For those of us who risked our lives to obtain intelligence vital to the U.S., the Trump administration’s careless handling of that data is worse than an insult. Wikileaks reports that “President Donald Trump discussed classified information during an Oval Office meeting on May 10, 2017 with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, providing sufficient details that could be used by the Russians to deduce the source of the information and the manner in which it was collected, according to current and former government officials. The disclosure was first reported in the Washington Post on May 15, 2017. White House staff initially denied the report, but the following day Trump defended the disclosure, stating that he has the ‘absolute right’ to ‘share’ intelligence with Russia.”
One is forced to ask how often such revelations occurred. The president’s avowed fondness for Vladimir Putin and other dictators suggests that he may have given intelligence details to our enemies on many occasions that we know not of.
Now comes a report, in today’s Washington Post, that the president ordered the granting of a top-secret intelligence clearance to his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, despite objections from security officials. This follows Trump’s long-time hostility to U.S. intelligence agencies.
Americans know little about the U.S. intelligence effort. Its work is classified, not to hide it from the American population but from our enemies. Exposure of classified information invariably means the loss of the source of that information and profound damage to the U.S. in its ability to defend itself against its enemies.
We may never know the harm already inflicted—it’s classified—but intelligence insiders welcome the demand by House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings for information on White House procedures for granting intelligence clearances. It’s long overdue. We hope this is the beginning of a congressional probe into the White House’s handling of and damage to intelligence.