Thursday, 18 May 2017

Deep State Again Tries to Block Dialogue with Russia: Washington Post’s Phoney Story About Trump’s Leak


Washington Post story Trump leaked 'classified information' to Lavrov is phoney and a further attempt to prevent a meaningful dialogue between the US and Russia.

The Washington Post story about President Trump’s supposed leak of highly classified intelligence information about ISIS to the Russians is a case study of the lengths to which the President’s enemies are prepared to go in order to discredit him and to stop any chance of a rapprochement with Russia.

Briefly, the Washington Post claims that Trump told Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and the Russians during his recent meeting with them in the Oval Office information about an alleged plot by ISIS to carry out attacks on passenger aircraft using laptops. The Washington Post describes Trump’s supposed wrongdoing in this way
President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.
The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.
The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said Trump’s decision to do so endangers cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. After Trump’s meeting, senior White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency.
“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.”…..
One day after dismissing Comey, Trump welcomed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak — a key figure in earlier Russia controversies — into the Oval Office. It was during that meeting, officials said, that Trump went off script and began describing details of an Islamic State terrorist threat related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft…..
For almost anyone in government, discussing such matters with an adversary would be illegal. As president, Trump has broad authority to declassify government secrets, making it unlikely that his disclosures broke the law.
White House officials involved in the meeting said Trump discussed only shared concerns about terrorism.
The existence of an alleged ISIS plot to use laptops to bring down passenger aircraft has been all over the media for months. That cannot therefore have been the “highly classified information” that President Trump is supposed to have discussed.

It turns out that the “highly classified information” that Trump is supposed to have disclosed is the name of the city where the alleged ISIS plot was discovered. That supposedly compromised the source of the information, which presumably means the intelligence agency which provided it.

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The essence of the story – that Trump leaked “highly classified information” to Lavrov and the Russians in a way that does harm or potential harm to US national security – has been emphatically denied by Donald Trump’s highly regarded (perhaps over-regarded) National Security Adviser General H.R. McMaster, as well as by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and by other officials
Here is a video of General McMaster commenting on the story. Here is a transcript of what he said
There’s nothing that the President takes more seriously than the security of the American people. The story that came out tonight, as reported, is false. The President and the [Russian] Foreign Minister [Sergey Lavrov] reviewed a range of common threats to our two counties, including threats to civil aviation. At no time – at no time – were intelligence sources or methods discussed. And the President did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known. Two other senior officials who were present, including the Secretary of State, remember it being the same way and have said so. Their on-the-record accounts should outweigh those of anonymous sources. And I was in the room. It didn’t happen.”
The Washington Post says McMaster’s statement is a “non-denial denial”, ie. a statement which does not actually deny the story the Washington Post has published whilst giving the false impression of doing so. Is that however so?
 
Firstly, since this is a discussion about classified information there were obvious constraints on what General McMaster could say. He could not go into the detail of the Washington Post’s story without compounding the damage the Washington Post’s publication of the story has quite possibly already done and without breaking the law.

Secondly, General McMaster has nonetheless unequivocally said that “the story as reported is false”.

Thirdly, General McMaster has made the point that he was physically present in the room when the conversation between Trump and Lavrov took place and that – unlike the ‘anonymous sources’ the Washington Post is relying upon – he is speaking publicly and on the record.

In any sane world statements made publicly and on the record should always be given greater credence than statements made secretly and anonymously. In any matter involving Trump or Russia the reverse is true. This story is a case in point.

So what is General McMaster denying?

There is no doubt that President Trump did share with the Russians information about an alleged ISIS plot against passenger aircraft using laptops. General McMaster says as much, and President Trump has just admitted it.

However as President Trump has correctly said – and as the Washington Post grudgingly admits – as President Trump was fully within his rights to do this. Here is what Trump himself has tweeted today about all of this
As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017
 
…to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017
 
And here is what the Washington Post has said about it
For almost anyone in government, discussing such matters with an adversary would be illegal. As president, Trump has broad authority to declassify government secrets, making it unlikely that his disclosures broke the law.
(bold italics added)

If the fact that Trump shared information with the Russians about an ISIS plot against passenger aircraft using laptops is not disputed, and if his right to do so is not disputed either, it is the interpretation of his doing it given by the Washington Post which McMaster, Tillerson and the other senior administration officials are disputing. That is what McMaster means when he says that “the story as reported is false”.

When world leaders meet they regularly exchange information with each other. If they did not do so diplomatic contacts would be devoid of all content and would grind to a stop.

In this case Trump told Lavrov of a supposed plot by ISIS to use laptops against passenger aircraft. Trump says he did this in order to get Russia’s help in the fight against ISIS. There is nothing unusual or untoward about this, and nothing unusual about Trump telling the Russians some of the details of the plot. It beggars belief that Trump doing this was in any way sinister or dangerous or a threat to national security or risks any of the consequences the Washington Post alleges. Had it done so Trump’s aides who were present at the meeting – General McMaster first and foremost – would have intervened immediately to stop him doing it. That after all is their job.

A former US intelligence officer Michael Pregent has explained the position clearly
But some former intelligence officials think the repercussions from the Oval Office meeting will be minimal, if any.
“No damage – no sources or methods revealed,” said Michael Pregent, a former intelligence officer now with the Hudson Institute, a Washington think tank.
Pregent, who worked with McMaster in Iraq, said it is unlikely the national security adviser would have allowed the president to cross any lines.
Instead, Pregent sees an opportunity to have turned the Russian visit to the White House to Washington’s advantage.
“Sharing this info with the Russians calls them on their inaction against ISIS in Syria,” he said.
In other words no harm was done and the President and his officials were doing nothing more than engaging in normal diplomacy.

The Washington Post story itself all but admits this. As I have said, if Trump sharing information with the Russians really did have the potentially serious national security consequences the Washington Post alleges, then the Washington Post and the ‘anonymous current and former officials’ who were its sources for the story have massively and irresponsibly compounded the damage by telling the world about it. That they did so in fact shows that no harm was done, and that they know it.

Which brings us to the real point of this story.

Ever since Trump met Lavrov in the Oval Office there has been a concerted attempt by the mainstream media and some US politicians to cast the meeting in the most sinister light.
http://www.blacklistednews.com/Deep_State_again_tries_to_block_dialogue_with_Russia%3A_Washington_Post%E2%80%99s_phoney_story_about_Trump%E2%80%99s_leak/58461/0/38/38/Y/M.html

[Posted at the SpookyWeather blog, May 18th, 2017.]

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