Trump's Disclosures Could Put Foreign Intelligence Ties at Risk
- Author: Leroy Wright May 18, 2017,
May 18, 2017, 1:17
Why not share the information with the Russians?
Trump is about to set off on an eight-day, five-country trip in his first foreign venture as president where he will have countless conversations with foreign leaders. In a statement, Israel's Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer said Israel has "full confidence in our intelligence sharing relationship with the United States" but he did not comment specifically on the veracity of the Times report.
The information came from a source close to Daesh and was obtained through a very sensitive agreement - one that American allies weren't even briefed on.
Trump national security adviser H.R. McMaster said Monday night that the story in The Post, "as reported, is false". Newspapers there reported in January that USA officials warned their Israeli counterparts to be careful about what they told the Trump administration because it could be leaked to the Russians, given Trump's openness toward President Vladimir Putin.
The latest revelations come after a presidential campaign in which Trump ridiculed the US intelligence community for its conclusion that Russian Federation interfered in an effort to hurt his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.
But there are other laws that could come into play when sensitive information is disclosed to harm the US, according to David Pozen, who teaches national security law at Columbia Law School.
The remarks come a day after The Washington Post reported that Trump revealed "highly classified" intelligence to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during a meeting at the White House last week. This would normally be the most likely candidate, though it sounds slightly odd given the original Post story's claim that the information had come from a country whose intelligence sharing arrangement with the US was itself a tightly held secret.
Such a shakeup would be unlikely to solve Trump's problem, the political communications veterans said, because Trump himself is the source of the problem.
"I get great intel".
Trump later was informed that he had broken protocol and White House officials placed calls to the National Security Agency and the CIA looking to minimize any damage.
Typically, before disclosing intelligence to another country, there would be an evaluation of costs and benefits, close consultation with the US intelligence community, and detailed consideration of how much to say and in what words so as to mitigate risks. The information was classified and reportedly came from an ally in the Middle East.
A former intelligence official told CBS News "something inappropriate" was discussed by President Trump, and that "details were discussed that should not have been discussed". Trump has said he has a "right" to share information. The official spoke only on condition that neither he nor his country be identified, because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
On Tuesday, President Trump welcomed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the White House.
Dutifully, Trump's deputies marched out Tuesday to deny the blockbuster report by The Washington Post, only to pivot less than 24 hours later and find a new angle of attack after Trump essentially confirmed the story with a pair of Tweets. The Kremlin dismissed the reports as "complete nonsense".
On Capitol Hill, Democrats and Republicans alike expressed concern. Sen.
"The president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries including threats to civil aviation", said HR McMaster, Mr Trump's national security adviser. It's also true that presidents often choose, for strategic or diplomatic reasons, to share particular pieces of intelligence with foreign governments.
This is actually a pretty familiar defence from the White House, which has often maintained that the things Trump does within his presidential authority are inherently okay simply because they are within his authority.
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called for Congress to have immediate access to a transcript of Trump's meeting with the Russians, saying that if Trump refuses, Americans will doubt that their president is capable of safeguarding critical secrets. Did the President spontaneously on the spot decide to give that information over, or was there an inter-agency process or some kind of formal decision-making process in advance of that meeting with the Russians last week?
The information had been shared with Trump by an ally, so his passing it along to Russian Federation violated the confidentiality of an intelligence-sharing agreement with that country, the official said.