May 19th, 2017

Intelligence sharing is not a Trump innovation

When the news report that Trump had shared some intelligence information with the Russians first broke, I wondered whether other presidents had done much the same thing with other countries, or whether this action was unprecedented. My guess was that other presidents had indeed done roughly similar things, but that we tended not to hear about them in the press—either because leaks were less common then, or because the president[s] in question were Democrats, or both.

I’m glad that this National Review article has come along to shed some light on the subject. In it, Deroy Murdock describes several other incidents of the sort, including one in 2011 in which President Obama gave Russia secret information about Britain’s missile system. Murdock relates a good (although rhetorical) question:

Obama’s treaty was amazingly cold as it back-stabbed America’s cousins, from the Scottish Highlands to the white cliffs of Dover. The secret U.S. cable originated in “Mission Geneva.” Dated February 25, 2010, it summarizes a meeting that had occurred on February 9 between American and Russian arms negotiators, including decisions on submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Item No. 13 detailed “an agreed statement on the transfer of Tridents II SLBMs to the United Kingdom.”…

“So, let me get this straight,” says Steve Baldwin, former Republican whip in the California state assembly, who brought this travesty to my attention. “Trump shares intelligence with Russia about ISIS, a third-party terrorist group that both countries are fighting. All hell breaks loose. But Obama gives secrets about British nuclear missiles to Russia with no obvious benefit to the West, and our media ignore it?”

Precisely.

The Left’s volcanoes stayed dormant as Obama rejected London’s express wishes, betrayed America’s closest NATO ally, and helped Vladimir Putin and his admirals count the nuclear-tipped missiles that shield the heirs to Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.

This may be the ugliest example of an American president donating state secrets to an unsavory, unfriendly government, but there are plenty more precedents for such executive action that predate Trump.

Please read the whole thing. And send it to any liberals on your list to whom you’re in the habit of forwarding articles.

This lengthy article is also worth reading (hat tip: commenter “AesopFan”). It goes over some familiar territory related to how Trump’s election was a revolt against the “elites.” The author is an extremely anti-Trump conservative, but he has this to say about Trump’s intelligence revelations to the Russians:

The president and his top foreign policy advisers, who were present during the conversation, say he didn’t [reveal any compromising details]. The media and Trump’s political adversaries insist that he did, at least implicitly. We don’t know. But we do know that when this story reached the pages of The Washington Post, as a result of leaks from people around Trump who want to see him crushed, it led to a feeding frenzy that probably harmed American interests far more than whatever Trump may have said to those Russians. Instead of Trump’s indiscretion being confined to a single conversation with foreign officials, it now is broadcast throughout the world. Instead of, at worst, a hint of where the intelligence came from, everyone now knows it came from the Israelis. Instead of being able to at least pursue a more cooperative relationship with Russia on matters of mutual interest, Trump is once again forced back on his heels on Russian policy by government officials and their media allies—who, unlike Trump, were never elected to anything.

Now, suprisingly, John Brennan, the former chief of the CIA under Obama, finds himself at least somewhat on Trump’s side:

What I have found appalling is the number of leaks that have taken place over the last several months,” former CIA Director John Brennan said…“This needs to be stopped.”

Brennan said Trump made a “serious mistake” when he reportedly shared sensitive intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, in an Oval Office meeting in early May. But this mistake wasn’t sharing intelligence; it was violating the protocol for doing so. “I shared intelligence with the Russians when I was the director of the CIA,” Brennan said. “But you share that through intelligence channels, and you make sure you word it in such as way as to not reveal sources and methods. President Trump didn’t do that [NOTE: that’s according to the press; that part of the story has been vociferously denied by everyone who was present].”

Brennan said the press coverage of Trump’s impromptu intelligence reveal was “hyperbolic” and possibly more damaging than anything Trump revealed. “The damage that was done is what was leaked in the aftermath, what was put in the media. The real damage to national security is the leaks.” He suggested, without saying so explicitly, that news accounts revealed more sensitive information than Trump did.

“The real damage to national security is the leaks,” Brennan said. “These individuals who still stay within the government and are leaking this stuff to the press need to be brought to task.”

Yes, they do.

A historical note: Nixon tried to “bring them to task” back in 1971, but the landmark 1971 case New York Times Co. v. United States ruled otherwise. I plan to talk about that soon in another post.

[ADDENDUM: More information can be found here (from 2011) on what forms the basis for the NR article. The information was obtained from Wikileaks:

Information about every Trident missile the US supplies to Britain will be given to Russia as part of an arms control deal signed by President Barack Obama next week.

Defence analysts claim the agreement risks undermining Britain’s policy of refusing to confirm the exact size of its nuclear arsenal.

The fact that the Americans used British nuclear secrets as a bargaining chip also sheds new light on the so-called “special relationship”, which is shown often to be a one-sided affair by US diplomatic communications obtained by the WikiLeaks website…

A series of classified messages sent to Washington by US negotiators show how information on Britain’s nuclear capability was crucial to securing Russia’s support for the “New START” deal.

Although the treaty was not supposed to have any impact on Britain, the leaked cables show that Russia used the talks to demand more information about the UK’s Trident missiles, which are manufactured and maintained in the US.

Washington lobbied London in 2009 for permission to supply Moscow with detailed data about the performance of UK missiles. The UK refused, but the US agreed to hand over the serial numbers of Trident missiles it transfers to Britain.

Professor Malcolm Chalmers said: “This appears to be significant because while the UK has announced how many missiles it possesses, there has been no way for the Russians to verify this. Over time, the unique identifiers will provide them with another data point to gauge the size of the British arsenal.”

Duncan Lennox, editor of Jane’s Strategic Weapons Systems, said: “They want to find out whether Britain has more missiles than we say we have, and having the unique identifiers might help them.”

There were many other articles written about it at the time.]

25 Responses to “Intelligence sharing is not a Trump innovation”

  1. neo-neocon Says:

    Testing.

  2. Manju Says:

    President Obama gave Russia secret information about Britain’s missile system.

    The US sells SLBM to the UK. They’ve been giving Russia “secret information” about them for a long time…as the 1991 START Treaty requires just that. They must disclose the number of missiles, the date of transfer, location, etc.

    The new (Obama Admin negotiated) START Treaty adds serial numbers to those requirements. This treaty is in writing for anyone to see and the information is the US’s, though of course it affects the UK since they buy American.

    In contrast, Trump inadvertently passed Israeli Intelligence to Russia. Such info is not supposed to be shared. To make matters worse, this info put and Israeli spy’s life at risk.

  3. Frog Says:

    Manju is apparently a wee little man, since he seems unable to see the big picture, despite Neo’s laying it all out for him.

    Obama gives nuclear weapons’ serial #s to the Russians? To what good (for America) purpose?

  4. Frog Says:

    And manju blithely breezes past Obama’s betrayal of the UK.
    Obama good.
    Trump bad.
    I see.

  5. Manju Says:

    Frog…for the same reason Bush supplied them with the number of nuclear weapons we send to the UK…so they can keep track of them, obviously.

    That’s one thing START does.

  6. expat Says:

    Manju,

    Are you getting info about revealing the Israeli source for the laptop bombs from the NYT?

  7. parker Says:

    Manju,

    Just to pile on for the fun of it….. the laptop bomb thingy became public knowledge many moons ago. Try to keep up. Your messiah and Mrs messiah have officially morphed into grifters. I am certain you can find a way to donate and you will find the shrew queen is more that happy to learn your credit card number and CVV number. Be sure to provide the expiration date.

  8. Manju Says:

    Just to pile on for the fun of it….. the laptop bomb thingy became public knowledge many moons ago.

    Then it would be awfully stupid for Neoneocon to refer to Trumps actions as “intelligence sharing” and to link to an article discussing “Trump’s sharing of intelligence…”

  9. Ann Says:

    That National Review article quotes Professor Malcolm Chalmers of the Royal United Services as saying: “Over time, the unique identifiers will provide them with another data point to gauge the size of the British arsenal.”

    I’m confused because the requirement about unique identifiers is contained in the Start I Treaty signed in 1991. See subsection I.3 here.

  10. Richard Aubrey Says:

    It will be interesting to see those calling for Trump’s elaborate scalp defending Assange.

  11. Manju Says:

    Ann,

    My guess is that Start I requires identifies for ICBMs. New Start extends that out for SLBMs.

    Probably this is a case of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing. The NR author was correct about there being a new requirement, but was unaware of a similar requirement in the older Start.

    After all, had he known, it would’ve given him pause and he wouldn’t have flew off the handle.

  12. parker Says:

    Not to rain on anyone’s parade, but the USSR no longer exists.

  13. Frog Says:

    parker: a little rain is good, also necessary, from time to time.

  14. neo-neocon Says:

    To Manju, et al:

    More information can be found here (from 2011) on what forms the basis for the NR article. The information was obtained from Wikileaks:

    Information about every Trident missile the US supplies to Britain will be given to Russia as part of an arms control deal signed by President Barack Obama next week.

    Defence analysts claim the agreement risks undermining Britain’s policy of refusing to confirm the exact size of its nuclear arsenal.

    The fact that the Americans used British nuclear secrets as a bargaining chip also sheds new light on the so-called “special relationship”, which is shown often to be a one-sided affair by US diplomatic communications obtained by the WikiLeaks website…

    A series of classified messages sent to Washington by US negotiators show how information on Britain’s nuclear capability was crucial to securing Russia’s support for the “New START” deal.

    Although the treaty was not supposed to have any impact on Britain, the leaked cables show that Russia used the talks to demand more information about the UK’s Trident missiles, which are manufactured and maintained in the US.

    Washington lobbied London in 2009 for permission to supply Moscow with detailed data about the performance of UK missiles. The UK refused, but the US agreed to hand over the serial numbers of Trident missiles it transfers to Britain.

    Professor Malcolm Chalmers said: “This appears to be significant because while the UK has announced how many missiles it possesses, there has been no way for the Russians to verify this. Over time, the unique identifiers will provide them with another data point to gauge the size of the British arsenal.”

    Duncan Lennox, editor of Jane’s Strategic Weapons Systems, said: “They want to find out whether Britain has more missiles than we say we have, and having the unique identifiers might help them.”

    There were many other articles written about it at the time.

  15. AesopFan Says:

    A couple of interesting articles on topic.
    Just to prove that international espionage ain’t bean bag.

    http://libertyunyielding.com/2017/05/18/assembled-laptop-ban-intel-less-hour-using-web-searches/

    “Not only are the Russians not stupid; they’ve been squatting on the western side of Syria, with some of their most advanced C4I assets in tow, for years now. They’ve had a joint intel center with Iran and Iraq in Baghdad for nearly two of those years. They know from ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and the Al-Nusra follow-ons. They know about the connecting bridge of the Khorasan Group. (They certainly know what Israeli intelligence is capable of, for that matter. But without the felonious disclosure of Israeli intel sourcing by anonymous U.S. officials, the Russians might well have gone to their graves never having that piece of the picture.)”

    BUT

    http://libertyunyielding.com/2017/05/19/sensitive-intel-source-trump-not-disclose-russians-jordan-says-not-even-israel/
    “Let’s begin with the caveat that there could be multiple motives for making the kind of disclosure Jordanian officials have reportedly made here. But it’s extremely doubtful that any of the motives is helping President Trump’s political situation.

    What the report about Jordanian disclosures does, however, is negate entirely the MSM theme that Trump exposed a sensitive Israeli source within ISIS, by talking to the Russians.

    In doing so, it seems to suggest that the leakers who told the mainstream media about this supposed gaffe — U.S. officials purporting to give information of great certainty — didn’t know what they were talking about.

    Trump, remember, never said Israel was the source of the intelligence behind the laptop ban on commercial flights from potential-threat countries. H.R. McMaster confirmed that Trump didn’t say it, but even the original leak to the Washington Post phrased the supposed error by Trump as a disclosure of too much other information, which would allow the Russians to figure out the source of the intel.

    It was the next day that the anonymous leakers first brought up the name “Israel.” If WaPo, the New York Times, and Wall Street Journal wrote it down right, their leak sources were very sure the sensitive intel source was Israel.

    Now the Jordanians say it wasn’t.”

    We can note that the Jordanians were willing to give the media information that our own MSM sanctimoniously assure us will get sources killed, if someone besides their sources (and themselves) tells the public about it. Feel free to marvel amongst yourselves at the Jordanians’ cavalier attitude.

    But killed or not, a developed intel source can at the very least be irreparably burned by public disclosures like the Jordanians’. One wonders what the compelling motive was for such a move.

    One possibility: if the spy within ISIS is, in fact, Jordanian, but the Israelis passed intel that the Jordanians got from that spy to the United States — whose face may have egg on it with public disclosure? The Jordanian sources make an interesting, apparently pointed reference to Israel’s “intel-sharing arrangements with Arab partners,” which is not something there’s a whole lot of public discussion of. In the espionage world’s fun-house of crazy mirrors and double- and triple-blind gambits, this disclosure to Al Jazeera might be a swipe at Israel; i.e., a sort of minatory text message saying “We saw you passing on that intel that we gathered, dudes.” (It’s also possible that Israel got Jordanian intel through the back door; i.e., through spying on Jordan’s spy agency. Yeah; now go take your ibuprofen.)

    Another possibility is that the Jordanians are taking a bullet to keep a source viable — throwing the nature of the penetration of ISIS into doubt, perhaps to protect an Israeli source (or even somebody else’s source) who really is on the inside. There are better, more convincing ways to sow such doubt than telling things to Al Jazeera, but it’s not impossible.

    All that said, the intel practitioners whose professional bona fides is put in a bad light by the Al Jazeera report are the U.S officials who leaked the name “Israel” this week.

    Remember, the Jordanians can tell Trump didn’t leak it. They’re not invested in the false narrative that he did leak it, and they’re not doing this to blacken his name. The monkey wrench here has been thrown into the leak factory whose nexus lies between Langley and the Eisenhower OEB, which in effect has just been shown up. I doubt that’s accidental.”

  16. AesopFan Says:

    More of interest from the NR article:
    “So, were President Trump’s actions typical or anomalous?
    “Revealing classified information to accomplish a foreign policy goal is Normal,” Slate’s Keating wrote. “Revealing highly classified intelligence casually in conversation for no particular reason, if that is in fact what Trump did, is Not Normal.”

    Whatever the tenor of President’s Trump’s remarks to the Russians, he hardly expressed them “for no particular reason,” as Keating suggested and the Left desperately wants to believe — unless, they fantasize, the president’s real purpose was to serve his KGB masters on Red Square. Rather, Trump hoped Moscow would assist U.S. efforts to foil ISIS’s laptop plot in particular and annihilate ISIS in general. What would those now raging at Trump say had he clammed up around Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak, and next September 11 a laptop blew up aboard an Aeroflot flight,raining jet engines, luggage, and dead passengers onto private homes near New York’s JFK Airport?
    Trump’s very same enemies would roar like Vesuvius: “Why didn’t Trump stop this? He failed to connect the dots. IMPEACH!” ”

    Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/447747/trump-russia-intelligence-sharing

    Indeed. NOTHING Trump or the GOP does will please the Left and the Dems.

    And please remember that NR as a whole detests Trump, but they know what’s historically accurate and what’s diplomatically normal.

  17. Manju Says:

    Neo,

    I read that article, as National Review linked to it.

    The “British nuclear secrets” Obama allegedly passed were in fact the serial numbers for the Tridents (submarine launched missiles). The article says as much.

    If you click Ann’s link you will see that such info has long been part of SALT…only now they pertain to Tridents, not just ICBMs.

    There was no international incident because Obama did reveal British intelligence to Russia.

  18. neo-neocon Says:

    Manju:

    There was no international incident because it was Obama rather than Trump who did it. And the only “international incident” that would ever occur from what Trump did are those engendered by the MSM’s talking about it as though it’s some sort of outrage. The point is not that either thing was so terrible. The point is that if Trump had done what Obama did and vice versa, the MSM would be in an uproar about the Trident missiles.

  19. M J R Says:

    neo suggests, “Please read the whole thing. And send it to any liberals on your list to whom you’re in the habit of forwarding articles.”

    The liberals I know and communicate with will shrug it off and never give it a thought. For them, it’s not about informing and it’s not about sharing ideas. For them, it’s about utterly obliterating the Trump presidency, period, without regard for

    – truth or perspective,
    – intellectual honesty,
    – methods or tactics.

    Pretty darn sad, but that’s where we-all are now.

  20. AesopFan Says:

    Manju Says:
    May 19th, 2017 at 3:50 pm
    President Obama gave Russia secret information about Britain’s missile system.

    The US sells SLBM to the UK. They’ve been giving Russia “secret information” about them for a long time…as the 1991 START Treaty requires just that. They must disclose the number of missiles, the date of transfer, location, etc.

    The new (Obama Admin negotiated) START Treaty adds serial numbers to those requirements. This treaty is in writing for anyone to see and the information is the US’s, though of course it affects the UK since they buy American.

    Manju Says:
    May 19th, 2017 at 4:12 pm
    Frog…for the same reason Bush supplied them with the number of nuclear weapons we send to the UK…so they can keep track of them, obviously.

    That’s one thing START does.
    ***
    The summary prepared for Congress supports Manju’s position in re the US supplying serial numbers for its own arsenal. I don’t know enough to know if the UK is bound by this treaty or not, just because they bought them from us, and that is the point at issue.
    It would seem to me that any country is only bound by a treaty to which it is a signatory, and since the UK objected strenuously to this release of information, the implication is that they were NOT bound by the New START, in which case Obama was definitely out-of-bounds.

    Highly excerpted segments follow.

    * * *
    The New START Treaty: Central Limits and Key Provisions Amy F. Woolf Specialist in Nuclear Weapons Policy February 1, 2017 (from the Congressional Research Service, prepared for Members and Committees of Congress)

    https://fas.org/sgp/crs/nuke/R41219.pdf

    The New START Treaty contains three central limits on U.S. and Russian strategic offensive nuclear forces; these are displayed in Table 1, below. First, it limits each side to no more than 800 deployed and nondeployed ICBM and SLBM launchers and deployed and nondeployed heavy bombers equipped to carry nuclear armaments.

    The parties share information on the locations of these missiles in the database they maintain under the treaty and notify each other when they move these systems. These provisions are designed to allow each side to keep track of the numbers and locations of nondeployed missiles and to deter efforts to stockpile hidden, uncounted missiles. A party would be in violation of the treaty if one of its nondeployed missiles were spotted at a facility not included on the list, or if one were found at a location different from the one listed for that missile in the database. … Each individual missile will be identified in the database by a “unique identifier,” which will, in most cases, be the serial number affixed to the missile during production.

    New START will not permit perimeter and portal monitoring at missile assembly facilities. The parties must, however, provide notification at least 48 hours before the time when solid-fuel ICBMs and solid-fuel SLBMs leave the production facilities. Moreover, the parties will continue to list the serial numbers, or unique identifiers, for mobile ICBMs in the shared database.

    Moreover, when deployed or nondeployed missiles or launchers move from one facility to another, the parties will have to update the database so each facility contains a complete list of each item located at that facility, and of the unique identifier associated with each item. Then, according to the Protocol to the Treaty, “inspectors shall have the right to read the unique identifiers on all designated deployed ICBMs or designated deployed SLBMs, non-deployed ICBMs, non-deployed SLBMs, and designated heavy bombers that are located at the inspection site.”
    Hence, the parties will have the opportunity to confirm that items located at the facilities are supposed to be there. This is designed not only to increase transparency and understanding while the treaty is in force, but also to discourage efforts to hide extra missiles and break out of the treaty limits. The treaty does not limit the number of nondeployed missiles, but it does provide the United States with continuous information about their locations and the opportunity, during on-site inspections, to confirm that these missiles are not mixed into the deployed force.

    In START, the parties recorded unique identifiers only for mobile ICBMs. In New START, the parties will record these numbers for all ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers covered by the limits in Treaty.

  21. AesopFan Says:

    I’ve bolded the relevant comments in the Telegraph report Neo linked, and added a few more salacious tidbits in the “where have we heard this before?” bucket.
    But Obama’s Elites know what’s best for all of us.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/wikileaks/8304654/WikiLeaks-cables-US-agrees-to-tell-Russia-Britains-nuclear-secrets.html

    04 Feb 2011

    Information about every Trident missile the US supplies to Britain will be given to Russia as part of an arms control deal signed by President Barack Obama next week.
    Defence analysts claim the agreement risks undermining Britain’s policy of refusing to confirm the exact size of its nuclear arsenal.
    The fact that the Americans used British nuclear secrets as a bargaining chip also sheds new light on the so-called “special relationship”, which is shown often to be a one-sided affair by US diplomatic communications obtained by the WikiLeaks website.
    Details of the behind-the-scenes talks are contained in more than 1,400 US embassy cables published to date by the Telegraph, including almost 800 sent from the London Embassy, which are published online today. The documents also show that:
    America spied on Foreign Office ministers by gathering gossip on their private lives and professional relationships.

    Washington lobbied London in 2009 for permission to supply Moscow with detailed data about the performance of UK missiles. The UK refused, but the US agreed to hand over the serial numbers of Trident missiles it transfers to Britain.
    Professor Malcolm Chalmers said: “This appears to be significant because while the UK has announced how many missiles it possesses, there has been no way for the Russians to verify this. Over time, the unique identifiers will provide them with another data point to gauge the size of the British arsenal.”
    Duncan Lennox, editor of Jane’s Strategic Weapons Systems, said: “They want to find out whether Britain has more missiles than we say we have, and having the unique identifiers might help them.”
    While the US and Russia have long permitted inspections of each other’s nuclear weapons, Britain has sought to maintain some secrecy to compensate for the relatively small size of its arsenal.

  22. AesopFan Says:

    From the lengthy excerpt I posted above:
    “In START, the parties recorded unique identifiers only for mobile ICBMs. In New START, the parties will record these numbers for all ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers covered by the limits in Treaty.”

    Here is the question to which I have not yet seen an answer: looking at the change made in New START to extend the unique identifiers to SLBMs, why did Obama make that concession, and did he have in mind at the time the opening that would give him to betray the UK arsenal?

    PS In all cases “Obama” means “Obama and his minions or handlers” depending on how you read his position vis-a-vis Russia and Iran.

  23. AesopFan Says:

    While we’re on the subject of Obama and foreign policy:
    http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2017/05/how-barack-obama-conspired-with-an-enemy-to-undermine-us-foreign-policy.php

    “The Democrats are trying to make a scandal out of the fact that representatives of the Trump campaign communicated with Russians, even though those communications were 100% appropriate. I had forgotten about this post, which I wrote in March 2015, until Rush Limbaugh read from it on his program yesterday. It reminds us what a REAL scandal involving a presidential campaign and foreign policy looks like:


    So Obama secretly told the mullahs not to make a deal until he assumed the presidency, when they would be able to make a better agreement. Which is exactly what happened: Obama abandoned the requirement that Iran stop enriching uranium, so that Iran’s nuclear program has sped ahead over the months and years that negotiations have dragged on. When an interim agreement in the form of a “Joint Plan of Action” was announced in late 2013, Iran’s leaders exulted in the fact that the West had acknowledged its right to continue its uranium enrichment program:

    So Obama delivered the weak agreement that he had secretly promised the mullahs.

    That, readers, is what a real scandal looks like.”

    Flexibility is usually considered to be a virtue, but Obama managed to transform that to a vice, along with the rest of the changes he brought us.

  24. Manju Says:

    Here is the question to which I have not yet seen an answer: looking at the change made in New START to extend the unique identifiers to SLBMs, why did Obama make that concession,

    Because the US gets the identifiers of Russian SLBMs in return.

    and did he have in mind at the time the opening that would give him to betray the UK arsenal?

    As the article you cite states: “the unique identifiers will provide them with another data point to gauge the size of the British arsenal.”

    George Bush’s 1991 Start already provides Russia with the number of missiles, as well as the identifiers for ICBMs.

    No one on left AFAK protested this because it is in no way equivalent to inadvertently leaking Israeli intelligence secrets to a US Enemy.

    After all, it’s not a secret (I mean its in a treaty), it’s not British intelligence (they are American #’s) and it was not done by accident.

  25. Israel Says:

    So now that the source per the newspapers is blown, can’t they release what Trump actually said/ told the Russians?

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