Hearings are being planned to find out more about whether Obama political officials obtained intelligence to use against President Donald Trump’s associates during the campaign.
News reports recently alleged President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, asked to see names of U.S. citizens captured incidentally in surveillance—names normally “masked” for privacy reasons.
I recently spoke with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who is on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Sharyl Attkisson: What’s your comment on the latest that we know about possible viewing of information by Susan Rice under President Obama?
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.: If there were incidental contacts, not surveillance between Trump officials and foreign agents or officials, did [former national security adviser] Susan Rice have access to that information? Did she request it be unmasked, and what did she do with it? I don’t know if that’s a crime or not, but I sure am uncomfortable with that. I don’t know if she did it, but here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to ask the people who did the collection, “Did Susan Rice ever request from you the names of people on the Trump team that were caught up in the incidental collection, and did you provide her with any names?” Then, if she did, call her in and say, “Why did you do it and what did you do with the information?”
Attkisson: If this was done to President Trump and his team during the campaign at a time when nobody really thought he was going to win, doesn’t that raise a question in your mind of whether it was possible it was done to other candidates?
Graham: Yeah, here’s what I don’t quite understand. Why should they listen to a conversation between somebody running for president and a foreign agent unless you believe that person’s committed a crime? So, if I’m talking to a foreign leader as a United States senator, it’s one thing to be monitoring the person I’m talking to for intelligence gathering, it’s another thing to listen to my conversation. There’s a separation of powers issue here. As a member of the legislative branch of government, I don’t want the executive branch of government collecting my conversations even if they’re incidental because I don’t want them to know what I’m talking about. This is really scary to me. I understand incidental collection is part of the process, but when you have government officials like myself, the Trump team, I think you should cut the machine off.
Attkisson: I have a high-ranking intelligence official who worked under President Obama tell me that the incidental collection is used as an excuse that sometimes bad actors have wanted to collect intel on somebody so they find somebody around them as a way to collect intel on them without putting their name on a FISA application, for example.
Graham: Well, that would be going around the warrant process. A FISA warrant allows you to follow particular people, they’re foreign agents. You can do it on Americans, but you’ve got to go and get a warrant from a court. So the bottom line about incidental collection, I could see how you could manipulate the system. If there’s any indication that people set up incidental collection to avoid the FISA warrant process, that would be a devastating story. I don’t know if that exists or not, but I’d be willing to talk to anybody who believes it did.
Attkisson: “When will we see hearings on this?”
Graham: Hopefully in May. I’d like to call [former Director of National Intelligence James] Clapper and [former CIA Director John] Brennan. They should have awareness of what was collected. I want to talk to the people who collected the information and ask them a simple question: Did Susan Rice ever request of you or your organization the unmasking of somebody caught up in incidental collection, particularly a Trump person? If she did, then I want her to come in and say why she requested that … what she did with it.
Attkisson: Susan Rice or anybody else.
Graham: Or anybody else.
Attkisson: That asks for that.
Graham: And I can say about Susan Rice and [former deputy national security adviser] Ben Rhodes, I have no idea what they did here. I’m not going to prejudge. But I know, do know, during Benghazi, which you’re well aware of, that she started the storyline of a protest caused by a video. It was always a terrorist attack on day one. They manipulated the information, I think for political reasons. So, when it comes to Susan Rice and Ben Rhodes, verify, don’t trust.