Slow pace of Rice records angers in­tel­li­gence panel

Data locked in Obama ar­chive

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAN BOY­LAN AND GUY TAY­LOR

House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee sources say ca­reer of­fi­cials at the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil are slow-walk­ing the de­liv­ery of sub­poe­naed records on for­mer Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser Su­san E. Rice’s han­dling of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion and the “un­mask­ing” of Trump cam­paign work­ers — ma­te­rial from the Rus­sian hack­ing probe that mid­dle-level NSC man­agers claim was trans­ferred to Pres­i­dent Obama’s li­brary and could “re­main closed to the public for five years.”

One source, speak­ing only on the con­di­tion of anonymity, called the trans­fer cu­ri­ous and ap­peared to re­flect an ef­fort by for­mer ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials to ob­scure ev­i­dence on whether Ms. Rice and other top of­fi­cials in the Obama White House il­le­gally tried to iden­tify which Trump cam­paign and tran­si­tion aides had been caught up in the U.S. in­tel­li­gence in­ter­cepts of Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the pres­i­den­tial race.

The two high-level in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee sources told The Wash­ing­ton Times that they are con­fi­dent the panel’s in­ves­ti­ga­tors, de­spite the delays, will even­tu­ally get their hands on the

records shipped to a heav­ily se­cure ar­chive for Mr. Obama’s yet-to-be-built pres­i­den­tial li­brary.

A spokesman at the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil would not di­rectly ad­dress ques­tions on the Rice case, say­ing only that the coun­cil’s staff is “still in the process of re­view­ing record re­quests” to en­sure that any “ex­ec­u­tive priv­i­lege con­cerns” are taken into ac­count.

The spokesman, Michael N. An­ton, said the in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee sub­poe­nas were not sub­mit­ted di­rectly to the NSC, but to other agen­cies within the U.S. in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity. He did not re­spond to a re­quest for specifics on which agen­cies.

The Barack Obama Pres­i­den­tial Li­brary in Hoff­man Es­tates, Illi­nois, de­clined to com­ment Thurs­day on the han­dling of Ms. Rice’s doc­u­ments.

Rep. Devin Nunes, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can and chair­man of the House Per­ma­nent Select Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence, has been an out­spo­ken pro­po­nent of the panel’s fo­cus on the un­mask­ing al­le­ga­tions. He also de­clined to com­ment.

Tom Fit­ton, pres­i­dent of the le­gal ac­tivist group Ju­di­cial Watch, said the seal­ing of un­mask­ing records was an ex­am­ple of how U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies are stonewalling.

It was first re­vealed in a re­cent Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act ex­change be­tween Ju­di­cial Watch and the NCS that the records had been moved to the Obama li­brary’s se­cure ar­chive.

“Hav­ing to sub­poena this in­for­ma­tion in­di­cates the in­san­ity of the sit­u­a­tion when the na­tion’s top in­tel­li­gence agen­cies are with­hold­ing in­for­ma­tion — ba­sic in­for­ma­tion — that could bring to an end the con­tro­versy rag­ing across this coun­try,” Mr. Fit­ton said in an in­ter­view Thurs­day.

He said he is con­sid­er­ing other le­gal op­tions to ob­tain the records.

“We are hav­ing to sue to get ba­sic in­for­ma­tion,” he said. “It is a shell game of doc­u­ments be­ing shifted over to the li­brary. These doc­u­ments are the smok­ing gun that in­ves­ti­ga­tors are look­ing for, and ev­ery­one knows it.”

Mr. Fit­ton said Pres­i­dent Trump “could get the [Rice] records him­self.”

“They are re­stricted ac­cess,” he said. “But there are ways that he could get them be­cause they are ex­ec­u­tive branch records and he can get him.”

In March, Ms. Rice ad­mit­ted to re­quest­ing the un­mask­ing of the names of some Amer­i­cans redacted in raw in­tel­li­gence re­ports on the U.S. sur­veil­lance in­ter­cepts, but ar­gued that the re­quests were well within her job du­ties as na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser and were in no way driven by po­lit­i­cal mo­ti­va­tions to know which fig­ures from the Trump cam­paign were be­ing dis­cussed.

Mr. Trump on Twit­ter has re­peat­edly com­plained that the un­mask­ing ef­forts and the Obama White House’s han­dling of the Rus­sian hack­ing probe have not re­ceived suf­fi­cient at­ten­tion in the var­i­ous in­ves­ti­ga­tions on Capi­tol Hill and by Jus­tice De­part­ment spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller.

On May 31, Repub­li­cans and Democrats on the House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee is­sued a series of sub­poe­nas re­lated to the Russia in­ves­ti­ga­tions. Three of the sub­poe­nas — sent to in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity agen­cies — sought records re­lat­ing to al­leged un­mask­ing re­quests made by se­nior Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion fig­ures, in­clud­ing Ms. Rice, CIA Di­rec­tor John O. Brennan and U.S. Am­bas­sador to the U.N. Samantha Power.

Democrats want the probes to stay tightly fo­cused on pos­si­ble ob­struc­tion of jus­tice by Mr. Trump and col­lu­sion be­tween his as­so­ciates and the Krem­lin. The U.S. in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity has unan­i­mously con­cluded that the Krem­lin was be­hind an or­ga­nized cy­ber­at­tack cam­paign to in­ter­fere in the U.S. elec­tion and un­der­mine the candidacy of Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton last year.

But since the Russia probes launched ear­lier this year, Mr. Trump and his aides have ar­gued that the real scandal lies else­where. They con­tend that se­nior Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Ms. Rice, in­ap­pro­pri­ately un­masked and per­haps il­le­gally leaked to the me­dia the names of Trump cam­paign of­fi­cials swept up in the hack­ing probe, and failed to take suf­fi­cient steps to stop the hack­ing once it was un­cov­ered.

Ju­di­cial Watch sent a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act re­quest to the NSC in April seek­ing records con­cern­ing Ms. Rice’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions on a range of sub­jects.

NSC Ac­cess Man­age­ment Di­rec­tor John Pow­ers re­sponded on May 23 — roughly a week be­fore the House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee be­gan seek­ing the records.

“Doc­u­ments from the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion have been trans­ferred to the Barack Obama Pres­i­den­tial Li­brary,” Mr. Pow­ers wrote. “You may send your re­quest to the Obama Li­brary. How­ever, you should be aware that un­der the Pres­i­den­tial Records Act, pres­i­den­tial records re­main closed to the public for five years af­ter an ad­min­is­tra­tion has left of­fice.”

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