Neil A. Carousso produces and co-hosts WCBS Newsradio 880’s Small Business Spotlight series with Joe Connolly. Click here to watch the weekly video segments featuring advice for business owners on survival, recovery and growth opportunities.
  • Connecting the Dots: Obama Administration Surveilled President Trump

    By Neil A. Carousso

    It is well documented that surveillance of President Donald J. Trump and his aides was conducted as revealed by mounting ongoing illegal intelligence leaks, a felony, of “unmasked” American names in intelligence reporting which is not standard practice.

    Updated: Political Motivation for Surveillance

    New groundbreaking revelations, further proving President Trump’s surveillance allegations against the Obama Administration has emerged.

    Susan Rice, former national security adviser under then-President Barack Hussein Obama, “requested to unmask the names of Trump transition officials” who were incidentally collected through intelligence gathering of foreign nationals, according to Fox News Journalist Adam Housley and Bloomberg View Columnist Eli Lake’s sources on Monday, April 3.

    In an interview with Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC, Rice denied unmasking Trump team names for political purposes, but said it is “not unusual” for top administration officials to request the identities of Americans caught in surveillance, adding that she engaged in this activity as NSA advisor for national security reasons. The National Security Agency is required to report the number of unmasked American  identities to Congress which oversees U.S. intelligence agencies; therefore, there is a paper trail of those Rice requested to unmask that could reveal documented Obama Administration surveillance activities of Mr. Trump and his aides. Only 20 people at the NSA can “unmask” Americans picked up by “incidental collection.”

    “There were occasions when I would receive a report in which a U.S. person was referred to, name not provided, just a U.S. person, and sometimes in that context in order to understand the importance of that report, and assess its significance, it was necessary to find out or request the information as to who that U.S. official was,” said Rice.

    On March 22, the day House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) briefed the press about the intelligence he saw at The White House, the former NSA advisor claimed she knew “nothing about this” when asked on PBS Newshour about Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s name being unmasked in intelligence reports and illegally leaked to the media.

    “I leaked nothing to nobody.” – Former NSA Advisor Susan Rice on MSNBC on Tuesday, March 4, 2017

    The Daily Caller reported that Ms. Rice ordered U.S. spy agencies to produce “detailed spreadsheets of intercepted phone calls involving Donald Trump and his aides when he was running for president, according to former U.S. Attorney Joseph diGenova.” On MSNBC, Rice denied she “prepared” spreadsheets of surveilled telephone calls involving Mr. Trump and his aides.

    Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice appeared on all five Sunday news shows on September 16, 2012 pushing the Obama Administration's lie about the Benghazi attack. (ABC News)
    Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice appeared on all five Sunday news shows on September 16, 2012 pushing the Obama Administration’s lie about the Benghazi attack. (ABC News)

    Rice, then the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., pushed the false narrative that the September 11, 2012 attacks on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya was triggered by an anti-Islam Internet video and was simply a protest. We now know that the administration, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, repeatedly lied to the American people and to the victims’ families while they knew that evening that the Benghazi attack was an act of terrorism. Four Americans died in the 2012 Benghazi attack – U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens, Information Officer Sean Smith, and two CIA operatives and former Navy SEALs, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.

    Ms. Rice also told ABC News that Army Sgt. Bow Bergdahl “served the United States with honor and distinction” and that he “wasn’t simply a hostage; he was an American prisoner of war captured on the battlefield. Bergdahl is currently facing court-martial on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy for allegedly leaving his post in Afghanistan.

    The House Intelligence Committee and several House and Senate Republicans are calling for Rice to testify under oath about what she knew about unmasking of names and surveillance of Mr. Trump.

    The unmasked names are of people associated with Donald Trump, including family members, and later, transition team members. The names were gathered in incidental surveillance of a political adversary for up to a year before Mr. Trump took office. Those names were sent to top officials including National Security Council personnel, some staffers at the Defense Department, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Obama’s CIA Director John Brennan, according to Fox News.

    Unmasking and leaking of American names in intelligence reporting, especially Americans who come under “incidental collection” by U.S. Government surveillance, is a federal crime that violates the Espionage Act of 1917, confirmed by FBI Director James Comey in a March 20 public hearing under oath. Intelligence officials refer to Americans as “American number 1, American number 2″ and so forth to protect the American citizens who appear in intelligence reports.

    The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects American citizens against “unreasonable search and seizure,” but a May 7, 2015 appeals court ruling permitted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to issue warrants to surveil Americans for “national security” reasons that is determined by the Justice Department. This appeals court ruling, which references the 2001 USA Patriot Act, enacted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, makes it easier for an administration to order surveillance of an American under the national security standard. Lower courts must have “probable cause” in order to be issued a search warrant.

    “FISA is very easy to get with very little probable cause,” said a former FBI agent to this reporter on the condition of anonymity. The ex-FBI agent said that receiving a warrant from lower courts for intelligence gathering including wiretapping and surveillance could take upwards of 6 months. FISA warrants are “granted pretty easy,” according to the former agent.

    Bloomberg’s Lake further reports on a pattern of dozens of occasions when Rice requested the identities of U.S. citizens who were incidentally collected in raw intelligence reports, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

    White House lawyers learned of this activity last month in a National Security Council review of the government’s policy on unmasking the identities of American citizens who are communicating with foreign nationals who are being surveilled by U.S. intelligence agencies.

    “One U.S. official familiar with the reports said they contained valuable political information on the Trump transition such as whom the Trump team was meeting, the views of Trump associates on foreign policy matters and plans for the income administration,” wrote Lake, regarding the Obama Administration’s alleged political motive.

     Fox News journalist Adam Housley reported on the afternoon of March 31 about the political motive for smearing Mr. Trump through intelligence gathering of his campaign for president.

    “Congressional investigators know the name of at least one person who was unmasking names,” Housley reported, citing sources not affiliated with The White House or President Trump’s team, Housely has reported that the surveillance that led to unmasking was conducted by “very well known, very high up, very senior, in the intelligence world and is not in the FBI” in political effort against Mr. Trump that occurred before Trump was the Republican nominee.


    Criminal: Unmasking and Leaking of American Names without Proper Authorization

    On Monday, March 20, 2017, FBI Director James Comey testifies in front of Congress (Credit: Associated Press)
    On Monday, March 20, 2017, FBI Director James Comey testifies in front of Congress (Credit: Associated Press)

    “Leaks of classified information are serious, serious federal crimes for a reason. [Those behind the leaks] “should be investigated, and where possible, prosecuted in a way that reflects that seriousness so that people understand it simply cannot be tolerated.” – FBI Director James Comey in his opening statement under oath on Monday, March 20

    Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was unmasked in intelligence reports, a felony, for preparing for the national security advisor position from which he ultimately resigned. Credit Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
    Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was unmasked in intelligence reports, a felony, for preparing for the national security advisor position from which he ultimately resigned after lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his communications with Russia. (Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

    Former National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s name was unmasked in February when the leaked conversation between Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak was revealed in the media. The Flynn/Kislyak conversation was legal and customary for a preparing national security advisor to have with ambassadors of other nations. Americans are supposed to be protected even when “incidental” surveillance of Americans occur when a foreigner is on-the-phone with an American citizen, even high profile or well-known American citizens.

    “We don’t actually know yet officially what happened to General Flynn,” Nunes said of how communications from his confidential calls were leaked to the press. “We just know that his name leaked out but we don’t know how it was picked up yet. That was one of the things that we asked for in the March 15th letter, was for the NSA, CIA, and FBI to get us all the unmasking that was done.”

    Flynn has agreed to testify on his communications with Russia with the caveat of immunity. President Trump, in a tweet, expressed his support for asking for immunity in light of the political nature of this investigation, targeting Trump aides.

    Through Housley’s reporting, it is evident that American names associated with Mr. Trump, like Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn whose name was leaked to the media, were illegally unmasked in intelligence reports for political reasons.

    Further Connecting the Dots

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    The reported connections of surveillance include a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) warrant granted in October to surveil a computer server in Trump Tower suspected of links to Russian banks. The FBI found no connection or collusion between Trump and Russia. FISA warrants are legally supposed to be covert requests and orders, not public knowledge.

    Journalist Sara Carter of Circa News broke the story that Indiana University professor and computer scientist L. Jean Camp is behind the surfaced allegations of the Trump Organization and a Russian bank, Alfa Bank, which is now warning against potential legal action. Camp is a Hillary Clinton supporter and donor who pushed the narrative of a connection between Mr. Trump and Russia.

    The Obama Administration performed several 11th hour moves in an attempt to undermine the incoming Trump Administration. They rushed to “preserve intelligence,” according to The New York Times, leaving a “clear trail” of classified intelligence information about alleged Russian meddling into the 2016 U.S. presidential election for investigators in order to avoid stifling of the probe by President Trump; this intelligence trail had the consequence of classified materials being illegally leaked to the media.

    “I was urging my former colleagues, and frankly speaking, the people on the Hill, it was more actually aimed at telling the Hill people, ‘get as much information as you can, get as much intelligence as you can, before President Obama leaves the administration.'” – Evelyn Farkas, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense under the Obama Administration on March 2, 2017 on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”

    In October of 2016, Evelyn Farkas, deputy assistant secretary of defense under former-President Obama, said  that if Donald Trump were to be elected, he would be removed from office “quickly.”

    “We have a lot of presidential historians who have put forward very coherent the argument – they have given us examples of all of our horrible presidents in the past and the fact that we have endured. And we do have a strong system of checks and balances. And actually, if Donald Trump were elected I believe he would be impeached pretty quickly or somebody else would have to take over government. And I am not even joking.” – Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Evelyn Farkas on October 26, 2016 at the annual Warsaw Security Forum panel at a global leadership conference.

    Farkas endorsed Hillary Clinton for president and urged people to vote for the first female presidential candidate.

    The New York Times reported on January 20 that Trump aides were wiretapped. In March, they write Trump has citied "no evidence."
    The New York Times reported on January 20 that Trump aides were wiretapped. In March, they write Trump has citied “no evidence.”

    In his final days in office, President Obama expanded the power of the National Security Agency allowing it to share “globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies,” The New York Times reported in January. These new rules eased limits on the NSA’s surveillance gathering operations that are largely unregulated by U.S. wiretapping laws.

    Circa News reports that on a number of occasions in 2016, intelligence reports identified Americans who were directly intercepted in conversations with foreign sources or the subject of foreign sources’ conversations.

    “Sometimes the Americans’ names were officially unmasked; other times they were so specifically described in the reports that their identities were readily discernible. Among those cleared to request and consume unmasked NSA-based intelligence reports about U.S. citizens were Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice, his CIA Director John Brennan and then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch,” writes journalists John Solomon and Sara Carter.

    Furthermore, the baseless “dossier” that Buzzfeed reported on in January was presented to President-elect Trump by the FBI Director in a classified intelligence briefing attended by top U.S. intelligence officials Comey, NSA Director Rogers, former CIA Director Brennan and President Obama’s DNI Clapper. It is suspected that one of the attendees leaked the dossier to the media. The dossier could not be proven or substantiated which is why no mainstream media outlet covered it except in the context of Buzzfeed’s irresponsible publication.

    The dossier was written by former British spy Christopher Steele that originated as opposition research that the GOP compiled during the Republican primaries. It became the Clinton campaign opposition research, along with other baseless politically-charged, salacious claims that could be used to smear candidate Trump and ruin his chances of winning the November election.

    The Wall Street Journal reported in February that top intelligence officials “have withheld” sensitive and classified information from President Trump.

    On “The Neil A. Carousso Show Podcast” and on “The Neil A. Carousso Show” on April 2, this host discusses the facts, in a comprehensive manner, that support President Trump’s surveillance accusations despite the convoluted reporting and various investigations that have distracted from the central issues of U.S. Government surveillance overreach on American citizens and illegal leaks from career Washington, D.C. bureaucrats with intentions to damage and undermine the 45th President.

    House Intelligence Committee Investigation

    House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) briefed the press on March 22, informing the public that he has seen intelligence reports that lead him to believe it is plausible that Mr. Trump was surveilled by the Obama Administration.

    “I recently confirmed that on numerous occasions, the intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition,” said Rep. Nunes. “Details about U.S. persons associated with the incoming administration, details with little or apparent foreign intelligence value were widely disseminated in intelligence community reporting.”

    House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) (Getty Images)
    House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) (Getty Images)

    Rep. Nunes has faced backlash for debriefing the press and the President before informing his Democratic House Intelligence Committee colleagues of the new revelations. Nunes confirmed on March 27 that he was on White House grounds the day before last week’s announcement where he could privately and securely view the classified documents in the White House SCIF – a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility where top secret information may be viewed for oversight and intelligence gathering. This is customary and has happened before despite politicians’ claims that Nunes overstepped his bounds.

    Democrats have been calling for Nunes to recuse himself from any investigation into Trump and Russia, a special prosecutor for the case and a third party oversight despite the committee’s role and Congress members’ elected duty to supervise U.S. intelligence agencies.

    Ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) viewed the same intelligence documents Nunes read at the White House Friday, March 31. Schiff is now calling for the reports to be shared with the House Intelligence Committee to address President Trump’s concerns about the Obama Administration’s overreach.

    “We, I think, suffered really two serious blows to the integrity of the investigation this week,” Rep. Schiff said, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation on March 26.” “I think the chairman has to make a decision, whether to act as a surrogate of the White House as he did during the campaign and the transition, or to lead an independent and credible investigation. I hope he chooses the latter.”

    “Without further ado, Speaker Ryan should replace Chairman Nunes,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said from the House floor on March 27. “If Speaker Ryan wants the House to have a credible investigation, he needs to replace Chairman Nunes.”

    Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) defended Nunes by looking to the substance of the investigation.

    “I wish Senator Schumer and some of the other Democrats would be interested in the authenticity and reliability of the underlying data [rather than] the means by which it was acquired,” Gowdy said on Fox News’ “First 100 Days” program hosted by Martha MacCallum.

    Nunes is holding his ground while Democrats seek his recusal, asking reporters on March 28, “Why would I?”

    “We go to the executive branch at least once or twice a week,” Rep. Devin Nunes told Fox News host Bill O’Reilly on “The O’Reilly Factor.” “This is not unusual, because there are intelligence products that we don’t have access to in the House of Representatives, although we do have the clearances to see them.”

    “I have confirmed that additional names of Trump transition team members were unmasked. I want to be clear: None of this surveillance was related to Russia or the investigation of Russian activities or of the Trump team.” – Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) briefing the press on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, March 22.

    “And I’ll tell you, NSA is being cooperative,” Nunes continued. “But so far the FBI has not told us whether or not they’re going to respond to our March 15th letter, which is now a couple of weeks old.”

    Nunes told the press that FBI director Comey and NSA Director Admiral Michael S. Rogers will appear in closed committee session after last week’s public hearing. The meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, has been postponed. On Tuesday afternoon, Rep. Nunes said he has invited Comey to testify again before investigators. Former CIA Director Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence Clapper and former Attorney General Sally Yates were also expected to attend the canceled House Intelligence Committee hearing.

    When asked if the House Intel Committee is meeting with Comey and Rogers because they weren’t forthcoming in the public hearing,  Nunes said there were questions he “probably couldn’t answer in public session.”

    “It’s clear that I would be concerned if I was the president, and that’s why I wanted him to know. I felt like I had a duty and obligation to tell him, because, as you know, he’s taking a lot of heat in the news media, and I think to some degree there are some things he should look at to see whether, in fact, he thinks the collection was proper or not.” Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) in a Thursday interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity”

    President Trump says he feels "somewhat" vindicated by Nunes
    President Trump says he feels “somewhat” vindicated by Rep. Nunes’ new intelligence revelations regarding spying on Trump and his transition team. (Credit: Associated Press)

    The White House called for an open Congressional investigation and one would assume the President has the highest security clearance that would allow him to have all secret government information at his fingertips.

    Timeline of Devin Nunes’ Intel Gathering Activities Related to Alleged Surveillance of Trump

    Rep. Devin Nunes briefs the press on new intelligence revealing details about Trumps surveillance charges on the Obama Administration Credit: Getty Imgages
    Rep. Devin Nunes briefs the press on new intelligence revealing details about Trump’s surveillance charges on the Obama Administration (Credit: Getty Images)


    • Tues. 3/21: Nunes takes a phone call while sharing an Uber ride with a staffer, according to The Washington Post. After the call, Nunes switches cars without telling his team where he’s going, in order to protect classified information. A Nunes spokesperson confirmed to CNN that he went to the White House where he learned of the incidental collection of Trump aides and potentially Trump, himself.
    • Wed. 3/22: Nunes holds a press conference in the Capitol building outlining “incidental collection” of Trump and his associates, as well as the criminal “unmasking” of names such as Lt. Gen. Flynn in intelligence reports. Nunes says the reports came from FISA surveillance, which means that foreign nationals who the intelligence community has eyes on either talked to or about the president-elect and his transition team at some point. There’s nothing either incriminating or surprising about this as the President-elect and his administration were preparing for their new government jobs and intended to start running on January 20. Nunes later visits The White House to brief President Trump on the new intelligence reports. The House Intelligence Committee Chair held another press conference on The White House lawn.
    • Thurs. 3/23: After coming under fire from House Intelligence Commitee Democrats for briefing the press and the President before consulting them on the new intelligence, Nunes apologizes.
    • Fri. 3/24: Nunes cancels a planned open Intelligence Commitee hearing to be attended by former DNI Clapper, former CIA Director Brennan and Former Deputy AG Yates. (A closed committee hearing planned for Tuesday was later postponed.)
    • Mon. 3/27: A Nunes spokesperson clarifies that the House Intelligence Committee Chair met his source at The White House last week “in order to have proximity to a secure location where he could view the information provided by the source.” That’s apparently referring to a SCIF, a protected room used to share classified materials. But the need for a SCIF doesn’t explain the use of the White House; the Capitol building houses several of them and sits just 15 minutes away by car. The spokesperson emphasizes that “because of classification rules, the source could not simply put the documents in a backpack and walk them over to the House Intelligence Committee space.”

    On March 4, President Trump alleged the former administration surveilled him, which has set off political criticism. Details outlined in this article have emerged revealing Mr. Trump is correct to sound the alarm on potentially illegal surveillance activity.

    Watch: Neil A. Carousso in the “Real Deal with Neil” segment on  “The Neil A. Carousso” on April 2 connect the dots of Obama Administration surveillance of Donald Trump.

    Featured Image: Trump Tower New York

    The original story was published Tuesday, March 28. This story has been updated since with new revelations. Last edited: Monday, April 10 at 9:30 AM ET.

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