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Susan Rice and the Obama administration's unmasking files are sealed for the next 5 years


Susan Rice and the Obama administration's unmasking files are sealed for the next 5 years

WATCH | Judicial Watch, the Washington, D.C. based watchdog group, announced Wednesday that the National Security Council denied them access to materials regarding the unmasking by Obama National Security Advisor Susan Rice. 

The National Security Council informed Judicial Watch in a letter that it's request for records submitted by the intelligence community of former National Security Adviser Susan Rice or her team have been moved in with other property that now belongs to the Barack Obama Presidential Library. 

Judicial Watch submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on April 4, 2016. 

Tom Fitton, president of the Judicial Watch, said the group made the request because they believe that, "the Obama Administration misused the intelligence powers granted to the president despite his domestic political opponents."

Their request asked for records with information about Russian influence on the 2016 election, hacking of the Democratic National Committee, any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, or U.S. citizens associated with the Trump Campaign who were "identified pursuant to intelligence collection activities."

Judicial Watch would like these records to be open to the public, but Richard Painter, a professor of corporate law, former lawyer for President Bush, and ethics expert, said it sets a bad precedent to release information from a previous administration.

"I've recommended to the White House that they engage in extreme transparency"
Tom Fitton, President of Judicial Watch

"This is all just political posturing," said Painter. "They want to try to accuse Susan Rice of something instead of focusing on what we are dealing with right now, and obviously the historical record will be opened."

But Fitton and Judicial Watch say that transparency in this investigation is of the utmost importance. 

Fitton said, "I've recommended to the White House that they engage in extreme transparency when it comes to releasing documents about what the Obama Administration was up to, and frankly what the Trump administration was doing."

The National Security Council said that documents from the Obama Administration have been transferred to the Barack Obama Presidential Library, and that all of the records are sealed for the next five years under the Presidential Records Act. 

"You want to get these records about the Obama spying program, to see if it was on the up and up, or not," said Fitton. "Let's not pretend they're sealed forever, there are steps the president and investigators can take to get them, so we know quickly what went on."

Records at the library are overseen by the National Archives under federal law according to Section 2205, "Exceptions and Restricted Access." They can be available if subpoenaed by a court, or unsealed if needed by the current president, or Congress to conduct business. 

Painter said, "I just think for Judicial Watch to be trying to get stuff, this is sensitive to the Russia investigation... It seems to me like the kind of thing they shouldn't be getting as a matter of policy." 

Painter concluded that the files going to the Obama Library is a normal practice and is regularly done when an administration leaves office. 

You can follow Caroline on Twitter at @CarolineMcKee12

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