Sharing Intel with the Russians – Laptop Bombs

CNN: Inside the US effort to keep laptop bomb intel secret.

The secret has to do with one of the two cities under ISIS control. Following custom, I will not name the city(s). You can look at a map.

CNN has behaved with admirable restraint, far more than Seymour Hersh, when he blew billions by revealing the mission of the Glomar Explorer. But the current situation involves lives, not money.

Since the executions of the Atomic Spy Case, the U.S. has dealt leniently with spies and traitors. A sharp distinction is made between compromise of secret information such as the adversary would want to know, and the lives of our agents. Although capital punishment is no longer the norm,  Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, whose actions caused the deaths of many U.S. agents, are spending the rest of their lives in Supermax.

Information that would enable an adversary to roll up a spy network, and in this case, lead to the deaths of Israeli spies, is the most secret information there is. This is why the disclosed intelligence is kept in a special White House compartment, a kind of vault. This is why (Jerusalem Post) Israel is furious. The Trump Administration holds the lives of Israeli spies  in their hands, and they fumbled.

If ISIS has the time to act on the disclosure, they are busy killing everybody who lives in, next door, or is remotely connected with who they think the spies are. The victims may not be the actual spies. The carnage could be terrible — except, perhaps, in comparison to the norm under ISIS, which is already unimaginable.

It is customary in the U.S. to elect chief executives who come into office with little or no knowledge of what the job entails. This is the case in other Western democracies as well, but elsewhere, there is a closer proximity of career civil servants. In France, civil service is literally a class of people with a lifelong vocation. This class distinction retards innovation, but it might have prevented the initial error, on March 31, five weeks prior to Trump’s  disclosure-to-Russia. Quoting CNN,

The intelligence behind the US ban on laptops and other electronics is considered so highly classified that CNN, at the request of US government officials, withheld key details from a March 31 story on the travel restrictions.

 CNN has behaved with admirable restraint. But the source for the story made a serious error. The information CNN was requested to withhold never should have been provided to CNN in the first place. Information about friendly human sources should never be compromised for any reason, regardless of whether they belong to us (C.I.A.) or Mossad.

The key information is not the name of the city in which the bombs are manufactured. Nor is it the involvement of Israel. It is that the intelligence was collected in a city under ISIS control. It tips off ISIS that there are spies in “their” city, of which there are  two choices. More experienced official(s) would have cloaked the information source with a fictitious story: that it was provided by a refugee,   a defector, or a wiretap. That it wasn’t cloaked is an astonishing lapse. They should have hired a used car dealer, who would have the necessary skill set.

 Why did administration source(s) reveal this information to CNN?

  • The Trump Administration  has some awareness of the widespread perception of  xenophobia-focused-on Islam, amplified by successful court challenges to the travel ban.
  • The laptop ban particularly impacts users and creators of media, whose cooperation is required to sell the ban to the public.
  • Airplane travel has become hell. The effect of the ban is amplified by the stressful environment.
  • Source(s) in the administration, with the crucial need to sell the ban to the public, felt pushed against the wall. With strained credibility, particularly among the kind of people who use laptops on planes, they reached for a credibility enhancer.
  • The enhancer was the information, leaked to CNN, and five weeks later, disclosed by Trump to the Russians.

Trump probably knew what CNN had been told. Not familiar himself with classification schemes, he may have felt empowered to follow the example of the March 31 disclosure. While CNN is an American news organization, and exemplifies the defense of the Republic, there is little technical distinction in risk between a leak to CNN, and a leak to the Russians. CNN is not a high security organization. It cannot be presupposed that the communications of CNN, and even the staff, are secure from Russian penetration.

Predating Trump’s error, some administration officials terribly miscalculated. What they do not know, Mossad  will now teach.

It has been suggested that Israel will shrug off the lapse, because “they need us more than we need them.” This just isn’t possible. Their  agents are precious patriots, who gave up every semblance of a normal life as an Israeli for an alien, dangerous, fictitious existence. Only in old age can they reap the rewards of self respect for their sacrifice.

Now they may not grow old.

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