Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Legality is not the big issue

President Trump totally misses the point when he focuses on the fact that, as President, it is legal for him to disclose classified information (because the president can declassify things at will, by disclosing information, the President automatically declassifies that information) The scandal is not about whether he was allowed to do it, it is about whether it was a good idea for him to do it. Because the intelligence in question was obtained from an allied country, on the condition that it not be shared even with other allies, Trump broke that agreement by telling the Russians. If the U.S. accepts intelligence from allies with conditions and then breaks those conditions, allies will stop sharing intelligence with the U.S.

A lot of intelligence that the U.S. has it gets from other countries as part of intelligence-sharing deals. The Five Eyes agreement is just the best known example, but the U.S. has intelligence-sharing deals with a variety of countries

Just this story alone has severely hampered America's ability to get intelligence because it shows that Trump is not capable of telling secrets or inclined to honor intelligence-sharing agreements. Because he is unable to keep his trap shut, Trump could endanger the lives of agents of allied countries and the allied countries know that. This story is already doing damage to the U.S. intelligence-gathering abilities.

UPDATE: It looks like Israel was the country that supplied the intelligence that Trump passed on to the Russians. I wonder if they will try to bring up the problems he caused them by blabbing when Trump is in Israel next week. If they're smart they won't bother. Trump won't understand their point, but if he interprets their comments as critical, he is going to react badly. There's no possible up-side to treating the President of the United States as a person to have a rational conversation with. (ADDING: This seems really prescient.)