Trump’s biggest fight just might be in his own backyard–and not with the media.
The Intelligence Committee (aka the “deep state”) has been leaking perpetually ever since Trump’s inauguration.
An illegal leak led to Michael Flynn’s resignation, and now deep state leaks could be meddling with foreign affairs.
Anonymous sources claim Trump gave code-word classified information to the Russians during a private meeting.
From The Washington Post:
One day after dismissing Comey, Trump welcomed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak — a key figure in earlier Russia controversies — into the Oval Office. It was during that meeting, officials said, that Trump went off script and began describing details of an Islamic State terrorist threat related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft.
For almost anyone in government, discussing such matters with an adversary would be illegal. As president, Trump has broad authority to declassify government secrets, making it unlikely that his disclosures broke the law.
White House officials involved in the meeting said Trump discussed only shared concerns about terrorism.
“The president and the foreign minister reviewed common threats from terrorist organizations to include threats to aviation,” said H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, who participated in the meeting. “At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed, and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly.”
McMaster reiterated his statement in a subsequent appearance at the White House on Monday and described the Washington Post story as “false,” but did not take any questions.
The search for hypothetical crimes has caused the media to ignore the big, festering crimes that continue to propagate: the intelligence leaks themselves.
McMaster said what has endangered national security is leaks of classified information to the news media.
“Our national security has been put at risk by those violating confidentiality, and those releasing information to the press that could be used, connected with other information available, that could make American citizens and others more vulnerable,” he said.
Fred Fleitz, a former U.S. intelligence official who now is senior vice president for policy and programs at the Washington-based Center for Security Policy, noted that the president has ultimate authority to classify or declassify information as he sees fit. He blasted current and former officials who took it upon themselves to second-guess the president’s decision and undercut him through The Washington Post.
“In doing so, they leaked a substantial number of highly classified details to The Washington Post,” he told LifeZette. “This is a very serious crime. We can argue about whether Trump made a mistake. But we know what they did was highly illegal.”
Fleitz criticized “people who took it upon themselves to determine what is appropriate or not. And they should go to jail.”
The Post story quoted current and former national security officials. That suggests that former senior officials from the administration of former President Barack Obama learned information from current staffers and then told reporters, Fleitz said.
“That is inappropriate,” he added.
Fleitz, whose career included stints with the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the State Department, said he witnessed that phenomenon when he worked in the George W. Bush administration. National security officials would call their old bosses from the Bill Clinton administration and consult with them on current intelligence issues, he said.
One of the biggest concerns raised by The Post and Trump’s critics is that the information Trump shared with the Russians came from an allied country that did not authorize its dissemination. The concern is that the incident will discourage cooperation on intelligence issues by foreign governments.
Said Fleitz: “They’re already not sharing information with us because of all the leaks in the Obama administration.”
He pointed to newspaper accounts that included key details of the raid that killed master terrorist Osama bin Laden and the existence of Stuxnet, a computer virus deployed to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program.
Fleitz also pointed to a statement at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing earlier this year by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in which she revealed classified information that the government paid $900,000 to break into a locked iPhone used by the gunman in the San Bernardino, California, terrorist attacks in 2015.
Many vacancies in Trump’s administration have not been filled. It’s time for Trump to jettison some of the provisional Obama holdovers and entrench his own people, as well as take steps to have the leakers prosecuted.
If the leaks persist, they could undermine Trump’s credibility both domestically and abroad, and lead foreign allies to be less open with information, which endangers American lives.