U.S. media outlets have been consumed by the story today that President Trump improperly or unwisely shared classified material on ISIS with the Russians, material that apparently came from Israel. For its part, the Trump administration denies the charge that information was improperly or unwisely shared.
A couple of comments. First, the president has broad powers of declassification and the discretion to share sensitive secrets with others. Sharing classified information with the Russians, an ally of a sort in the struggle against ISIS, is not necessarily a bad idea. Trump seems to have decided it was a way to strengthen relations and build trust at high levels with the Russian government, a defensible position, in my view.
Second, I’ll repeat here what I said about classification and the Hillary Clinton email scandal: Far too much information is classified by the U.S. government. Classification is vastly overused by our government to conceal many sins, blunders, nefarious designs, and who knows what else. There’s nothing sacred about secrecy; indeed, a democracy should prefer transparency, rather than stamping everything “secret” or “top secret” and thereby keeping nearly all Americans in the dark.
Obviously, I’m not privy to the exact nature of the intelligence shared, the sensitivity and vulnerability of the source(s) and collection methods, and so on. I’m not an intelligence trade-craft expert. So far, Israeli operatives seem unconcerned, but whether their blase attitude is feigned or not is unknown.
Americans elected Trump because he promised to do things differently. He campaigned on the idea of being unorthodox; indeed, he is unorthodox. Surely no one should be surprised when he decides to speak in the clear to Russian government officials on matters concerning ISIS and terrorism.
Repeat after me, America: Secrecy is not sacred. Transparency is desirable. So too is building trust with rivals as well as friends. Trump has his faults, major ones I believe, but this current controversy is a tempest in a teapot.
7 thoughts on “Trump Shares Classified Material with Russia — Duck and Cover!”
Spot on, Bill. A concise, timely, and genuinely fair comment. I agree completely with your take on this.
President Trump has his many and notorious faults, but for some reason he seems to have believed all the bullshit coming from the Obama administration to the effect that the U.S. governement and its “allies” — Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the Apartheid Zionist Entity (A.Z.E., for short) — actually wanted to wipe out ISIS when, in fact, ISIS only continued to grow and prosper the longer President Obama and his friends “opposed” these head-chopping jihadis. I remember once reading about Russian President Vladimir Putin at some international conference showing U.S. officials satellite photos of ISIS fuel tankers accompanied by heavily armed, gleaming white Toyota pick-up trucks, stretching in caravans for kilometers across the open desert, ferrying stolen Syrian oil to Turkey for resale to the A.Z.E. and other “friends.” I think that President Putin said something like: “Here. We found ISIS for you. Now you can bomb them. Glad to help.”
But the U.S. and A.Z.E. pilots kept missing ISIS and hitting Syrian government infrastructure instead. When Russians and other interested observers commented upon this strangely inaccurate targeting of ISIS, A.Z.E. spokespersons openly admitted that they preferred ISIS to the legitimate sovereign Syrian government led by elected President Bashar al Assad. American officials, naturally, would not ever come out so openly and admit their policy of supporting ISIS while claiming to oppose ISIS. Donald Trump, however, apparently believed the duplicitous bullshit coming out of the U.S. government that he read about in the Corporate Media and saw on Cable TV every night.
Then the Russians stepped in, started bombing the ISIS oil tankers, Toyota trucks, and other concentrations of ISIS “rebel fighters” — just to show the U.S. and A.Z.E. military how to do this sort of thing. Subsequently, ISIS started getting its ass blasted out of existence all over the place. The humilitated U.S. military then had to at least make a show of bombing the occasional ISIS fighter here and there just to get in on the side that showed how real “winning” happens. The A.Z.E., for its part, simply continued bombing Syrian infrastructure and military assets. The A.Z.E. doesn’t give a shit about what lies American presidents tell their duped and miseducated citizens while pursuing A.Z.E. interests in preference to American ones.
President Trump, though, still seems to think that the U.S. should cooperate with Russia in wiping out ISIS, just like the Corporate Media and Cable TV shows had told him that the U.S. wanted to do (even though the American government under President Ob ama wanted to do no such thing). Normally not the least bit interested in consistency, President Trump seems to have taken a consistent line on wiping out ISIS in coordination with Russia, since Russia seems to know how to do this sort of thing better than just about anyone. Good for President Trump.
I still don’t get this Russophobia thing. When did Russia bomb Pearl Harbor instead of ISIS? I must have missed that. If sharing information with Russia gets more ISIS jihadis wiped out, then good. And if the A.Z.E. and Saudi Arabie don’t like seeing ISIS wiped out, then even better. With “friends” like the A.Z.E. and Saudi Arabia, America has all the enemies it can stand. Personally, I don’t think that President Trump should share information with Benjamin Netanyahu or any of the Saudi Royal Family. Either or both of them would just hand it over to ISIS whom they much prefer to the legitimate government of Syria that they both want destroyed.
I would agree, then, that President Trump should get the benefit of the doubt in this particular case. Better the Russians for friends than the enemies who call themselves our friends. Just common sense.
Just as a follow up comment: a great many people in the Corporate Media seem to think that (1) what passes for “intelligence” among U.S. government and military bureaucrats actually deserves that label and (2) that the Russians would foolishly believe something that the A.Z.E. had fed the U.S. government concerning ISIS. As a matter of fact, the Russians have far better intelligence about ISIS (and the A.Z.E.) than does the U.S. government and military, as evidenced by the fact that the Russians keep hitting what the U.S. has kept missing for almost two years, if not longer. If President Trump actually knew anything of value about ISIS, then the Russians would already know that. And if President Trump knew only what Benjamn Netanyahu and some Saudi royal princes wanted him and our “intelligence community” to believe, then the Russians would know that, too. In fact, the idea that the U.S. government has anything of value to share with the Russians concerning ISIS has to count as a tragic joke.
For example, I can remember when our C.I.A. gave President Bill Clinton the bombing co-ordinates to the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Serbia, resulting in the deaths of many Chinese diplomats. The C.I.A., it turns out, didn’t even have an up-to-date map of the city. Almost immediately, late night comedians began joking that the initials “C.I.A.” stood for “Can’t Identify Anything.” This colossal fuck up naturally enraged the Chinese people who went on a rampage in Beijing, stoning our embassy for almost two weeks before the Chinese government could get a handle on the protests. Good old “Can’t Identify Anything” almost got us into World War III with China over that particular pooch screwing. I hadn’t seen anything like it since Tet of 1968 when the whole world saw pictures of our Saigon embassy under seige and our ambassador leaning out a window with a pistol in his hand and a trickle of blood running down his face from a cut in his forehead. For years prior to that startling event, the U.S. government and military had assured us all that we Americans had just about wrapped things up in Southeast Asia. Who you gonna believe? The U.S. “intelligence community” or your own lyin’ eyes?
I’ve lived long enought to remember U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers, the Bay of Pigs, the Gulf of Tonkin, Panama, Grenada, and — you know — that whole “WMD and Iraqi-ties-to-Al Qaeda” thing. No need to further elaborate on America’s manifest “intelligence” fuck-ups, so many that we should name them Legion.
I can just imagine what the Russians must have thought listening to President Trump and General McMasters informing them of what the Saudis and the A.Z.E. had told the Americans. “OK. We know where to shit-can that paticular nonsense.” To President Trump they probably just smiled politely and said (in the immortal words of John Maynard Keynes): “Thank you very much. We will waste no time giving this matter all the attention it deserves.”
Alex Mercouris at The Duran also writes concerning this White House meeting. He concludes with:
“… the real agendabehind this story: to discredit Trump in any way possible, and to make impossible any meaningful dialogue between the US and Russian governments which might lead to a possible rapprochement between the US and Russia.
Those who give credence to this story or pretend to are either being manipulated or share this agenda.”
Then, in the comments section, I read this response:
Richardstevenhack • 6 hours ago
1) As President, Trump is in charge of all US government classification. With certain exceptions mandated by law, he can declassify and reveal anything he wants to anyone he wants any time he wants.
2) If he is sharing intel with the Russians on ISIS operations, that is what we want him to do in order to increase cooperation with Russia against ISIS.
The notion that identifying the city in which certain info was discovered would compromise the intelligence agency which obtained it – and especially by the Russians who would have no reason to disrupt such an operation IF it was targeted against ISIS – is ruminant evacuation. Any such agency other than Russia inside Syria would be illegal in any event [emphasis added].
Dollars to donuts, the foreign intelligence agency referred to is either Israel or Saudi Arabia. The idea that we might be sharing intel with Saudi Arabia is disgusting on the face of it. And everyone knows Israel feeds the US intel for its own benefit, so that is no surprise. Who else would have a “sensitive” intelligence agency contact with the US? One that the Russians would want to disrupt?
The real takeaway from this story is that certain US intelligence agency officials are still trying to undermine Trump’s administration by leaking classified info to the media, as Alexander rightly points out.
In summary then, only the Russians, Iranians, and Hezbollah have any business in Syria, since the Syrian government has invited them to help fight ISIS and Al Qaeda so as to preserve the Syrian state, a recognized member of the United Nations. In any event, Russia would not disrupt an intelligence operation that targets ISIS. Neither would Iran. Neither would Hezbollah. On the other hand, the U.S., Saudi, Turkish, and A.Z.E. “intelligence” services have no legal right to operate in Syria and so who cares what they claim to know? Especially when, as I noted above, the Saudi, Turkish, Kurdish, and A.Z.E. “intelligence” services only feed their American dupes disinformation serving their own interests while manipulationg the United States into doing their dirty work for them. And should these “allied” sources of rank disinformation get mad at President Trump for sharing their lies with the world’s public, then perhaps they might get their tender feelings hurt and refuse to lie and deceive America anymore. One can only hope so. The less we hear from Benjamin Netanyahu and several thousand Saudi “royal” princes, the better.
I like your acronym A.Z.E. 🙂
An excellent synopsis such as this should be widely read and understood. Thank you for expending your time and talents.
If you haven’t seen Putin’s press conference, it’s good, and is laced with a bit of humor you might enjoy. This link contains a short video that doesn’t quite include all of the following remarks:
“As for the results of Foreign Minister Lavrov’s visit to the United States and his meeting with President Trump, we assess the results highly. This was the first visit, a return visit by our foreign minister, after we received US Secretary of State Tillerson here in Moscow.
This is normal and natural international practice. At the same time, however, we see the growing political schizophrenia in the United States. There is no other way I can explain the accusations against the current president that he handed whichever secrets over to Lavrov.
Incidentally, I spoke with him [Lavrov] today about this matter, and I will have to give him a ticking off for not sharing these secrets with me. Not with me, nor with our intelligence officials. This was really not good of him at all.
What’s more, if the US administration has no objection, we are ready to provide a transcript of Lavrov’s conversation with Trump to the US Senate and Congress. Of course, we would do this only if the American administration so desires.
Initially, when we watched the first developments in this internal political struggle, we were amused. But now, the spectacle is becoming quite simply sad, and it is causing us concern, because it is hard to imagine just how far people willing to think up this kind of nonsense and absurdity might go. All of this is ultimately about fanning anti-Russian sentiment.
This does not surprise me. They are using anti-Russian slogans to destabilize the internal political situation in the United States, but they do not realise that they are harming their own country. If this is the case, then they are quite simply stupid. If they do understand what they are doing, then they are dangerous and unscrupulous people. In any event, this is the United States’ own affair and we have no intention of getting involved.
As for assessments of President Trump’s actions so far in office, this too is not our affair. It is for the American people, American voters, to give their assessment. Of course, this will be possible only once he is fully allowed to work.”
My reply is to Michael Murry’s first comment.
“It is interesting that the Islamic State rose in the wake of US-led, NATO-backed violence stretching from North Africa to Central Asia and only began to suffer setbacks upon greater and more direct Russian and Iranian intervention.
The bombing of Islamic State and Jabhat Al Nusra logistical lines emanating from NATO-member Turkey’s borders by Russian warplanes, for example, inevitably led to huge gains by the Syrian Arab Army including the eventual liberation of Aleppo, the containment of Idlib and a significant retraction of Islamic State-held territory in eastern Syria.
The torrent of supplies feeding Islamic State and other fronts of extremist militancy flowing from Turkey is the admitted result of Persian Gulf sponsorship, which in turn, serves as an intermediary for US and NATO support for what the US Defense Intelligence Agency called in 2012 (.pdf) a “Salafist principality.”
The specific purpose of this “Salafist principality,” admittedly backed by Persian Gulf dictatorships, Turkey and what the US DIA refers to as “the West,” was to “isolate the Syrian regime.” Clearly then, were NATO genuinely interested in defeating the Islamic State and undoing the damage it has done, it would begin by withdrawing it and its allies’ own support of the terrorist organization in the first place.
In short, if NATO truly wants to create stability across MENA, it merely needs to stop intentionally sowing instability.
Of course, a unilateral military bloc intentionally sowing chaos across an entire region of the planet is doing so for a very specific purpose. It is the same purpose all hegemons throughout human history have sought to divide and destroy regions they cannot outright conquer. A destroyed competitor may not be as favorable as a conquered, controlled and exploited competitor, but is certainly preferable to a free and independent competitor contributing to a greater multipolar world order. NATO, by embedding itself amid the chaos it itself has created, as it has proven in Afghanistan, only ensures further chaos.
Within this chaos, NATO can ensure if its own membership cannot derive benefit from the region, no one else will. A call like that featured in The National Interest for NATO to bring “stability” to the MENA region stands in stark contrast to the reality that everywhere NATO goes, chaos not only follows, it stays indefinitely until NATO leaves.
The best thing NATO can do for stability across MENA is to leave”
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