America’s foreign allies are being forced to struggle with a very sensitive question:
Is it still safe to share information with U.S. intelligence agencies?
Now that Donald Trump is the commander-in-chief, Trump’s overtures to Russia have stoked concerns that long-cherished ties with European intelligence counterparts could become strained.
One senior official from former President Barack Obama’s administration said:
“If there’s a sense that we’re cozying up to regimes like Vladimir Putin’s Russia, that could have something of a chilling effect . . . The challenge may be in places like Germany, France, potentially even the United Kingdom. If there is a reorientation toward Moscow, there could be some doubts there.”
Former CIA director, John Brennan, after submitting his resignation, has also voiced concerns. Brennan told Fox News in a mid-January interview:
“I think the world is watching now what Mr. Trump says, and listening very carefully . . . If he doesn’t have confidence in the intelligence community, what signal does that send to our partners and allies, as well as our adversaries?”
For all their famed prowess, American spy agencies rely a great deal on foreign intelligence partners for help on everything from counter-terrorism to cybersecurity. Such relationships are especially vital in regions where language and cultural barriers are high. Figuring out what’s happening in North Korea, for instance, is much easier done with the help of South Korea’s intelligence sector.
In July 2007, Thomas Sanderson, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, found himself face-to-face with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus. This was back when the Arab leader was seen by some Westerners as a potential reformer, and well before he became the central figure in a bloody civil war that has drawn in Russia and Iran.
Sanderson asked Assad why his government stopped its earlier cooperation with U.S. intelligence agencies, despite having become a key partner in the hunt for Al-Qaeda fighters following the 9/11 attacks. Assad claimed his government was upset because the George W. Bush administration had leaked word of the U.S.-Syrian intelligence cooperation to the press, apparently to help gain legitimacy for the invasion of Iraq. The White House leaks made Syria seem like an American proxy, and turned it into a target for the jihadists, Assad said, according to Sanderson’s recollection.
Sanderson says that it’s a lesson Trump must quickly learn.
Michael Hayden, who led both the NSA and the CIA under the George W. Bush administration, said one reason other countries were willing to share intelligence with the United States was that it often has the capacity and willingness to act on the information. But if Trump downplays or dismisses what the CIA and other agencies tell him, that could erode allies’ confidence.
“How many foreign intelligence agencies might say, ‘I’m not sure giving this information to the Americans will do any good anyway. So why should we share it in the first place?’ . . . If they come to the conclusion that the decision-makers don’t pay attention to the intelligence and the intelligence community is not respected, then why take the risk?”
US spies ‘warned Israel not to share intelligence with Trump’
US spies warned their Israeli counterparts that Russia may have “levers of pressure”over Donald Trump and told them to be careful about sharing intelligence with the White House in case it was passed on to the Kremlin, according to Israeli media reports.
The American intelligence officials reportedly told the Israelis not to share sensitive information with Mr Trump’s aides until the incoming president’s relationship with Russia had been fully investigated.
The claim was made in the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth and cannot be confirmed
The Yedioth Ahronoth story, written by the investigative journalist Ronen Bergman, claimed to have details about a recent meeting between American and Israeli intelligence officials.
Mr Bergman wrote:
“Israeli officials who attended that meeting said that their American counterparts spoke despairingly about the election of Trump, who has repeatedly lashed out at the American intelligence community”
“The American officials went on to say that they believed that Putin has ‘levers of pressure’ over Trump, but refrained from going into any detail.”
The potential leverage referred to is a dossier of potentially explosive allegations against Trump which was compiled by Christopher Steele, a former MI6 agent.
The Yedioth Ahronoth story, written by the investigative journalist Ronen Bergman, claimed to have details about a recent meeting between American and Israeli intelligence officials.
“Israeli officials who attended that meeting said that their American counterparts spoke despairingly about the election of Trump, who has repeatedly lashed out at the American intelligence community,” Mr Bergman wrote.
He continued: “The American officials went on to say that they believed that Putin has ‘levers of pressure’ over Trump-but refrained from going into any detail.’
The potential leverage referred to is the 35-page dossier of potentially explosive allegations against Trump which was compiled by Christopher Steele, a former MI6 agent.
The dossier was known to US intelligence for months before it erupted into the public sphere.
The corroboration, based on intercepted communications, has given US intelligence and law enforcement “greater confidence” in the credibility of some aspects of the dossier as they continue to actively investigate its contents, these sources say.
The intercepts do confirm that some of the conversations described in the dossier took place between the same individuals on the same days and from the same locations as detailed in the dossier, according to the officials.
The newly learned information relates to conversations between foreign nationals. The dossier details about a dozen conversations between senior Russian officials and other Russian individuals. Sources would not confirm which specific conversations were intercepted or the content of those discussions due to the classified nature of US intelligence collection programs.
But the intercepts do confirm that some of the conversations described in the dossier took place between the same individuals on the same days and from the same locations as detailed in the dossier, according to the officials.
Intelligence Community pushes back against a White House it considers leaky, untruthful and penetrated by the Kremlin
Our Intelligence Community is so worried by the unprecedented problems of the Trump administration (not only do senior officials possess troubling ties to the Kremlin, there are nagging questions about basic competence regarding Team Trump) that it is beginning to withhold intelligence from a White House which our spies do not trust.
That the Itelligence Community has plenty of grounds for concern is demonstrated by almost daily revelations of major problems inside the White House, just four weeks after the inauguration. The president has repeatedly gone out of his way to antagonize our spies, mocking them and demeaning their work.
The leaks coming out of the White House are absolutely crazy, some are very serious and some are just hilarious – Here’s a sampling of both:
- Trump abruptly ended a phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull after condemning a refugee deal with the country and telling Turnbull “this was the worst call by far” he has had with a world leader.
- Trump threatened Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto with sending American troops into his country.
Trump will not put up with rough towels on Air Force One! (Source) According to a White House insider, the tough-talking Commander in Chief was so incensed by the roughness of the hand towels on the presidential jets that he registered a complaint.
Trump called Gen. Mike Flynn at 3 a.m. to ask whether it was better to have a strong dollar or a weak dollar. (Source) resident Donald Trump was confused about the dollar: Was it a strong one that’s good for the economy? Or a weak one? So he made a call? except not to any of the business leaders Trump brought into his administration or even to an old friend from his days in real estate. Instead, he called his national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, according to two sources familiar with Flynn’s accounts of the incident.
Flynn has a long record in counterintelligence but not in macroeconomics. And he told Trump he didn’t know, that it wasn’t his area of expertise, that, perhaps, Trump should ask an economist instead.
- Trump wants intelligence reports to max out at nine bullet points because reading sucks. (Source)
The aide, who refused to be named, also said that Trump hates reading so much that he demands all of his briefing materials to be condensed into a single page containing no more than nine bullet points.
- Trump loves the phones at the White House. (Source)\
Okay, this one isn’t actually a leak, but it’s funny anyway:
President Trump, who flew across the country on hundreds of nights during the 2016 campaign to sleep in his own bed, has now spent five straight days in the unfamiliar surroundings of the White House. His aides said privately that he seemed apprehensive about the move to his new home, but Mr. Trump has discovered there is a lot he likes.
“These are the most beautiful phones I’ve ever used in my life,” Mr. Trump said in a telephone interview Tuesday evening.
- Trump is afraid of stairs. (Source)
After reading the original excerpt, it’s worth taking a deep dive into Jezebel’s thorough investigation.
President Donald Trump and U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May were spotted holding hands last week, but it was more than just a sweet display of friendship, The Times of London reports. “Downing Street officials claimed the president’s phobia of stairs and slopes led him to grab the prime minister’s hand as they walked down a ramp at the White House,” the Times writes.
- Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Josh Dunford convinced Trump to go through Yemen raid by saying “Obama wouldn’t have done it.” (Source)
Mr Obama had reportedly been told about the plan to kill al Rimi, who took over control of the Yemeni affiliate of the terror organisation in 2015, but held off approving it because his advisors had wanted to wait until a moonless night which would not have happened again till after he left office, the New York Times reported.
- Donald Trump is usually in a bathrobe by 6:30 p.m. (Source)
Usually around 6:30 p.m., or sometimes later, Mr. Trump retires upstairs to the residence to recharge, vent and intermittently use Twitter. With his wife, Melania, and young son, Barron, staying in New York, he is almost always by himself, sometimes in the protective presence of his imposing longtime aide and former security chief, Keith Schiller. When Mr. Trump is not watching television in his bathrobe or on his phone reaching out to old campaign hands and advisers, he will sometimes set off to explore the unfamiliar surroundings of his new home.
- Trump watches Sean Spicer’s daily briefings and will bring him into the Oval Office to criticize his performance. (Source)
He often has to wait until the end of the workday before grinding through news clips with Mr. Spicer, marking the ones he does not like with a big arrow in black Sharpie – though he almost always makes time to monitor Mr. Spicer’s performance at the daily briefings, summoning him to offer praise or criticism, a West Wing aide said.
Mr. Trump criticized Mr. Spicer’s initial fiery appearance in the White House briefing room, urging him to wear a sharper suit and appear more confident, according to a person with knowledge of the conversations.
Inside, the finger-pointing and blame-casting continued. Unfortunately for Spicer, Trump is obsessed with his press secretary’s performance art. Trump hasn’t been impressed with how Spicer dresses, once asking an aide: “Doesn’t the guy own a dark suit?”
- Trump’s aides had to meet in the dark because they couldn’t figure out the light switches. (Source)
Aides confer in the dark because they cannot figure out how to operate the light switches in the cabinet room. Visitors conclude their meetings and then wander around, testing doorknobs until finding one that leads to an exit.
- Trump didn’t want to hire Sean Spicer because he didn’t think Spicer was fit for TV. (Source)
As Trump thought about staffing his administration following his surprise victory, he hesitated over selecting Spicer as White House press secretary. He did not see Spicer as particularly telegenic and preferred a woman for the position, asking Conway to do it and also considering conservative commentators Laura Ingraham and Monica Crowley – who ultimately stepped down from an administration job because of charges of plagiarism – before settling on Spicer at the urging of Priebus and others.
- Jared Kushner didn’t want Kellyanne Conway in the White House because he didn’t want any threats to his current position.
Two people close to the transition also said a number of Trump’s most loyal campaign aides have been alarmed by Kushner’s efforts to elbow aside anyone he perceives as a possible threat to his role as Trump’s chief consigliere. At one point during the transition, Kushner had argued internally against giving Conway a White House role, these two people said.
- Aides have to keep Trump away from “bad” information because he gets cranky. (Source)
One person who frequently talks to Trump said aides have to push back privately against his worst impulses in the White House, like the news conference idea, and have to control information that may infuriate him. He gets bored and likes to watch TV, this person said, so it is important to minimize that.
- He talks back to his television, particularly when Don Lemon is on. (Source)
Cloistered in the White House, he now has little access to his fans and supporters – an important source of feedback and validation – and feels increasingly pinched by the pressures of the job and the constant presence of protests, one of the reasons he was forced to scrap a planned trip to Milwaukee last week. For a sense of what is happening outside, he watches cable, both at night and during the day – too much in the eyes of some aides – often offering a bitter play-by-play of critics like CNN’s Don Lemon.
- Trump was super rattled by Melissa McCarthy, a woman!, playing Sean Spicer on TV. (Source)
More than being lampooned as a press secretary who makes up facts, it was Spicer’s portrayal by a woman that was most problematic in the president’s eyes, according to sources close to him. And the unflattering send-up by a female comedian was not considered helpful for Spicer’s longevity in the grueling, high-profile job in which he has struggled to strike the right balance between representing an administration that considers the media the “opposition party,” and developing a functional relationship with the press.
“Trump doesn’t like his people to look weak,” added a top Trump donor.
- He was also rattled by Bannon being on the Time cover, billed as a “Master Manipulator.” (Source)
Bannon’s rising profile – captured on this week’s cover of Time magazine, which labeled him “The Great Manipulator” – caught the attention of senior officials, as well as Trump, who takes pride in his own cover appearances and inquired about Bannon’s Time debut with aides.
- Trump will not put up with rough towels on Air Force One! (Source) According to a White House insider, the tough-talking Commander in Chief was so incensed by the roughness of the hand towels on the presidential jets that he registered a complaint.
- National Guard immigration roundups
Leak recipient: The Associated Press
The gist: The Associated Press published an 11-page memo that suggests the Trump administration could use as many as 100,000 National Guard troops to assist immigration enforcement agents to roundup unauthorized immigrants in 11 states.
Who leaked it: No individuals were specifically named in the leak but the Associated Press said the document came from the Department of Homeland Security and was written by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.
The White House response: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the document was “not a White House document” and said the report is “100 percent not true.”
- Intelligence withheld from Trump
Leak recipient: The Wall Street Journal
The gist: The Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. intelligence officials have withheld sensitive intelligence from Trump due to a concern that such information could be leaked or compromised.
Who leaked it: The Wall Street Journal doesn’t name its sources or which agency they belong to but says they are “current and former officials.”
The White House response: A White House official was quoted saying, “there is nothing that leads us to believe that this is an accurate account of what is actually happening,” the Wall Street Journal reported. Trump also blasted the media and intelligence agencies for leaking information.
- Michael Flynn’s Russian communication
Leak recipients: The Washington Post and the New York Times
The gist: Last week, The Washington Post broke a story saying Flynn spoke privately with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and that the two discussed the U.S. sanctions on Russia ordered in December by President Obama for Russia’s interference with the U.S. presidential election. Flynn denied the accusation and misled Vice President Mike Pence about those conversations.
The New York Times published a separate story corroborating the details in the Washington Post story.
Who leaked it: Neither the Washington Post or the New York Times name their sources but they cite them as current and former officials, some coming from intelligence agencies.
The White House response: Spicer said Flynn’s resignation was the result of “eroding level of trust” and “a series of other questionable instances.” The day after Flynn resigned, Trump tweeted that the “real story here” is the “many leaks coming out of Washington.”
- Telephone disputes with world leaders
Leak recipient: The Associated Press and the Washington Post
The gist: On Feb. 2, the Associated Press published leaked transcript excerpts of a call between Trump and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. In the call, according to its sources, Trump told Pena Nieto that the U.S. would send troops to stop “bad hombres down there” unless the Mexican military failed to do so. That same day, The Washington Post reported on a call between Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that turned tense and ended abruptly with the president quoted saying “this was the worst call by far.”
Who leaked it: The Associated Press does not name the source of the leaked transcript and The Washington Post says “senior U.S. officials” spoke anonymously.
The White House response: The White House responded to the Associated Press report by saying that the call with Peña Nieto were “part of a discussion about how the United States and Mexico could work collaboratively to combat drug cartels and other criminal elements, and make the border more secure.” Asked about the Australian call, Spicer called it “a cordial conversation.”
- Executive order to revive CIA prisons
Leak recipient: The New York Times
The gist: On Jan. 25, The New York Times reported on a leaked draft of an executive order that proposed to revive CIA “black site” prisons for terrorism suspects. The draft of the order reportedly circulated among National Security staff members.
Who leaked it: The New York Times did not name the source of the leak but it says “three administration officials” confirmed the circulation of the draft memo.
The White House response: During a press briefing, Spicer said the document was “not a White House document,” adding that he had “no idea where it came from.”
- Oh yeah, the women’s march really pissed him off too. (Source)
President Trump had just returned to the White House on Saturday from his final inauguration event, a tranquil interfaith prayer service, when the flashes of anger began to build.
Trump turned on the television to see a jarring juxtaposition – massive demonstrations around the globe protesting his day-old presidency and footage of the sparser crowd at his inauguration, with large patches of white empty space on the Mall.
As his press secretary, Sean Spicer, was still unpacking boxes in his spacious new West Wing office, Trump grew increasingly and visibly enraged.
Spies Keep Intelligence From Donald Trump on Leak Concerns
Decision to withhold information underscores deep mistrust between intelligence community and president
U.S. intelligence officials have withheld sensitive intelligence from President Donald Trump because they are concerned it could be leaked or compromised, according to current and former officials familiar with the matter.
The officials’ decision to keep information from Mr. Trump underscores the deep mistrust that has developed between the intelligence community and the president over his team’s contacts with the Russian government , as well as the enmity he has shown toward U.S. spy agencies. Last Wednesday, Mr. https://www.wsj.com/articles/donald-trump-blasts-media-and-intelligence-agencies-1487169994 Trump accused the agencies of leaking information to undermine him.
In some of these cases of withheld information, officials have decided not to show Mr. Trump the sources and methods that the intelligence agencies use to collect information, the current and former officials said. Those sources and methods could include, for instance, the means that an agency uses to spy on a foreign government.
It wasn’t clear Wednesday how many times officials have held back information from Mr. Trump.
On Wednesday, Mr. Trump castigated the intelligence agencies and the news media, blaming them for Mr. Flynn’s downfall.
“The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy. Very un-American!” Mr. Trump tweeted.
Trump doesn’t immerse himself in intelligence information, and it isn’t clear that he has expressed a desire to know sources and methods. The intelligence agencies have been told to dramatically pare down the president’s daily intelligence briefing, both the number of topics and how much information is described under each topic, an official said. Compared with his immediate predecessors, Mr. Trump so far has chosen to rely less on the daily briefing than they did.
The current and former officials said the decision to avoid revealing sources and methods with Mr. Trump stems in large part from the president’s repeated expressions of admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his call during the presidential campaign for Russia to continue hacking the emails of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia stole and leaked emails from Mrs. Clinton’s campaign to undermine the election process and try to boost Mr. Trump’s chances of winning, an allegation denied by Russian officials.
Several of Mr. Trump’s current and former advisers are under investigation for the nature of their ties to Moscow, according to people familiar with the matter. After Mr. Flynn’s dismissal, lawmakers have called on the government to release the transcripts of his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and to disclose whether Mr. Trump was aware of or directed Mr. Flynn’s conversations.
Tensions between the spy agencies and Mr. Trump were pronounced even before he took office, after he publicly accused the Central Intelligence Agency and others of leaking information about alleged Russian hacking operations to undermine the legitimacy of his election win. In a meandering speech in front of a revered CIA memorial the day after his inauguration, Mr. Trump boasted about the size of his inaugural crowd and accused the media of inventing a conflict between him and the agencies.
In a news conference on Wednesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, Mr. Trump again lashed out at the media and intelligence officials, whom he accused of “criminal” leaks about Mr. Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador last December.
Trump yells at CIA director over reports intel officials are keeping info from him
CBS News has learned that last Thursday, an angry President Trump called CIA Director Mike Pompeo and yelled at him for not pushing back hard enough against reports that the intelligence community was withholding information from the commander-in-chief
The White House denied the report. The president “did not yell at the CIA director,” a White House spokesperson wrote Saturday in an email to CBS News.
On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal had reported that U.S. intelligence officials have kept information from Mr. Trump because they feared it could be leaked or compromised.
CIA spokesman Dean Boyd denied Friday that there was a conversation between Pompeo and Mr. Trump about the article.
The reality is, insiders say, that there has been a “chill” in the information flow. Intelligence sources say the agency is intent on protecting information, and if there are concerns it could be compromised, it will be withheld.
The ongoing investigation into whether Trump associates coordinated with the Russians remains a concern for some who handle sensitive data. It can be inferred that there is a lack of trust, and because the CIA has had a role in uncovering signs of Russian cyber intrusions, there are also concerns that sensitive information could be shared with adversaries.
Links to this story:
Telegraph UK – “levers of pressure” over Donald Trump
Observer – The Spy Revolt Against Trump Begins
San Diego Union-Tribune – Trump administration leaks that have the president fuming
Telegraph UK – US spies ‘warned Israel not to share intelligence with Trump 1/13/17
The Presidency of Donald trump – US investigators say they have corroborated some of the communications detailed in the 35-page dossier
Observer – Trump declares war on intelligence community
Wall Street Journal – Spies Keep Intelligence From Donald Trump on Leak Concerns – 2/16/17
#TrumpsAlternateUniverse #HoldHimAccountable #HoldTrumpAccountable