Former national security adviser Susan Rice told House Intelligence Committee investigators that she spied on the crown prince of the UAE, and in doing so, unmasked the names of top Trump officials, CNN reported Wednesday.
“Unmasking” is the term used to describe uncovering the names of people (specifically in this case, American citizens) that are gathered as part of foreign surveillance collection efforts. Obama administration officials such as Rice, UN Ambassador Samantha Power, CIA director John Brennan, and others have been accused of unmasking Americans in a manner that neglects proper procedure.
Rice’s explanation for using the highly controversial espionage tactic generates more questions than answers. Her most recent explanation reveals that the Obama administration had a troubling relationship with what is supposed to be one of our Arab allies and also leaves many wondering why she was spying on Americans just one month before leaving office.
What happened to US-UAE relations under the Obama administration?
The United Arab Emirates is a major partner in the U.S. coalition against the Islamic State and is commonly seen as a crucial ally in the larger war against global jihadism. The small Gulf nation hosts some 3,500 American military personnel at its Al Dhafra Air Base.
Susan Rice’s decision to spy on a prominent UAE figure reminds us that Team Obama’s foreign policy had a habit of gathering information on countries that are considered close allies and altering long-held alliances, not for the better.
Along with Israel (a major target of the Obama administration’s espionage operations), the UAE fiercely opposed Obama’s controversial nuclear accord with the terrorist regime in Iran. Obama’s embrace of the Islamist Arab Spring was also viewed in Abu Dhabi as a major blunder, one that could have ramifications for its monarchy and the entire Gulf region.
The fact that a top official such as Rice felt the need to spy on an ally instead of simply reaching out and asking about its intentions says all you need to know about how the previous White House alienated the UAE and other allies.
UAE-based papers cheered the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president, not just based on some encouraging foreign policy initiatives that he proposed, but out of glee that the past administration (and its pro-Tehran, pro-Muslim Brotherhood policies) had left power.
There is nothing unusual about wanting to meet with the incoming administration
Rice claimed that part of the reason for her spying was that it was a mystery why the crown prince of the UAE, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, came to New York during the presidential transition period. To even a casual foreign policy observer, it’s obvious why one of the most influential leaders in the Arab world wanted to meet with Donald Trump during the transition period. Rice’s “explanation” doesn’t pass the smell test.
The UAE is a vital U.S. ally, and it is in the best interests of both nations that its leaders become acquainted prior to transitions in office. There is nothing scandalous about such a visit. Rather, it’s standard protocol.
Two sources privy to the meeting (who chose to remain anonymous for diplomatic reasons) tell Conservative Review that the crown prince’s meeting with Trump advisers last December focused on bolstering the diplomatic relationship and included a dialogue on how to improve counter-terrorism cooperation and regional stability.
Why would the crown prince travel halfway around the world to open up a back channel between the U.S. and Russia?
It takes about 15 hours one-way to travel by air from Dubai to New York. That’s a long trip for an influential monarch with a tight schedule, who would seemingly get nothing substantial out of acting as an unnecessary intermediary between the Trump transition and Russia.
From a practical standpoint, it’s hard to make sense of the speculation in CNN’s report that the meeting was a follow-up to help the incoming Trump administration set up a back channel with Russia.
Trump was one month and a few days away from assuming commander-in-chief duties; he didn’t need an intermediary of any kind. And even if the incoming Trump administration wanted to use the meeting to help facilitate a coming detente with Russia, it’s hardly a reason for the outgoing administration to spy on its political opponents.
Susan Rice was unmasking American citizens a month before leaving office
It is widely understood that the authority to unmask the names of American citizens should only be used in extreme circumstances particularly vital to our national security. But the casual use by Rice (and according to reports, many other Obama White House officials) has led experts to entertain the possibility that she was instead engaged in Watergate-level political espionage.
Rice lied on national television. Should we believe her now?
In April, Susan Rice appeared on MSNBC with Andrea Mitchell and wholly denied she knew anything regarding the unmasking of Trump officials.
“I know nothing about this,” Rice said. “I was surprised to see reports from [House Intelligence Committee] Chairman [Devin] Nunes on that count today … So today, I really don’t know to what Chairman Nunes was referring. But he said that whatever he was referring to was a legal, lawful surveillance and that it was potentially incidental collection on American citizens.”
It turns out that Rice knew exactly what was going on, as evidenced by her testimony provided in the CNN report.
This is the same person who appeared on every cable news show and repeatedly called the Benghazi attacks a “spontaneous reaction” to a “hateful and offensive” YouTube video, when nothing could be further from the truth.
The Obama White House national security adviser had a history of lying to the American public. Why should congressional investigators believe Rice now?
How do we stop the mainstream media from warping the national narrative? We push back together. With the truth.
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Jordan Schachtel is the national security correspondent for Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @JordanSchachtel.
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