Lots of swirl the past couple of days around the disclosures that Trump shared classified information with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Questions abound. First, was it illegal? In fact, it was not. Were I, or anyone other than the president, to disclose this information to someone that is not authorized to see it then a crime has been committed. In some cases, including this one, the president is indeed above the law. Two things to consider: first, Congress, because of the separation of powers defined in the Constitution cannot make laws constraining the acts of the president. Article II, Section 1 (Executive Branch) offers an example of this separation:
The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.
The clause was written specifically to prevent Congress from punishing the president if they didn’t like his actions or rewarding him if they did.
Second, the intelligence services of our country exist expressly to provide information to the president. That information is his and his alone. The theory behind this is that an informed president can make better decisions. Which gets us to the second point: Trumps actions were stupid. Ignorant. Boastful. And misinformed.
Intelligence gathering relies on typically one of two methods: electronic or via human assets. Electronic is what it implies. It could be internet hacking, eavesdropping on phone calls, or other means. And human assets are what we typically think of as spies. It could be an agent placed somewhere or someone betraying an organization or their country. It can take years to develop either source, to get close enough to someone, somewhere that has the sort of information we seek. In this case it looks like Israel provided the information that Trump divulged. So why is him divulging the information stupid?
First, someone, or perhaps more than one person may be killed as a result of this. The spy business is a dangerous game. The 117 stars on the CIA’s “Memorial Wall” attest to this. The information about a new type of laptop bomb was not known to many people before Israel shared it with US and new travel restrictions regarding laptop bombs. Only the bomb designed and a few inside ISIS likely knew before Israel learned it Taking the information initially divulged, adding in the Israel angle, and other information recently released points to a small group of people, perhaps an individual. For someone this is not going to end well.
Second, this disclosure is going to limit information sharing. There is a world-wide intelligence community that works together, shares information. Israel is less likely to share information with us if they believe they can’t trust our president. The US is part of a group called the “Five Eyes”. They work closely together. But distrust will make them less likely to share. And even more dangerous is the fact that our intelligence agencies, the CIA, the FBI, the DIA, and others may become reluctant to provide information to the president. And this makes the world a more dangerous place. To reiterate: THIS MAKES THE WORLD A MORE DANGEROUS PLACE. And that’s the simple reality here. What the president did was stupid. The world is more dangerous today because of Trump’s actions. One of the primary roles of the Executive Branch of the United States is protection of this country and its people. And when Trump divulged this information he failed that duty.
Note: some of this analysis is from listening to CNN, reading, and other sources. Some is mine. While I’ve “borrowed” some of the analysis, all the words are mine.