The Washington post is asserting that President Trump revealed highly classified material to Russian officials last week during a meeting in the oval office. The Washington Post story does not go into specifics of what if any of the classified information that was revealed. Instead, the allegation is that president Donald Trump may have revealed classified information during a conversation with Russian officials about aviation security. According to the article, Its not that he gave specific intelligence, but that he gave enough information to piece together where the intelligence was collected, in particular a city where ISIS is operating in where a third-party foreign intelligence service is running an intelligence operation. The Russians lost an airliner last year due to a suspected ISIS bomb plot that originated in Egypt.
A child’s shoe is seen in front of debris from a Russian airliner which crashed at the Hassana area in Arish city, north Egypt, November 1, 2015. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
The White house and the President are pushing back pretty strongly against the story stating that the President did not reveal any classified information and that any information that he revealed was publicly available and was done out of national security and humanitarian interests. The goal being to further cooperation with Russia in the fight against ISIS. What the real story may be is that this information was leaked at all. Arguably, the case can be made that the Washington Post and it’s source(s) may have actually revealed the extent of the intelligence operation far more egregiously than anything that the President might have said. Once again, someone with direct access to sensitive information is leaking that information to the media to further an agenda. Quite possibly, there may be members of the White House staff who believe that the only way to get President Trump’s attention and change his behavior is to get their agenda on the news. The president is known to be a voracious consumer of the “News” and his opinions are thusly shaped by the perception of how he is covered. This leak may be a manifestation of this. Unnamed sources within the White House or the Intelligence community that the WaPo is citing are alleging that the President jeopardized national security. Once again, a leak has has put the White House on Defense. Given the current climate, the facts of what he may or may not have revealed is not the issue. It’s the continuation of the drip drip drip of leaks that is effectively halting the presidents agenda. The overt message will be that Trump is too cozy with the Russians. This fits a narrative put forth by the political opponents of the president and by some in the presidents own party. Whether the story is accurate or not, this story has the potential to have a profound effect on our national security interests . The short-term effect that impacts our national security is that the President is cavalier with national secrets, a charge that he relentlessly made against Hillary Clinton. The political irony is not lost here. Whomever leaked this information has to know that they put real lives of intelligence operatives in jeopardy, yet they still leaked the information quite possibly to satisfy political ambitions. There’s something else that puzzles me about this story and is quite possibly being missed. The President is preparing for a whirlwind tour of the Middle East and is his first foreign trip as the President of the United States. Whether it was an “Unforced error” by the President or this is a calculated attempt by the Presidents political enemies seeking to leverage their position, the timing of this story could not come at a worse time. With his upcoming trip, the President is seeking to rebuild and establish working strategic relationships with several countries in the Middle East. If I were a foreign intelligence service running an operation to undermine this trip and its strategic goals or a political opponent trying to delegitimize the president, (it’s getting harder and harder to tell the difference anymore) this story could not be any better suited to my needs and I would seek to spread it as far and wide as I possibly could. In all likelihood, this was a “Ham Fisted” attempt at foreign policy with the Russians to help with the fight against ISIS. The allegations made in this story whether true or not will give our foreign partners pause about cooperating with us and our intelligence professionals will have grave concerns about what they provide to the White House. The net effect is that we may no longer receive the critical data points and accurate information that is critical when forming national security strategies.