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Spy agencies don’t trust White House to handle intelligence, insider officials claim
The implications for national security are grave.
New reports corroborate the explosive allegation that officials from U.S. intelligence agencies have held back on delivering important intelligence to President Donald Trump and the White House, over fears both are compromised by the Kremlin.
Although it is routine for intelligence services to be selective in the specificity of information they choose to present to a president or Congress in a particular brief, often citing secrecy for the sake of method or source protection, these allegations allude that the nation’s spies are actively worried about disclosing sensitive information at all—an implication that raises grave national security concerns.
The claim was originally made by John Schindler, a former National Security Agency analyst, writing in a column for the New York Observer. Now, the Wall Street Journal reports that several current and former officials familiar with the matter have confidentially confirmed the claim.
Schindler had written on Sunday that there was an increasing concern within the intelligence community over information security and the extent of the administration’s ties to Russia.
“Not only do senior officials possess troubling ties to the Kremlin, there are nagging questions about basic competence regarding Team Trump,” Schindler writes.
The ex-NSA counterintelligence agent goes on to quote an unnamed source from inside the Pentagon who bluntly tells him that “…there’s not much the Russians don’t know at this point.”
Anxiety that members of the intelligence community might have had will not have been helped this week by the scandal that saw the resignation of former National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, once a trusted member of Trump’s inner circle.
It surfaced that Flynn had been in contact on numerous occasions with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., discussing issues of foreign policy and the lifting of sanctions put in place by the Obama administration after a U.S. intelligence agency investigation concluded that Russia had interfered in the 2016 presidential election. Further to that, it was revealed that Flynn had lied about the nature of those conversations to Vice President Mike Pence, who defended Flynn on national television.
The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by “intelligence” like candy. Very un-American!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 15, 2017
Schindler took to the social media platform also to relay further and thus far unestablished allegations that Trump is in collusion with Putin.
BLUF: When the full extent of Trump’s collusion with the Kremlin comes out — incl using RIS to spy on Americans — people will go to prison
— John Schindler (@20committee) February 15, 2017
While this remains unconfirmed, it is Schindler’s first assertion that the intelligence community is withholding intel that has been reportedly corroborated by other officials—the WSJ’s sources.
The White House, however, is denying it all. A spokesperson told WSJ reporters: “There is nothing that leads us to believe that this is an accurate account of what is actually happening.”
More than that, the article quotes a statement by a spokesman for the Office of Director of National Intelligence, reading: “Any suggestion that the U.S. intelligence community is withholding information and not providing the best possible intelligence to the president and his national security team is not true.”
Trump’s relationship with the intelligence community was already frayed before he took office, following several outbursts in which he accused the spy agencies of trying to undermine the authenticity of his election win when investigations concluded that Russia had in fact been involved in hacking to influence the outcome.
In a rambling speech at the CIA after his inauguration, Trump claimed that the media manufactured his pre-election clash with the intelligence community, a spin on his repeated questioning of the validity of their findings.
As president-elect in December, Trump commented that he did not need daily intelligence briefings and dismissed them as monotonous. This was further underlined by Mother Jones on Thursday, when it reported exclusively on a classified memo in which analysts are asked to keep the president’s daily briefing “short and free of nuance.”
Already stripped of comprehensive detail, these briefings may be trimmed further as tensions and loose accusations continue to erode what appears to be a fractured relationship between Trump and the intelligence community.
David Gilmour is a reporter who specializes in national politics, internet culture, and technology. He previously covered civil liberties, crime, and politics for Vice.