Tuesday Reads: Trump Is U.S.’s Top National Security RiskPosted: May 16, 2017
Can we get through one day without a major national security crisis triggered by Trump’s stupidity and incompetence? Apparently not.
Yesterday we got perhaps the worst news yet–that Trump had shared highly classified information with the Russian foreign minister and the Russian ambassador who is at the heart of the Russia investigation. The Washington Post broke the news:
The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.
The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said Trump’s decision to do so endangers cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. After Trump’s meeting, senior White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency.
“This is code-word information,” said a U.S. official familiar with the matter, using terminology that refers to one of the highest classification levels used by American spy agencies. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”
This morning Trump defended himself on Twitter:
So now he has publicly admitted it. And he doesn’t seem to understand that the Russians have no interest in helping us fight ISIS, and they will use the information that Trump blabbed to find out the source and pass what they learn on to Assad and Iran. There is a child running the country and we’re all in grave danger.
Stephen Tankel at the Washington Post: This is why Trump’s loose tongue has compromised U.S. security.
National security adviser H.R. McMaster said, “At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly.” However, this narrow denial does not discount the possibility that information was disclosed that could enable Russia to infer the sources and methods through which information was acquired. By revealing the city where the information was collected, he also may have enabled Moscow to determine the ally that provided it.
The most direct and immediate impact may be to jeopardize a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State, thereby making it more difficult to detect and thwart terrorist plots. It is also possible that Moscow could use the information to its advantage in various ways that harm the United States or its allies.
As bad as the exposure of sources and methods would be on its own terms, the long-term consequences for counterterrorism are even worse. This is because Trump divulged information collected by a U.S. ally, without its permission. This was a breach of trust that is likely to damage not only the intelligence relationship with the country in question, but also with other countries.
Why that’s so important:
Counterterrorism intelligence….requires identifying and thwarting threats before they happen. Analysis and operations go together in preventing an attack or neutralizing a threat. The United States cannot do this by itself — this effort relies heavily on intelligence cooperation from other countries.
Intelligence cooperation on counterterrorism takes various forms. Simple cooperation involves the exchange of single pieces of intelligence, often regarding a common target such as the Islamic State.
There are also more complex forms of cooperation. For example, the United States has often bartered technical information gathered from satellites and other sources gleaned through technical means, for human source reporting that is more difficult to acquire. Sometimes, partners provide intelligence as part of a broader effort to maintain positive relations with the United States. Intelligence cooperation sometimes extends beyond the exchange of information to include the conduct of joint operations.
Much more at the link.
There’s likely to be another crisis soon, because Trump is going to receive Turkey’s dictatorial leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the White House today. CNN: Erdogan meets Trump: 3 key issues topping the agenda. The main points
1. US arming Kurdish fighters.Turkey lashed out last week after the Pentagon announced plans to arm members of the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) fighting ISIS in Syria. Erdogan called for the plan to be “reversed immediately” and promised his supporters he’d discuss the issue with Trump at the White House meeting on Tuesday.The YPG fights in a coalition of rebel groups that the US considers its main ally in the Syrian conflict, but Turkish officials see the unit as a terrorist organization linked to an insurgency movement in the south of Turkey.
2. Turkey’s relationship with Russia over SyriaTurkey, along with Russia and Iran, is brokering ceasefire talks aimed at ending Syria’s six-year war.The ceasefire talks — held in Astana, Kazakhstan — were spearheaded by Russia and were widely seen as a way to sideline the United States from the process. While that move rattled the Obama administration, the Astana talks now seem to have been accepted by Trump and other Western leaders.
3. Extradition of Erdogan’s rival GulenErdogan and Turkish officials have long pressed the United States to extradite Fetullah Gulen, a friend-turned-foe of Erdogan’s, who has been in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999.Erdogan believes Gulen was behind a failed military coup in July last year, but the US has said there is not enough evidence to send the 76-year-old Muslim cleric back to Turkey.Gulen has repeatedly denied involvement in the coup attempt.
I shudder to think what Trump will do in this meeting. I can only hope someone sane is prepared to short circuit him.
Another stunning White House meeting was downplayed in the press yesterday because of all the fuss over Trump’s traitorous leaking to Russia. Rachel Maddow covered it in detail last night. The child president met with the guy who helped arrange the secret meeting in the Seychelles where Erik Prince met with a high-level Putin ally shortly before the inauguration.
Washington Post on April 3, 2017: Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel.
Though Prince had no formal role with the Trump campaign or transition team, he presented himself as an unofficial envoy for Trump to high-ranking Emiratis involved in setting up his meeting with the Putin confidant, according to the officials, who did not identify the Russian….
The Seychelles encounter, which one official said spanned two days, adds to an expanding web of connections between Russia and Americans with ties to Trump — contacts that the White House has been reluctant to acknowledge or explain until they have been exposed by news organizations….
The Seychelles meeting came after separate private discussions in New York involving high-ranking representatives of Trump with both Moscow and the Emirates.
The crown prince’s role:
The White House has acknowledged that Michael T. Flynn, Trump’s original national security adviser, and Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner met with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, in late November or early December in New York.
Flynn and Kushner were joined by Bannon for a separate meeting with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who made an undisclosed visit to New York later in December, according to the U.S., European and Arab officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.
In an unusual breach of protocol, the UAE did not notify the Obama administration in advance of the visit, though officials found out because Zayed’s name appeared on a flight manifest.
Officials said Zayed and his brother, the UAE’s national security adviser, coordinated the Seychelles meeting with Russian government officials with the goal of establishing an unofficial back channel between Trump and Putin.
USA Today yesterday: Trump meets with crown prince of Abu Dhabi as he looks to Muslim world.
President Trump greeted the crown prince of Abu Dhabi at the White House Monday, beginning a week that will mark a dramatic overture to the Muslim world.
Trump meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday, and he departs Friday for Saudi Arabia as the first foreign destination of his four-month-old presidency. By going first to the Saudi capital to meet with leaders of predominately Muslim Persian Gulf countries, the White House hopes will emphasize their unified resolve against common adversaries, including the Islamic State and Iran.
Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayid Al Nuhayyan is a “very special person, highly respected,” Trump said during a brief photo opportunity in the Oval Office. “And loves his country, I can tell you that, loves his country. And I think loves the United States, which to us is very important.”
USA Today didn’t mention the Seychelles connection. Can you believe this shit?!
One more story. Yesterday Anderson Cooper interviewed Sally Yates. The interview will be shown tonight during the 8:00 hour.
Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates said former national security adviser Michael Flynn was in a “serious compromise situation, that the Russians had real leverage” in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
In an exclusive one-on-one interview — her first on television since being fired by President Donald Trump — Yates said Flynn lied to Vice President Mike Pence and there was “certainly a criminal statute that was implicated by his conduct.” [….]Yates told Cooper that she expected the White House to act urgently on information that she had given the administration that Flynn had been compromised by his contact with Russian officials prior to Trump’s inauguration.
“We expected the White House to act,” she said.When asked by Cooper if she expected the administration to act quickly, Yates replied, “Yes.”“There was an urgency to the information?” Cooper clarified.“Yes,” Yates said.Flynn remained in his position for 18 days after Yates had informed the administration about her concerns over his conduct.