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Donald Trump's Russia intelligence leak 'will get Americans killed,' says former CIA agent

Security experts raise concerns over fate of spy and future security relationships

Will Worley
Tuesday 16 May 2017 12:33 BST
Mr Trump's meeting with Sergie Lavrov came just one day after he fired FBI chief James Comey
Mr Trump's meeting with Sergie Lavrov came just one day after he fired FBI chief James Comey

Donald Trump’s reported intelligence leak to senior Russian officials “will get Americans killed”, according to a former CIA officer.

President Trump told Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and ambassador Sergey Kislyak top secret information regarding a highly sensitive intelligence operation against the extremist group Isis, the Washington Post reported, citing government officials.

The information came from a third country that is an ally and intelligence partner of the US, the sources said, but was so sensitive it had not been shared with US allies and most of the US government.

Concerns have since been raised over the fate of the intelligence source, presumed to be an intelligence agent in Isis territory.

White House statement on Russia 'intelligence leak'

The White House has called the allegation “false”. And as President, Mr Trump also has the power to declassify information whenever he chooses.

But experienced intelligence operatives have voiced serious concerns. Speaking on CNN, Robert Baer, who had an extensive intelligence career across the Middle East, said Mr Trump’s alleged leak could put lives at risk.

“[Speaking] as a former case officer at the Central Intelligence Agency, getting a source inside the Islamic State (Isis) is almost impossible.

“We rely on our allies whether it’s Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel to get inside these groups. They’re closer. This is part of their world. To lose these sources, to lose these liaison services is a catastrophe.

“We have to understand that breaches like this will get Americans killed eventually. There’s no better way to put it.”

Former Assistant Secretary for Homeland Security Juliette Kayyem added that the intelligence source is “likely dead,” a concern echoed by other security experts.

Experts have also raised concerns that the alleged admission could have seriously harmed intelligence relationships and that the unknown security agency which supplied the intelligence will not do so in the future.

Others said information held by Russians could also be given to Syria and Iran, who are allied to Moscow.

Responding to the reports, Herbert McMaster, Mr Trump's national security adviser, said: "The President and the Foreign Minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries including threats to civil aviation.

“At no time, at no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed and the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known."

White House pool reporters said Mr McMaster spoke to them for less than a minute and took no questions.

The language of the denial was also criticised, as the original Post story did not report that “intelligence sources or methods” were discussed, but just information which could lead to them being worked out. There was not an outright denial from the White House that Mr Trump told the Russian officials such information.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has denied the reports, calling them “fake”, according to Interfax news agency.

The meeting between Mr Trump and the Russian officials came just one day after Mr Trump sacked the FBI chief, James Comey, in a move which sent shock waves through the security establishment. Mr Comey was heading an investigation into Mr Trump’s alleged campaign connections with Russia.

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