Monday , July 24 2017

Intelligence sharing vital for safer world

It was US President Donald Trump’s yet another foot-in-mouth error. The uproar over the sacking of FBI chief James Comey has hardly died down, Trump stirred the pot again.
The Washington Post reported on Monday that President Trump revealed highly classified piece of information about an IS plot to Russia’s foreign minister and US ambassador. The information had been provided by a US partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement.
But Trump defends sharing information about IS threats to airline safety with Russian officials. National Security Adviser H.R McMaster says
the president’s disclosures were “wholly appropriate.” As president I wanted to share with Russia which I have the absolute right to do, facts
pertaining….to terrorism and airline flight safety,” Trump wrote in a pair
of tweets.
The president of the United States has the legal rights to disclose classified information if he thinks it appropriate. Trump is not the only president to have done so. There exist such precedents. In past, US presidents have shared classified information with foreign officials to gain trust. Former president George W Bush, for instance, even brought in Russian President Vladimir Putin to the president’s daily brief. But in those cases the president kept the intelligence community in loop and apprised them in advance enabling the agencies to prepare a tailor-made briefing with consideration of what should and shouldn’t be shared and the benefits and risks in doing so. But in Trump case, no such deliberations took place.
McMaster is trying hard to save the situation saying that president wasn’t even aware of where this information came from, he wasn’t briefed on the source or method of the information either.
But intelligence experts choose to differ from McMaster. They say it will have far-reaching implications for the existing vital foreign intelligence ties. Washington counts on its allies for intelligence-sharing partnerships. Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are key intelligence providers in the Middle East. Another network, the Five Eyes—a secretive and global surveillance arrangement of US, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand — is also relied on. Trump’s classified leak has rocked the Five Eyes network. The argument is not about whether Trump did something illegal, rather the real danger lies in his lack of discretion.
It will put off US partners from sharing sensitive informations. They will start sifting the information that they have been providing. It will greatly hamper US ability to gather vital intelligence and track security threats. The trust is the bedrock of intelligence network. If US behaves in untrustworthy way, its international allies will reduce or limit sharing informations.
What makes the issue more glaring is the fact that Trump’s first overseas trip as president is to those nations that are on the front lines of fighting IS and other extremists. To defeat the scourge of extremism the US along with these nations depend a great deal on close intelligence cooperation.
Given this fact, the intelligence sources, whether individuals or states, will think why take the risk to share intelligence with Americans if it will ultimately be leaked. For a safer world, intelligence sharing is must.

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