The Obama administration's national security advisor played a central role in "unmasking" several Trump campaign officials who had been swept up in USA surveillance operations against foreign targets during last year's presidential election campaign, according to current White House officials and sources on Capitol Hill.
"The allegation is that somehow Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political purposes".
A former national security official close Rice would not deny to ABC News that during the course of her official duties the former national security advisor may have unmasked officials connected to the Trump transition team and campaign, but insisted that she would have never done so improperly.
As Republicans sought to steer public attention to unproven claims that Barack Obama's administration spied on Trump, Rice said that her final months in the White House were focused on Russia's interference in the election that brought Trump to power.
The focus has instead recently shifted to the issue of "unmasking", namely the circumstances in which a USA person's identity is revealed to the government officials reviewing the intelligence reports.
And those people who are putting these stories out are doing just that.
"The notion that some people are trying to suggest, is that by asking for the identity of a person is leaking it, is unequivocally false", Rice added.More news: Trump administration seeks delay in ruling on climate plan
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The White House Counsel's office identified Rice as the person responsible for the unmasking after examining Rice's document log requests.
My guess is that Rice's demasking requests were on behalf of the Obama National Security Council and were part of a broad campaign that began in early 2016 to abuse US intelligence to hurt the Trump candidacy and then his presidency. Rice confirmed that she requested the demasking of Americans while she was National Security Adviser. For instance, the foreigners could be talking about an American by name. Trump believes Trump Tower was under surveillance, though he has provided no evidence even as he accused Obama of wiretapping him.
RICE: Yes, that is possible. Cotton said that unmasking is usually done within the parameters of a law enforcement or intelligence investigation.
RICE: That is exactly right, Andrea. Pursuant to USSID 18's procedures, intelligence reports summarizing information derived from the raw data would contain a redaction in place of the identity of each US person. "That's necessary for me to do my job". In order to protect the privacy rights of those USA persons, the government has imposed procedures for "minimizing" or "masking" those persons' identities. It is necessary for the Secretary of State, or the Secretary of Defense, or the Central Intelligence Agency director to do their jobs. "Imagine if we saw something of grave significance that involved Russia, China, or anyone else, interfering in our political process and we needed to understand the significance of that".
McCAIN: "I think the circumstances indicate that there's a possibility that that request could have been politically motivated".
Rice also batted away reports that she allegedly had a "spreadsheet" of telephone calls made by Trump campaign officials.