political operation – the improper unmasking of names of American citizens, the spreading of that information throughout the government and then the actual leaks to the media.
If he does not, thisÂ will happen again.