Military officials in the Pentagon were stunned on Wednesday by what appears to be Donald Trump's second leak of sensitive information to a foreign leader in just two weeks — this time revealing the location of two United States nuclear submarines, vessels whose whereabout are a closely guarded military secret.
"We never talk about subs!" three separate military officials told the online publication BuzzFeed on Wednesday. The locations of what are technically known as Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarines are kept quiet because they are considered the last line of defense in the event of a nuclear war.
The military strategic plan holds that even if an enemy were able to destroy the United States land-based nuclear missiles, and somehow stop the aircraft that can deliver nuclear weapons, the U.S. could still stage a nuclear attack from ballistic submarines, whose locations are secret — sometimes even to the Pentagon itself.
In an Oval Office meeting on May 10, Trump revealed highly classified intelligence information about ISIS terrorist activities to the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador.
Trump's nuclear submarine revelation came in a phone call on April 29 to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, a political strongman who is believed to run death squads that have killed thousands of his own citizens in the guise of combating drug traffic. A transcript of the call was circulated by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday, with a "confidential" stamp.
Underplayed from Trump-Duterte call: he told Duterte we have 2 nuclear submarines near N. Korea. That's…not usually something we talk about. pic.twitter.com/Qiqgcj6NOkRead the entire transcript of the Trump-Duterte phone call at this link.
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) May 24, 2017
During a conversation between Trump and Duterte regarding the potential threat to the Philippines from North Korea, Trump assured his counterpart that the United States has "a lot of firepower over there."
"We have two submarines — the best in the world — we have two nuclear submarines, not that we want to use them at all," Trump revealed to Duterte. "I've never seen anything like they are but we don't have to use this but [Kim Jong Un] could be crazy so we will see what happens."The military officials who spoke to BuzzFeed were incredulous that Trump would reveal where the nuclear subs were located. Unlike aircraft carriers and other military vessels, deployments of nuclear attack submarines are rarely if ever announced or revealed to the public or foreign governments.
"By announcing the presence of nuclear submarines, the president, some Pentagon officials privately explained, gives away the element of surprise," wrote BuzzFeed reporter Nancy A. Youssef. "Moreover, some countries in the region, particularly China, seek to develop their anti-sub capability. Knowing that two U.S. submarines are in the region could allow them to test their own military capabilities. Finally, it is unclear why Duterte would need to know the specific number of subs in the region. The Philippines is not a part US military efforts to deter North Korea so why would Duterte need to know such details?"
The nuclear ballistic submarine fleet is an essential part of the "nuclear triad," which comprises the three elements of the U.S. nuclear arsenal — land, air and sea-based nuclear weapons. But the concept of the "triad" is one that had befuddled Trump in the past.
In a presidential debate during the Republican presidential primary campaign, Trump was asked about his priorities in upgrading the nuclear triad. His answer, as seen in the video below, appeared to reveal that Trump did not know what the term "nuclear triad" actually meant.
Also in the call with Duterte, Trump congratulated the Philippine strongman on doing what Trump called "unbelievable job on the drug problem." Since becoming president last June, Duterte's death squads are estimated to have killed 8,000 people.
[Featured Image by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]