Trump's Big Mouth Is Demolishing America's Reputation and Its Secrecy Procedures, Leaving Our Intel Chiefs 'Horrified'
The view that President Trump is a menace to the safety of the American people is hardly confined to the political left. Senator Bob Corker, a conservative Republican from Tennessee and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, dubbed Trump the "wrecking ball president."
Now this wrecking ball is damaging America's alliance with Europe and its procedures for handling the country’s most sensitive secrets, leaving U.S. military and intelligence, and their foreign counterparts, aghast. Trump’s habitual carelessness is dangerous, they say.
In his speech to NATO leaders Thursday he scolded them for failing to live up commitments to increase defense spending while failing to mention Article 5, the NATO mutual-defense pledge — something other leaders had been hoping to hear.
The Associated Press described the speech as an "unprecedented one-two punch" that "further rattled" an already anxious Europe. One Democratic leader called the remarks "condescending" and an "embarrassment." And that was before Trump described the Germans as "evil, very evil" for running a trade surplus with the United States.
The trail of wreckage left by Trump's big mouth is growing longer by the day.
Intel on ISIS
On May 15, the Washington Post reported that Trump had revealed highly classified information to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in a White House meeting.
“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.”
The details emerged over the next week. The information, obtained from Israel, concerned specific terrorist plotting by the Islamic State, including Islamic State advances in bomb-making that could be used to mask an explosive device inside a laptop, according to USA Today.
Trump’s defense quickly fell apart. He claimed he never mentioned Israel in his talks with the Russians. Whether that is literally true or whether he was lying (again), doesn’t really matter. Israeli officials were “furious” about the disclosures, Foreign Policy reported, and Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman acknowledged that Israel had “tweaked its intelligence-sharing protocols" with the United States after Trump’s off-script remarks.
“I can confirm that we did a spot repair and that there’s unprecedented intelligence cooperation with the United States,” Lieberman told Israeli Army Radio. “What we had to clarify with our friends in the United States, we did. We did our check.”
Former CIA director John Brennan testified Tuesday that if the president shared classified Israeli intelligence with Russian officials at the White House as reported, he violated intelligence-sharing protocol.
“It appears as though, at least from the press reports, that neither did it go in the proper channels nor did the originating agency have the opportunity to clear language for it,” Brennan said. “That is a problem."
Then came the disclosure that Trump had told Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte that the U.S. had two nuclear submarines stationed near North Korea.
“We have a lot of firepower over there,” Trump said, according to a transcript obtained by The Intercept. “We have two submarines—best in the world—we have two nuclear submarines, not that we want to use them at all.”
BuzzFeed News reported that "Pentagon officials are in shock after the release of a transcript between President Donald Trump and his Philippines counterpart reveals that the U.S. military had moved two nuclear submarines towards North Korea. 'We never talk about subs!' three U.S. officials said."
Rank and file military personnel also expressed surprise at the breach of normal security procedures.
@CitizensFedUp @sartorialskwirl @BraddJaffy I am a Navy wife, my husband was on subs. WE were never allowed to know… https://t.co/p8HssNQyuv— KJ (@KJ) 1495721625
In February, Trump "astounded" White House veterans with his decision to turn the public terrace of his Florida home into a situation room after he learned of a North Korea missile launch. Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe remained at the table and discussed their response.
"While waiters came and went — and while one club member snapped photos — the two leaders reviewed documents by the light of an aide’s cellphone,” the Washington Post reported, adding that presidents typically “move to private, secured settings to hash out such an event.”
In fact, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate has an on-site Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, a specially outfitted room for storing top-secret records and holding confidential conversations.
The White House denied any classified information had been seen or discussed at the impromptu dinner table conference, but that hardly addresses the qualms of security professionals.
“Assuming the smartphones staffers held aloft were consumer devices, they’re basically bugs waiting for someone to activate them,” noted Wire’s Brian Barrett. “Android phones are notoriously insecure outside of the most recent update, and even then aren’t guaranteed safe."
“The idea that somebody could target these phones is not science fiction,” says Matthew Green, cryptographer at Johns Hopkins University. “It’s actually a pretty standard, well-understood threat.”
Not by the president of the United States, it seems.