It seems ages ago, but was just a couple of months ago that controversy swirled around former National Security Advisor Susan Rice’s “unmasking” of names from classified intelligence reports.

We reported on the inconsistencies in Rice’s story on April 3, Susan Rice unmasked? Previously said “I know nothing about” Nunes allegations, and the following day on her interview by Andrea Mitchell, Susan Rice: Sought unmasking but “absolutely not for any political purpose”:

Mitchell’s questions allowed Rice to confuse the issue by mixing unmasking and leaking, and also framing questions as to intent rather than the facts of what happened.

Rice did not deny unmasking names of Trump campaign and transition persons, but rather, refused to name names and went back into a defense of lack of bad intent.

“I received those reports, and there were occasions I would receive a report in which a U.S. person” … “and sometimes it was necessary to find out who that U.S. official was.” Rice didn’t dispute that sometimes she requested identification. She said intelligence community made decision whether to disclose the name she had requested.

“Absolutely not for any political purpose”

Rice said “I’m not going to sit here and prejudge” whether willing to testify before Congress, but later refused a Senate request to testify voluntarily. That lead to this Trump response on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/860081707315232771

Now there is a new twist. Those White House unmasking records have been removed … to the Obama Library in Chicago, which isn’t even built yet.

This all came known when Judicial Watch sought the records. Judicial Watch’s press release states, in part, that the records not only have been removed, they may be unavailable for 5 years:

Judicial Watch today announced that the National Security Council (NSC) on May 23, 2017, informed it by letter that the materials regarding the unmasking by Obama National Security Advisor Susan Rice of “the identities of any U.S. citizens associated with the Trump presidential campaign or transition team” have been removed to the Obama Library.

The NSC will not fulfill an April 4 Judicial Watch request for records regarding information relating to people “who were identified pursuant to intelligence collection activities.”

The agency also informed Judicial Watch that it would not turn over communications with any Intelligence Community member or agency concerning the alleged Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election; the hacking of DNC computers; or the suspected communications between Russia and Trump campaign/transition officials. Specifically, the NSC told Judicial Watch:

Documents from the Obama administration have been transferred to the Barack Obama Presidential Library.  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.

http://www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/NSC-unmasking-records-response.pdf

There is a legal issue, as Judicial Watch noted in its press release, as to whether the National Security Council is subject to the Freedom of Information Act. So it might be that the transfer of files didn’t create actual legal harm, but that point is moot if the files have been removed.

This doesn’t mean the records are gone forever. The unmasking documents likely exist in the intelligence agency files. But for a non-governmental entity like Judicial Watch they might as well be on Mars.

As Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, indicates in this video, it may be up to Congress or the Special Counsel to obtain the documents.