Trump revealed sensitive info to Russians; How US troops returned to Somalia; US Army’s ‘digital leash’; NATO military leaders’ agenda; and just a bit more.

President Trump tweets a defense of his intelligence-sharing with the Russians. At least six U.S. news outlets—The New York Times, Buzzfeed News, Reuters, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post—reported Monday evening that the commander-in-chief revealed highly classified information to the team of Russian officials (and employees of the Russian press agency Tass) during their May 10 meeting in the Oval Office.

The info was reportedly “code word”-level intelligence relating to purported Islamic State group plans that had been relayed to U.S. officials via an unnamed ally in the Middle East, the Washington Post first reported. It “was considered so sensitive that American officials did not share it widely within the United States government or pass it on to other allies,” The New York Times added.

Citing unnamed former U.S. officials, the Times writes: “But sharing the information without the express permission of the ally who provided it was a major breach of espionage etiquette, and could jeopardize a crucial intelligence-sharing relationship. In fact, the ally has repeatedly warned American officials that it would cut off access to such sensitive information if it were shared too widely, the former official said. In this case, the fear is that Russia will be able to determine exactly how the information was collected and could disrupt the ally’s espionage efforts.”

After the story broke Monday afternoon, the White House dispatched National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster to give reporters a short denial and a few details: the topic of the purported information was aviation-related threats common to Russia and the United States. But McMaster, in the manner you might expect from a general, insisted: “At no time…were intelligence sources or methods discussed. And the president did not disclose any military operations that were not publicly known…I was in the room, it didn’t happen.”

By then, the White House had already issued three statements from McMaster, SecState Rex Tillerson, and Deputy National Security Advisor Dina Powell, all variously denying the story’s gist, adding to the story’s alleged details — and denying things none of the outlets alleged. (Catch all three officials’ statements via a short post by Axios, here.)

As Axios notes of McMaster’s denial, “The Post did not claim sources, methods or military operations were discussed, but that Trump mentioned classified intelligence from a sensitive source.”

To be clear: POTUS can, of course, declassify almost anything he wants, as six legal scholars over at Lawfare wrote Monday evening. But, they continue in a longish post, there are many more considerations beyond that, including that “this may well be a violation of the President’s oath of office.”

Additionally, “it matters hugely, at least from an atmospheric point of view, that the people in the room were Russian and one of them was Sergey Kislyak of all people.” Find the rest of their lengthy take, here.

President Trump’s own defense: “As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism,” he wrote on Twitter this morning.

One takeaway he’s eyeing: The leaks are coming from inside the house. “I have been asking Director Comey & others, from the beginning of my administration, to find the LEAKERS in the intelligence community,” he added in a third tweet on the topic nearly an hour later.   

The story comes at an inopportune time for the White House. Trump is slated to leave Friday on his first international trip, to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy, and Belgium. (More from Brussels via our own Marcus Weisgerber, traveling today with Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, a bit later.)

But before all that, Trump will be meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan today at the White House, nearly a week after greenlighting a U.S. effort to arm Kurds in Syria—a move intended to accelerate the defeat of ISIS from their stronghold in Raqqa, which could begin this summer or earlier.

About Raqqa: civilians appear to be hopping whatever semis, trucks, tractors and trailers they can to get the heck out of Raqqa. Catch video of that alleged exodus, here.

By the way, the WSJ reported last night the U.S. intends to pass along anti-tank weapons to the Syrian Kurds. Story, here.

Erdogan and many other Turkish officials have loudly opposed any move to arm the YPG, a Kurdish group with at least ideological links to the PKK, a U.S.-designated terror group. It’s hard to imagine that Monday’s revelation would change much about Erdogan’s goals today in Washington—goals which include, broadly speaking, forging a “new beginning” in U.S.-Turkish relations, NPR reported in a preview of today’s meeting. See also CNN’s lookahead, with three diplomatic targets for Ankara, here. Or U.S. News’s Paul Shinkman with his preview over here.


From Defense One

The Army Wants to Let Troops off the 'Digital Leash.' That's Easier Said Than Done. // Crispin Burke: Gen. Mark Milley's injunction against IT-enabled micromanagement will require leaders at all levels to re-think what it means to be part of the profession of arms.

Gulf Leaders Still Love Trump // Andrew Exum: The UAE's crown prince visits Washington today, pleased with the U.S. president's embrace of Egypt's al-Sisi and upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia.

DARPA Wants Artificial Intelligence That Doesn't Forget Everything It Knows // Mohana Ravindranath: Biological systems don't completely freeze up when they encounter a new situation, but computers often do.

How American Special Operators Gradually Returned to Somalia // Mark Moyar: A U.S. soldier was killed in the country this month for the first time in more than two decades. What was he doing there?

A Defense Budget Increase is No More Needed in 2018 Than It Was Last Year // Lawrence J. Korb: A former assistant defense secretary argues the Trump administration's bump-up was unnecessary, and in fact counterproductive, to national defense.

Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. #OTD1919: A U.S. Navy team makes the first transatlantic flight. Got tips? Email us at the-d-brief@defenseone.com. (And if you’re reading this on our website, consider subscribing. It’s free.)


NATO’s military leaders will meet in Brussels tomorrow to talk about the way ahead for Afghanistan amid a push to send more troops to there as the security situation deteriorates, Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber reports after arriving in Belgium this morning with Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

As of March, there were nearly 13,500 NATO troops in Afghanistan. Those forces are largely involved in training Afghan Security Forces.

In addition to NATO troop levels in Afghanistan, other topics on the agenda include “a situational awareness briefing on the Middle East and North Africa region and pave the way for further discussions on Projecting Stability Initiatives, countering/fighting terrorism and the ongoing NATO Training and Capacity Building in Iraq,” according to an alliance statement.

The generals are also expected to talk NATO’s southern flank, an area of concern due to the increasing flow of migrants from Syria and Africa.

Per NATO, this is the 177th meeting of the Military Committee, which meets twice each year and is chaired by Czech Gen. Petr Pavel.

Who else is in attendance? Chiefs of defense from NATO members, Gen. John Nicholson, commander of Resolute Support and U.S. Forces–Afghanistan; and Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, NATO supreme allied commander.

Tomorrow's military meeting is a precursor to next week's NATO's heads of state meeting, which President Trump is slated to attend.

As the massive global cyber attacks from late last week ebb, investigators chase clues while governments wonder how much to share. There is “weak” evidence linking the ransom-seeking malware that shut down huge swaths of the Asian economy and undermined the British medical system beginning last Friday, AP reports. “One challenge will be sharing intelligence in real time to move as quickly as the criminals — a tricky feat when some of the major nations involved, such as the U.S. and Russia, distrust each other...On the other hand, the WannaCry attack hit — and annoyed — many countries. Russia was among the hardest, and Britain among the most high-profile, and both have ‘some pretty good investigative capabilities,’” said Robert Cattanach, a former U.S. Justice Department attorney. More, here.

Ben Thompson, one of the sharpest observers of the IT market, says the world is slowly becoming less vulnerable to massive malware attacks like WannaCry, which targeted a version of Windows built in an era where Internet security was taken much less seriously, and which Microsoft had all but abandoned support. Thompson argues that the spread of cloud-based software-as-a-service is properly, if gradually, aligning security incentives. Read, here.

And ICYMI: Here’s the story of how a 22-year-old researcher spent $11 and all but brought WannaCry to a screeching halt.

See and hear from U.S. advisers in the fight against ISIS in Mosul in this video report from the BBC, working out of Patrol Base Foundry, near Mosul airport, about 5 kilometers from the heart of fighting in West Mosul.

Now take a look at the rather impressive progress Iraqi security forces have made over the past nine days in Mosul, via this comparison map and analysis from Iraq watcher Joel Wing. 

Over in Syria, "the Syrian government has built a large crematorium near the notorious Saydnaya Military Prison in an effort to hide mass atrocities carried out there," Stuart Jones, acting assistant secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department, said Monday in a declassified briefing at the State Department. CNN: "Jones said the regime could be killing as many as 50 detainees a day at Saydnaya. In February, Amnesty International alleged that thousands of people have been hanged at the Syrian prison just 45 minutes outside the capital of Damascus in a secret crackdown on dissent." 

Said Jones: The "photos underscore the depths to which the Syrian regime has gone with the support of ... Russia." But CNN notes, "He wouldn't confirm whether the US will take military action in response to the grisly discovery of the crematorium."  

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.