“What did the President know, and when did he know it?” These are the questions that Senator Howard Baker (R-Tenn.) wanted to know. He was a member of the committee assigned to investigate the Watergate scandal and President Richard Nixon’s involvement in it. People are asking the same questions now concerning Barack Obama and the unmasking of Donald Trump, his family, and his associates.
In mid-February 2017 Michael Flynn was forced to resign as National Security Advisor to President Trump due to information “leaked” about his connection to Russia. In early March 2017 President Donald Trump tweeted that Obama had tapped his wires in Trump Towers, and the lame stream media went wild in their reports. Of course, Obama did not physically tap the wires in Trump Towers. Most of us can understand that he did not. We also understand that there was no need for him to do it because there are not that many “wires” left because of modern technology and cell phones. All of us with common sense understand that Trump meant that he had been surveilled by the Obama administration. Facts slowly emerged that the surveillance started before Trump became the Republican nominee for President and up until his inauguration.
Mollie Hemingway at the Federalist gave an outline of events. Two weeks ago Representative Devin Nunes, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, reported that he had “seen dozens of reports featuring unmasked information on Trump and his associates and family members.” The information came from “incidental collection during FISA surveillance,” but it had “little to no foreign intelligence value.” He indicated that the unmasking may have been legal but the leaking of information to the press was definitely illegal.
On Monday, April 3, 2017, according to Hemingway, Eli Lake at Bloomberg Views gave more information. He reported that sources had told him that Susan Rice, the National Security Advisor for Obama’s second term, “requested the identities of U.S. persons in raw intelligence reports on dozens of occasions.” This information was discovered during a review of unmasking procedures conducted by Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the National Security Council’s senior director for intelligence. Rice first denied knowing anything about the unmasking. No one believed her because she has a history of lying. She later admitted to unmasking because there are computer logs at the White House proving that she did it.
Even though “many in the media are attempting to downplay, denigrate and distract,” Hemingway lists five reasons why the media should be covering this story. Here are her five reasons: (1) Susan Rice changed her story dramatically over a two-week period; (2) “The unmasking was related to political information;” (3) Susan Rice had daily access to Obama because she worked in the White House; (4) The reports on Susan Rice’s involvement supports the claims made by Nunes; (5) Questions remain about civil liberties.
This unmasking and sharing of information on private Americans is a big problem because the Constitution guarantees privacy to Americans. The unmasking done by Susan Rice did not involve national security. If the security of the nation was involved, the unmasking would have been done by the agencies involved, not the advisor to the President. An even bigger problem to me is the number of people involved in the unmasking. Apparently, Susan Rice was not the only person involved in the unmasking. She admits to unmasking at least one member of the Trump team, but she denies unmasking Flynn’s name. She says that she “leaked nothing to nobody.”
The question comes back to Barack Obama: “What did the President know, and when did he know it?”