Trump’s Pattern of Reckless Handling of U.S. Intelligence

This month the FBI went to Mar-a-Lago to retrieve U.S. documents (i.e., documents that belong to the U.S. government, not Trump), and we’re learning that a) the National Archives, the agency that is irresponsible for these documents have tried repeatedly, over a year, to get them back, and b) Trump had highly classified documents–in insecure facilities. There are various levels of classification for these documents, and Trump had among the most secretive and crucial–documents that only a few people have permission to see and documents that require special, secure facilities–both in terms of storage and viewing. For example, some of the documents involve information about the method and sources of vital information–i.e., the way we obtain highly secretive information and the actual individuals, which include individuals from other countries, who obtain this information.

In light of this recent information, someone mentioned a October 5, 2021 NYT article, which had this as the lede:

Top American counterintelligence officials warned every C.I.A. station and base around the world last week about troubling numbers of informants recruited from other countries to spy for the United States being captured or killed, people familiar with the matter said.

The article points out the problem wasn’t entirely new, and it pointed to problems with the process of recruiting agents (i.e., informants/spies), underestimating foreign adversaries, and other issues. But in light of recent news, I can’t help but wonder if foreign spies identified agents of the U.S. and captured and killed them. For example, check out this paragraph:

A breach of the classified communications system, or “covcom,” used by the C.I.A. helped to expose the agency’s networks in China and in Iran, according to former officials. In both cases informants were executed. Others had to be extracted and resettled by the agency.

Does the C.I.A. know the details of the breach or is it still a mystery?

I’ll say more about Trump’s recklessness towards national security. This is far from the only example. But what I want to say now is my immediate reaction to hearing about the details I mention above–namely, anger; and then a sick feeling in my stomach. How many people were killed because Trump’s mishandling of highly classified information? (And I’m not even allowing myself to consider if he actually gave it away.) And then another thought: This is not enough to enrage Republicans and get them to turn against Trump. Same with Murdoch and his outlets, and the big GOP donors. Actually, when I think about this more, the Republicans, Murdoch and big GOP donors knew about Trump’s gross negligence with regard to national security–there were many previous examples that should have enraged them and caused them to turn against Trump.

A Catalogue of Trump’s Attitude Towards the U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) and Classified Information (from David Rothkopf on twitter.):

Trump has always had a deeply troubling relationship with the US intelligence community. At his initial briefings as president, he was uninterested in key revelations and instead used the meeting to press officials for a public denunciation of the Steele dossier. 

Days later, immediately after taking office, he gave a highly political speech at CIA headquarters that, in the view of former DNI Gen. James Clapper and many others, “desecrated” the memorial to former CIA employees. 

He regularly discounted Intelligence Community

He forced out senior intelligence officials who he felt were insufficiently loyal to him and replaced them with unqualified political hacks he felt he could manipulate and use to protect him from IC revelations that he saw as threatening. 

He used the classification process to keep politically damaging information (like notes of the Ukraine blackmail phonemail) from the public view. And as we now know, he stole and improperly handled massive number of highly classified documents. 

We still don’t know how many. We still don’t know why. We just know that doing what he did was not simply an act of ignoring the law, it directly put at risk US intelligence assets and US national security. This is not a story about documents. 

It is a story about a man with years of proven contempt for our intelligence community and disregard for their well-being and that of the country violating the law in ways that could profoundly compromise our security and threaten the lives of individuals who were serving the US. 

We have never seen such behavior from a senior US government official, much less a president. And we are only speaking of what we know. Why was he so threatened by the intelligence community all along? Why did he feel they knew things about him that could be damaging? 

Was it just consciousness of guilt due to his active solicitation of the support of a foreign enemy during the 2016 election? Was it more than that? What is it we don’t know? What did he seek classified that he should not have? What secrets went missing before this point? 

What were the consequences of the apparently voracious appetite for secrets his son-in-law Jared Kushner had? Why was he so actively interested in them? What were Trump’s motives in taking secrets and obstructing the USG efforts to have them returned? 

What happened to the documents while they were in Trump’s custody? Do we have all the documents back? Were there documents stored at places other than Mar-a-Lago? What did he get his lackeys to do when they ran the IC? What were his plans for them were he to be reelected? 

These are not “political” questions. These are questions that must be answered to understand what damage Trump and his inner circle may have done to our intelligence community, our intelligence assets worldwide, their safety and our security. 

What we do is this: The same man who undertook this assault on US intelligence, led an attempted coup against the US government, attacked our allies, sought to gut NATO, sought to empower our enemies. This is not hyperbole, not speculation. 

This is the reality of the Trump presidency. It must be seen for what it was and the man at the center of it must be seen for who he was and is–one of the greatest, most pernicious threats to US national security we have ever seen.

One thought on “Trump’s Pattern of Reckless Handling of U.S. Intelligence

  1. In light of the recent indictment regarding classified information, I thought this thread was relevant. Also, here are articles chronicling Trump’s reckless handling of classified information and national security:

    From Trump’s Mar-a-Lago to Facebook, a National Security Crisis in the Open from the NYT (2/13/2017)

    WASHINGTON — President Trump and his top aides coordinated their response to North Korea’s missile test on Saturday night in full view of diners at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida — a remarkable public display of presidential activity that is almost always conducted in highly secure settings.

    Trump still uses his personal cell phone despite warnings and increased call scrutiny from CNN (6/12/2019)

    Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador from WaPo (5/15/2017)

    Trump tweeted an image from a spy satellite, declassified document shows from NPR (11/18/2022)

    Officials rejected Jared Kushner for top secret security clearance, but were overruled from NBC news (1/24/2019)

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