The Jury Talks Back


More on the Spy Who Returned from Russia with Love

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 7:47 am

The Washington Post has more on that (as a friend puts it) spy who came out of the cold:

In 2017, the United States extracted from Russia an important CIA source who had provided information about the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, according to current and former officials.

The operation, known as an exfiltration, followed mounting concerns among U.S. officials that the individual could be discovered by the Russian government.

The exfiltration took place sometime after an Oval Office meeting in May 2017, when President Trump revealed highly classified counterterrorism information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador, said the current and former officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive operation.

That disclosure alarmed U.S. national security officials, but it was not the reason for the decision to remove the CIA asset, who had provided information to the United States for more than a decade, according to the current and former officials.

The exfiltration was first reported by CNN. The CIA declined to comment.

Similar is a New York Times story published yesterday:

The decision to extract the informant was driven “in part” because of concerns that Mr. Trump and his administration had mishandled delicate intelligence, CNN reported. But former intelligence officials said there was no public evidence that Mr. Trump directly endangered the source, and other current American officials insisted that media scrutiny of the agency’s sources alone was the impetus for the extraction.

(I have bolded the words “public” and “current” to emphasize that there is some wiggle room there. More on that below.)

The allegation that Trump routinely mishandles classified information in a manner that alarms intelligence officials is so solid that no sane person still disputes it. The allegation that the exfiltration of this particular Russian spy was done in significant measure due to Trump’s mishandling of classified information, as alleged by CNN yesterday, remains based on a single source who no longer works in the government, and is now disputed by multiple anonymous sources.

Now: there is reason to question everything here. The hurricane/Alabama fiasco shows that government will lie for Trump — and indeed government officials are sometimes threatened with termination should they fail to lie for Trump. And in this case, if there is lying going on right now, it might also be in service of making the story go away so that the spy will not be identified. (Too late! I’m not going to link the story, but the Russians know who he is.)

What all this means is that we may never know to what extent, if any, Trump’s carelessness with classified information was part of the decisionmaking process here. Many officials are disputing that it was, but as I just noted, they have substantial potential motives to lie.

Also: how could it not go into the mix? “We are alarmed by the President’s routine mishandling of classified information, especially with regard to Russia, but it played no part in our concern over the safety of a sensitive Russian asset” sounds like a perfectly credible statement that I totally believe. If that statement (which, granted, is my argumentative paraphrase of the officials’ position) is really true, it does not speak well of the judgment of intelligence officials. I think it’s a lie.

None of this means that we should not be concerned about Trump’s careless handling of classified information. We should be, and all sane people are. (Trump superfans are not. But I stopped caring what Trump superfans think long ago.)

1 Comment »

  1. After sufficient experience with Trump, you have to wonder how much of the important stuff the intelligence agencies are not showing him. A bit awkward when the chief national decision-maker is too incompetent to be trusted.

    Comment by Luke Stywalker — 9/11/2019 @ 1:55 am

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