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By Ryan Pickrell
Recent media reports may have jeopardized an intelligence asset providing information essential in the fight against the Islamic State.
President Donald Trump shared information provided by an ally with Russian officials about an ISIS terror plot, mentioning the town in which the plot originated, but the president did not reveal intelligence-gathering methods, the name of the country that provided the information, or the intelligence source. The media, however, filled in the gaps.
The New York Times, relying on leaked information from anonymous U.S. officials, revealed that Israel provided the information that Trump shared with Russian officials, narrowing the search field and making it easier for enemies to possibly identify the intelligence asset.
Trump “discussed with the Russians the information obtained by Israel, without identifying the country,” The Wall Street Journal explained, citing two officials with direct knowledge of the events.
“Trump may not have provided enough detail to the Russians to damage that source,” the WSJ introduced, relying on reports from U.S. officials.
The WSJ decided not to reveal the source was Israel, noting that, “Trump administration officials said disclosing it could damage the two countries’ intelligence relationship and jeopardize operations” against potential threats.
The source was, “the most valuable source of information on external plotting by ISIS,” the WSJ wrote. “The source of information was particularly valuable for tracking Islamic State’s attempts to place explosive devices on commercial airplanes.”
Officials reportedly disagree over the impact of Trump’s revelations. While some suspected that the Russians might be able to identify the source from the information provided, others doubted that Russia will be able to root out the nature of the source from Trump’s comments.
“I don’t see what Trump gave as a leak,” Air Force Colonel James Waurishuk, a former senior intelligence officer, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “That is part of a foreign policy capability and process to share publicly with other countries for whatever reason.”
“If anything, the only real concern is the mention of Israel,” he added.
Russia is unlikely to share information with ISIS, which suggests that without media reports on the alleged leak, the intelligence asset might have never been at risk.
While no direct sources or methods have been revealed, the mention of Israel potentially exposes information essential to keeping this intelligence asset in the field.