29 August 2020   Leave a comment

Congress has been informed by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that there will no further briefings on foreign election interference in the 2020 national elections. The halt was purportedly due to the fear that there would be unauthorized leaks of classified information by members of Congress. The move comes after William Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, briefed Congress that China, Russia, and Iran were taking steps to interfere with the election. According to Evanina, China would like Biden to win because it regards Trump as unreliable, Russia wants Trump to win because he is sympathetic to Russia, and Iran simply wishes to cause chaos in the US.

The idea that Congresspeople are likely to leak information is not far-fetched, but these intelligence reports are mandated by law. The Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, was a close ally of Mr. Trump when he was in Congress, and he indicated that he would supply written reports that summarize the intelligence findings. But Congressional leaders indicated that they do not wish to lose the opportunity to ask questions in an oral briefing.

One should not take the fear of leaks as a sufficient justification to stop the briefings. Mr. Trump himself has been a prodigious leaker of classified intelligence. Wikipedia has a very nice (and very well sourced) list of those occasions:

“President Donald Trump discussed classified information provided by a U.S. ally regarding a planned Islamic State operation during an Oval Office meeting on May 10, 2017 with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, providing sufficient details that could be used by the Russians to deduce the identity of the ally and the manner in which it was collected, according to current and former government officials. The meeting had been closed to the U.S. press, although a photographer from the Russian press contingent was present. The disclosure was first reported in The Washington Post on May 15, 2017. White House staff initially denied the report, but the following day Trump defended the disclosure, stating that he has the “absolute right” to “share” intelligence with Russia….

“In an April 29, 2017, phone call, Trump told Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte that the U.S. had positioned two nuclear submarines off the coast of North Korea. This was during a time when Trump was warning of a possible “major, major conflict” with North Korea. The locations of nuclear submarines are a closely guarded secret, even from the Navy command itself. ‘As a matter of national security, only the captains and crew of the submarines know for sure where they’re located.’

On May 24, 2017, Britain strongly objected to the United States leaking to the press information about the Manchester Arena bombing, including the identity of the attacker and a picture of the bomb, before it had been publicly disclosed, jeopardizing the investigation. British Prime Minister Theresa May issued a public rebuke, and British police said they would stop passing information to U.S. counterparts.

“In July 2017, after a private meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin at the 2017 G20 Hamburg summit, Trump took the unusual step of confiscating and keeping his interpreter’s notes. This led U.S. intelligence officials to express concern that Trump ‘may have improperly discussed classified intelligence with Russia.’

“On August 30, 2019, Trump tweeted a reportedly classified image of recent damage to Iran‘s Imam Khomeini Spaceport that supposedly occurred as a result of an explosion during testing of a Safir SLV. Multiple concerns were raised regarding the public release of what appeared to be a surveillance photo with exceptionally high resolution, revealing highly classified U.S. surveillance capabilities. Within hours of the tweet, amateur satellite trackers had determined the photograph came from National Reconnaissance Office spy satellite USA-224. Before Trump’s tweet, the only confirmed photographs from a KH-11 satellite was leaked in 1984 by a U.S. Navy analyst who went to prison for espionage. Trump defended the tweet by saying he had ‘the absolute right’ to release the photo.”

The decision to halt the in-person briefings is simply an attempt to prevent the American people from learning about foreign interference in their national elections, largely because Mr. Trump believes that information undermines his legitimacy.

Posted August 29, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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