Major media reports may have jeopardized the safety of a key intelligence asset more than President Donald Trump’s revelations to Russian officials, a former intelligence official told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Media reports, not the president, outed to the general public the source, nature, and existence of intelligence related to an Islamic State plot and U.S. national security.
Events took shape after the Washington Post reported Monday that Trump shared the details of an ISIS terror plot with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during a meeting last week. Anonymous officials expressed concern that the president leaked “highly-classified information” sensitively obtained from an unidentified ally. The Post, relying on information leaked by officials, introduced that Trump either intentionally or unintentionally revealed the nature of the plot, as well as the name of the town where the plot originated, surmising that he potentially endangered an intelligence asset.
“Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State,” The Post declared in a follow-up report. Speculation from Axios following the report stated, “Several national-security experts tell me that lives could well be lost as a result of an ISIS mole hunt that’s sure to follow.”
U.S. officials with direct knowledge said “Trump may not have provided enough detail to the Russians to damage that source,” the Wall Street Journal introduced.
Air Force Col. James Waurishuk (ret.), a former intelligence officer who previously served on the National Security Council, told TheDCNF, “the greater damage is the leaks coming out and the leaks compounded by the stories, such as the Washington Post, for political reasons.”
White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster mirrored the sentiment, saying Tuesday, “I think national security is put at risk by this leak and leaks like this.” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer also explained that the leaks are “frankly dangerous.”
The plot WaPo highlighted was apparently an ISIS attempt to down a commercial airliner with a laptop bomb, which is the suspected impetus for the U.S. laptop ban on flights.
“If this was a tactic or an operation ISIS was going to use, the first the thing that ISIS is going to do is deal with it from the standpoint that somebody in their organization leaked it to someone else who got it to the U.S.,” Waurishuk said. “That information would only be knowledgeable to certain select people within the ISIS organization.”
If there is a “mole hunt,” Waurishuk said, the reason will be because U.S. officials leaked sensitive information to the press, not because the president revealed information to Russia. He also acknowledged that there is no reasonable scenario in which Russia would compromise the information Trump provided by handing it over to ISIS.
White House officials repeatedly stated that the president did not reveal sources and methods.
“At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed, and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly,” McMaster, who participated in the meeting, told the Post.
“Without revealing sources and methods, it’s hard to prove how the U.S. got it, who it got it from, when it got it,” Waurishuk explained, countering various assertions that the Russians would be able to determine essential information from the limited details Trump offered during the meeting with the Russians.
U.S. officials promptly filled in the missing information by revealing the source of the intelligence as the Israeli government to the New York Times. The Wall Street Journal reports that it also knew the source was Israel but chose not to report it, noting that “Trump administration officials said disclosing it could damage the two countries’ intelligence relationship and jeopardize operations” against potential threats.
No good reason 4 press 2 ID & publish alleged country source of threat intell. ID’g ally adds nothing 2 story & only makes disruption harder
— Frances Townsend (@FranTownsend) May 16, 2017
In its Tuesday report, the Times leaked information that the president himself did not reveal to the Russians, raising questions that these anonymous officials are intentionally undermining the current administration.
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