Intelligence sharing pact with U.S. ally at risk

The Washington Post has reported that U.S. President Donald Trump shared intelligence with Russians without first consulting the source who supplied that piece of intelligence thus endangering intelligence sharing ties amongst U.S. allies.

Reuters has reported that U.S President Donald Trump disclosed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister regarding a planned Islamic State related operation.

The news caused the White House to enter into another controversy just months into Trump’s short tenure in office.

As per two officials with knowledge of the situation, the intelligence that was gathered by a U.S. ally in the fight against ISIS was shared at a meeting attended by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak.

However, the White House declared the report as incorrect.

“The story that came out tonight as reported is false,” said H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, and went on to add, that the leaders reviewed a range of common threats including to civil aviation.

“At no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed. The president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known…I was in the room. It didn’t happen,” said McMaster.

Separately, the White House also released a statement from the Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, who clarified that the Oval Office meeting focused on counterterrorism.

Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell, labelled the story as false.

However, the news made ripples in the U.S. Congress, with Dick Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, labelling Trump’s conduct as “dangerous” and “reckless”.

Even Bob Corker, the Republican head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the allegations “very, very troubling” if true.

“Obviously, they’re in a downward spiral right now and they’ve got to come to grips with all that’s happening,” he said of the White House.

This latest controversy comes in the wake of the Trump’s administration reeling from the fallout of the dismissal of FBI Director James Comey. It also midst congressional calls for an independent investigation into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

As per one of the officials, the piece of intelligence that was discussed and shared at the meeting by Trump was classified as “Top Secret”. It was held in a secure “compartment” to which only a handful of intelligence officials have access.

The issue has gained prominence since although Trump has the authority to disclose even the most highly classified intelligence at will, doing so without consulting the ally that sourced the information threatens to jeopardize a long-standing intelligence-sharing agreement, said U.S. officials.

During his conversation with Russian officials, Trump appeared to be boasting about his knowledge of the looming threats, and told them he was briefed on “great intel every day”, said an official with knowledge of the exchange to the Washington Post.

As per an official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, “He has no filter; it’s in one ear and out the mouth.”

This latest uproar comes amidst rumours that Trump might shake up his senior staff in a bid to gain control and refocus his administration.

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