Trump Destroying National Security Apparatus As CIA Loses Critical Asset Due To Trump

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Russia, Trump & Administration, White House SecrecyLeave a Comment

The Washington Post has the goods on the spy who came out of the cold:

In 2017, the United States extracted from Russia an important CIA source who had provided information about the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, according to current and former officials.

The operation, known as an exfiltration, followed mounting concerns among U.S. officials that the individual could be discovered by the Russian government.

The exfiltration took place sometime after an Oval Office meeting in May 2017, when President Trump revealed highly classified counterterrorism information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador, said the current and former officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive operation.

That disclosure alarmed U.S. national security officials, but it was not the reason for the decision to remove the CIA asset, who had provided information to the United States for more than a decade, according to the current and former officials.

The exfiltration was first reported by CNN. The CIA declined to comment.

Emphasis mine. Similar is a New York Times story published yesterday:

The decision to extract the informant was driven “in part” because of concerns that Mr. Trump and his administration had mishandled delicate intelligence, CNN reported. But former intelligence officials said there was no public evidence that Mr. Trump directly endangered the source, and other current American officials insisted that media scrutiny of the agency’s sources alone was the impetus for the extraction.

The allegation that Trump routinely mishandles classified information in a manner that alarms intelligence officials is so solid that no sane person still disputes it. The allegation that the exfiltration of this particular Russian spy was done in significant measure due to Trump’s mishandling of classified information, as alleged by CNN yesterday, remains based on a single source who no longer works in the government, and is now disputed by multiple anonymous sources.

Now: there is reason to question everything here. The hurricane/Alabama fiasco shows that government will lie for Trump — and indeed government officials are sometimes threatened with termination should they fail to lie for Trump. And in this case, if there is lying going on right now, it might also be in service of making the story go away so that the spy will not be identified.

What all this means is that we may never know to what extent, if any, Trump’s carelessness with classified information was part of the decisionmaking process here. Many officials are disputing that it was, but as I just noted, officials lie for Trump.

In any event, it is unlikely anything will come of this. The pundit class has mostly grown bored of the story behind Trump’s corrupt relationship with Russia. And too many in power, including almost all of the Republican Party, have grown used to the president deploying national security secrets in the same way he once traded tabloid gossip. He discloses American intelligence to deflect attention from unflattering stories, suck up to people he wants to impress, or simply on a whim. He treats it, as he treats everything else in American government, as a private tool of self-gratification.

Less than two weeks ago, Trump tweeted what was likely a classified photo of the aftermath of an explosion at an Iranian space center. From the image, journalists and internet sleuths were able to deduce important information about the type and location of the satellite that produced it. “This is the first time in three and a half decades that an image has become public that reveals the sophistication of U.S. spy satellites in orbit,” reported Wired.

And nobody said boo.

One would like to think that America’s intelligence-sharing relationships can be repaired if Trump is voted out in 2020. But it’s not just the president that foreign spies can’t trust. The United States has shown the world that it is capable of putting someone like Trump in office, and that can’t be undone. He’s left the whole country compromised.

And then of course there is Trump canceled meeting with the Taliban.

On Chris Matthews’s show, David Frum nails exactly what was going through Trump’s head:

David Frum: The meeting was never going to happen. This is a story about fantasy and envy. The president’s fantasy about being a great deal maker and his envy of President Obama’s peace prize. Zalmay Khalilzad, our former ambassador to afghanistan was running a process of negotiation with the Taliban to see if an agreement could be reached. About the first of September, he seems to have reached some kind of interim deal. What should have happened at that point, it goes into the government and different agencies look at it and say, do we like it, can we look at it, so we go forward do we stop. Trump got the smell of this and thought “this is done deal, Zalmay is going to get the credit, he’s going to get the Nobel Peace Prize.”

Matthews: How do you know his motive?

Frum: I don’t know his motive but I do know the timeline. This is a moment where it goes to an agency process not up to the president of the United States. But Trump swoops in and he invites everyone to Camp David. And the Taliban, these terrorist murderers, say with mature wisdom, why don’t we have the meeting at the end of the process? But Trump said, “I want to make the deal. I don’t want to leave it to Khalilzad because then he’ll get the credit. I want to make the deal. Only, of course, he can’t make the deal.

Matthews: he wanted it to pop out there. so he could walk out with …

Frum: Exactly, He wanted to be Jimmy Carter without the work. And so when it becomes clear that the Taliban says “we’re coming after the deal, not before” and there are a lot of problems with this interim arrangement, at that point, as the fantasy of the Nobel begins to recede, he says “in that case, you can’t fire me, I fire you!” and he blows up the whole thing and he does it on twitter, probably damaging a process that needed to continue.

He says the talks are “dead” and that they’re killing Taliban as fast as they can. So, “damaged” may be a bit mild. 

What’s next, I wonder?