US intelligence officials may have kept sensitive information from President Donald Trump due to concerns of potential leaks. This has added to growing discord between the agencies and the new leader, according to media reports.
In some cases, US intelligence officers did not inform Trump about the sources and methods used to collect classified information from foreign governments, the Wall Street Journal said on Wednesday in an unsourced report.
Citing unnamed “current and former officials familiar with the matter,” the WSJ wrote of the decision not to reveal sources and “trustworthiness or discretion,” but added it stems “from the president’s repeated expressions of admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his call during the presidential campaign for Russia to continue hacking the emails of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.”
Notably, the WSJ report, widely cited by major US media, did not include any direct quote of the intelligence officials in question.
What the newspaper does quote is a statement by a White House official, also anonymous, who says the allegations are false.
“There is nothing that leads us to believe that this is an accurate account of what is actually happening,” the official said.
The mere possibility of presenting incomplete information to Trump was officially dismissed by the US intelligence community itself.
“Any suggestion that the US intelligence community is withholding information and not providing the best possible intelligence to the president and his national security team is not true,” a spokesman for the Office of Director of National Intelligence also told the WSJ.
While attention-grabbing, the WSJ story still leaves many questions unanswered. Some former intelligence officers warned that “leaks” coming from “unnamed officials” may be part of information warfare directed against specific persons or governments.
The useful misinformation is routinely being spread through “journalists, who are cozy with the CIA and other top officials,” former FBI agent Coleen Rowley told media on Thursday.
“The most pernicious aspect is that this is now information warfare, which is now geared towards… launching more wars. It’s exactly where we were back when Scooter Libby went to the New York Times and planted the false information about the [Saddam Hussein’s] uranium tubes,” Rowley said.
Former MI5 intelligence officer Annie Machon said, commenting on the sudden resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, that the scandal over his phone talks with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak was masterminded “to reinforce the fact that Russia is the eternal enemy of America.”
“So it smacks very much of a deep-state conspiracy against someone who was actually supposed to be the head of state in America,” she said.
Trump himself lambasted the media leaks that led to Flynn’s departure from the White House, saying,
“I think in addition to that from intelligence, papers are being leaked, things are being leaked.”
“It’s criminal action. It’s a criminal act and it’s been going on for a long time before me, but now it’s really going on,” he asserted, adding that the “illegally leaked” information came from people with political motivations.
“People are trying to cover up for a terrible loss that the Democrats had under Hillary Clinton,” he said.