Ever since Devin Nunes’s mysterious announcement of supposed surveillance of Trump transition team members two weeks ago, the story has operated on two levels. The first is why Nunes behaved the way he did—with mysterious cloak-and-dagger maneuvers—and who he got his information from. It now appears that despite rushing to brief President Trump on his news, the GOP chairman of the House Intelligence Committee received his information from the White House in the first place.
The second, and more obscure, concerns the actual material that Nunes had. He was cagey about it, in part because it is apparently classified. He said that Trump transition team members were subject to “incidental collection,” which refers to U.S. persons being caught up in legal surveillance of foreign targets. There was no indication of illegality, but the names Americans who are incidentally collected are typically meant to be redacted, and Nunes said some names were possibly improperly revealed, or “unmasked,” by the Obama administration.
If that is true, who was behind the unmasking? Bloomberg View’s Eli Lake reports one answer Monday:
White House lawyers last month discovered that the former national security adviser Susan Rice requested the identities of U.S. persons in raw intelligence reports on dozens of occasions that connect to the Donald Trump transition and campaign, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.
Lake further reports that Rice’s pattern of requesting unmasking was discovered by Trump National Security Council staffer Ezra Cohen-Watnick, whom The New York Times reported last week was one of Nunes’s sources. Cohen-Watnick informed the White House Counsel’s office, Lake reports.