Israel was the U.S. ally that provided the intelligence President Donald Trump shared with the Russians during a meeting in the White House last week, former and current U.S. officials familiar with the matter have revealed, according to the New York Times.
Trump reportedly shared classified intelligence about a plot by the Islamic State to use laptops to carry out terrorist attacks in airplanes when the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak visited him in the Oval Office last week.
The Washington Post report which first revealed the information said that the sensitive intelligence came from a key U.S. ally but did not identify the ally. However, a subsequent New York Times report identified Israel as the source of the intelligence. Israel is a key U.S. ally and a major source of intelligence in the Middle East.
The officials who revealed the information to the New York Times also said that Israel had previously warned the U.S. to handle the information with care to protect the source of the highly sensitive intelligence about the Islamic State. Trump administration officials at first denied the report by the Washington Post that Trump had shared sensitive intelligence with the Russians. But Trump later contradicted his top aides when he responded to criticism by declaring in a series of tweets posted early on Tuesday morning that as president he had the “absolute right” to share the information as part of efforts to fight ISIS terrorism.
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
H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, also tried to downplay the sensitive nature of the intelligence Trump shared with the Russians, saying that the intelligence sharing was “wholly appropriate.” He added that Trump made a spur-of-the-moment disclosure to the Russians without being aware of the source of the information. He insisted that Trump did not share information about “sources and methods” because he was not aware of the source of the intelligence at the time he discussed it with the Russians.
However, Danny Yatom, a former director of Mossad, reportedly told the Jerusalem Post that merely obtaining high-quality sensitive intelligence could help a hostile power to trace its source.
“The fact that you have very high quality sensitive intelligence can lead to revealing the source.”
Report: Israel provided intelligence President Trump shared with Russians https://t.co/mGLVDR1jje
— TIME (@TIME) May 16, 2017
Critics of the administration pointed to reports which revealed that the intelligence from Israeli sources was considered too sensitive to disclose to traditional allies of the U.S. in Europe and other parts of the world. Critics pointed out that the incident could complicate U.S. relationship with its key allies because U.S. allies that have special intelligence-sharing relationship with the U.S. would ask why Trump deemed it fit to share with the Russians sensitive intelligence that was being withheld from them. Others noted that Trump’s action could signal to U.S. allies, including Israel, that it was not safe to entrust secrets to the Trump administration. This could damage critical intelligence sharing relationship with the country’s key allies worldwide, observers said.
— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) May 16, 2017
Earlier in January of 2017, Israeli news media reports claimed that some U.S. intelligence officials had cautioned their Israeli counterparts about sharing sensitive intelligence with the incoming Trump administration. The Israeli news outlet Yedioth Ahronoth reported that some U.S. intelligence officials had warned the Israelis that due to the close relationship several top Trump aides had with Russia, intelligence shared with the Trump administration could be divulged to the Russians who could then share such information with the Iran, an ally of Russia in the Syrian conflict and a major rival of Israel in the Middle East.
THE NEW YORK TIMES: Breaking News: Israel provided the intelligence that President Trump shared with Russia, offic… https://t.co/GoXXdIwWTH
— TBR Feed (@TheBFRoom) May 16, 2017
The Israelis had reportedly taken note of the warning and had been wary of sharing sensitive intelligence with the Trump administration. According to critics, Trump’s leak to the Russians could confirm fears that his administration could not be trusted to handle sensitive intelligence.
“I have to hope that someone will counsel the president about just what it means to protect closely held information and why this is so dangerous, ultimately, to our national security,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, according to the New York Times.
However, the Israelis have reportedly declined to confirm that they were the source of the intelligence allegedly shared with the Russians.
“Israel has full confidence in our intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States and looks forward to deepening that relationship in the years ahead under President Trump,” Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., said in a statement to the New York Times.
[Featured Image by Pool/Getty Images]