Following President Trump’s exclamations today with regard to “un-American” leaks of classified intel, it appears he has a bigger, more serious problem on his hands. WSJ reports that US intel officials have withheld information from President Trump due to concerns it could be leaked or compromised.
The Wall Street Journal, citing unidentified current and former officials familiar with the matter, reports that officials’ decision to keep information from Mr. Trump underscores the deep mistrust that has developed between the intelligence community and the president over his team’s contacts with the Russian government, as well as the enmity he has shown toward U.S. spy agencies. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump accused the agencies of leaking information to undermine him.
In some of these cases of withheld information, officials have decided not to show Mr. Trump the sources and methods that the intelligence agencies use to collect information, the current and former officials said. Those sources and methods could include, for instance, the means that an agency uses to spy on a foreign government.
In some ways Trump may not care: according to the WSK,
“Trump doesn’t immerse himself in intelligence information, and it isn’t clear that he has expressed a desire to know sources and methods. The intelligence agencies have been told to dramatically pare down the president’s daily intelligence briefing, both the number of topics and how much information is described under each topic, an official said. Compared with his immediate predecessors, Mr. Trump so far has chosen to rely less on the daily briefing than they did.”
However, now that the WSJ brought up this topic, one can be absolutely sure the first demand Trump will make during his next intel briefing: “show me all the information.” That’s when things could get rough.
The officials quoted by the WSJ emphasized they know of no instance in which crucial information about security threats or potential plotting has been omitted, although if indeed “some” information is withheld, it is the functional equivalent of Trump making decisions blind.
While a White House official said: “There is nothing that leads us to believe that this is an accurate account of what is actually happening”, Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said he has heard concerns from officials about sharing especially sensitive information with Mr. Trump.
“I’ve talked with people in the intelligence community that do have concerns about the White House, about the president, and I think those concerns take a number of forms,” Mr. Schiff said, without confirming any specific incidents.
“What the intelligence community considers their most sacred obligation is to protect the very best intelligence and to protect the people that are producing it.”
So, why are they worried?
The current and former officials said the decision to avoid revealing sources and methods with Mr. Trump stems in large part from the president’s repeated expressions of admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his call, during the presidential campaign for Russia to continue hacking the emails of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
As the long-running tensions between the pro-Hillary intelligence community and President Trump rise, it is becoming increasingly clear that this escalating distrust between the top US spies on one hand, and the White House on the other, will lead to a vicious circle of less information-sharing and implicitly more distrust until Trump moves from tweet-castigation to treason charges, or alternatively the spooks dig deep into the NSA server’s bag of goodies, and unleash full-out mutiny (see John Schindler’s narrative for big details how this may play out).