Monday, May 15, 2017

Trump Revealed Highly Classified Intelligence to Russia, in Break With Ally, Officials Say

WASHINGTON — President Trump boasted about highly classified intelligence in a meeting with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador last week, providing details that could expose the source of the information and the manner in which it was collected, a current and a former American government official said Monday.

The intelligence disclosed by Mr. Trump in a meeting with Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, was about an Islamic State plot, according to the officials. A Middle Eastern ally that closely guards its own secrets provided the information, which was considered so sensitive that American officials did not share it widely within the United States government or pass it on to other allies.

Mr. Trump’s disclosure does not appear to have been illegal — the president has the power to declassify almost anything. 
In fact, the ally has repeatedly warned American officials that it would cut off access to such sensitive information if it were shared too widely, the former official said. In this case, the fear is that Russia will be able to determine exactly how the information was collected and could disrupt the ally’s espionage efforts.
It was not clear whether Mr. Trump wittingly disclosed [Oh, that's delicious. Well done, former Quasi's] such highly classified information. He — and possibly other Americans in the room — may have not been aware of the sensitivity of what he was sharing. It was only after the meeting, when notes on the discussion were circulated among National Security Council officials, that it was flagged as too sensitive to be shared, even among many American officials, the former official said.
The Trump administration pushed back on the revelation, with high-ranking officials issuing carefully worded denials, insisting that the president did not discuss intelligence sources and methods or continuing military operations that were not public.

“I was in the room — it didn’t happen,” Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, said in an appearance outside the West Wing, which was sent into chaos on Monday afternoon by reports that the president had disclosed extremely sensitive information about an Islamic State plot.

[McMaster's is not a "carefully worded denial," it is a categorical denial.]

“At no time — at no time — were intelligence sources or methods discussed, and the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known,” General McMaster said.

[Oh, I see. That is the carefully worded denial.]

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson echoed General McMaster’s denial that sources or methods were discussed, though he did say that Mr. Trump talked about the “the nature of specific threats” in the meeting.

[I see, the specific laptop threat.]

But according to the officials, [i.e. WaPo's surces] Mr. Trump discussed the contents of the intelligence, not the sources and methods used to collect it. The concern is that knowledge of the information about the Islamic State plot could allow the Russians to figure out those details.

In fact, the current official said that Mr. Trump shared granular details of the intelligence with the Russians. Among the details the president [i.e. the de facto Deputy General Secretary of the former Soviet Union] shared was the city in Syria where the ally picked up information about the plot...

General McMaster did not address that in naming the city, in Islamic State-controlled territory, Mr. Trump gave Russia an important clue about the source of the information.

Before The Post’s article was published, its impending publication set off a mild panic among White House staff members...

Once public, the revelation immediately reverberated around Washington, and General McMaster found himself briefly cornered by reporters at the White House.
“This is the last place in the world I wanted to be,” he said before walking off without answering any questions.