- - Tuesday, April 4, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Susan Rice, the most notorious liar in the employ of Barack Obama, is revealed as the queen of the unmasked ball. She abused her position as the national security adviser to the president to obtain the “masked” name of at least one member of the Trump transition team in the weeks between the election and the inauguration. What she did with the information is anybody’s guess, and anybody could make a pretty good one.

The masked name was in summaries she received of U.S. eavesdropping on conversations between foreign officials discussing the Trump team, or when foreign officials, not necessarily Russians, were talking to members of the transition team. The surveillance was legal, and so was Miss Rice’s request, but it was unusual and more than a little troubling to a growing number of skeptics in the capital.

Masking names is done to protect the innocent, and Miss Rice’s request was almost certainly made to satisfy political curiosity, useful to Barack Obama’s campaign to put up as many obstacles as he could in the way of organizing a presidential administration. Mischief is always an effective obstacle.

Miss Rice insists she did nothing wrong or illegal. “The allegation is that somehow the Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political purposes,” she told NBC News on Tuesday. “That’s absolutely false.” That sounds pretty categorical, but Susan Rice is one of the last government officials past or present whose word is safe to take, even with a lot of salt. She established her sordid reputation for truth-telling in the wake of the murder of the American ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi, when she raced around Washington on a Sunday morning to get on all the talk shows to blame the murders on Islamic rage over an obscure video, produced in America, that offended delicate Islamic sensibilities. She knew she was telling a lie — obviously on White House instructions — and the Obama administration later admitted her story was a political concoction. This episode remains the most infamous example yet of “fake news.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that a source who had seen the unmasked documents says they included information about meetings and policy discussions by high officials of the Trump transition team. None of these documents, the newspaper reported, included information about Russia or the FBI investigation into ties, if any, between Russia and the Trump organization. Summaries of the documents were distributed “only” to a select group of recipients, including Miss Rice.

When an interviewer for PBS Radio had asked her last month whether Donald Trump might be right, that his transition aides were “surveilled,” she replied: “I know nothing about this.” Of course not. Why would anyone think Mr. Obama’s designated fall guy (or fall girl), would have anything to do with politics and leaks?

Miss Rice and her defenders on the left, including the usual suspects at the television networks, insist there’s no story here. Others on the right are calling the story “bigger than Watergate,” which so far is more than a bit over the top. But no one can say where a story of political chicanery and surveillance in Washington will lead. Watergate, as those with long memories will recall, was at first dismissed as “a third-rate burglary.”

Miss Rice is said to be reluctant to speak under oath, but that is exactly where she should tell her story. There’s no shortage of investigations, and one of them — or all of them — should get to the bottom of this sordid story.

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