Intel Community Will Not Conduct Damage Assessment of Trump’s Disclosure

Authorized or not, disclosures of classified intelligence are usually examined. Not this time.

GettyImages-683492500
GettyImages-683492500

The intelligence community will not be doing a damage assessment into President Donald Trump’s disclosures of classified intelligence to Russian officials, Foreign Policy has learned.

The Washington Post reported Monday that Trump shared classified intelligence provided by a U.S. ally about potential ISIS plots with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during a meeting at the White House. The news touched off a political firestorm, with White House officials defending Trump’s right to share intelligence, and critics accusing him of damaging national security.

Damage assessments, part of the intelligence community’s purview under the National Security Act of 1974, happen when there is an “unauthorized disclosure”, compromise, or mishandling of classified information to determine if there’s any “actual or potential damage” to national security as a result.

The intelligence community will not be doing a damage assessment into President Donald Trump’s disclosures of classified intelligence to Russian officials, Foreign Policy has learned.

The Washington Post reported Monday that Trump shared classified intelligence provided by a U.S. ally about potential ISIS plots with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during a meeting at the White House. The news touched off a political firestorm, with White House officials defending Trump’s right to share intelligence, and critics accusing him of damaging national security.

Damage assessments, part of the intelligence community’s purview under the National Security Act of 1974, happen when there is an “unauthorized disclosure”, compromise, or mishandling of classified information to determine if there’s any “actual or potential damage” to national security as a result.

The president is the ultimate declassification authority, meaning Trump’s disclosure would not be deemed “unauthorized,” even if a foreign partner did not offer permission to share it. However, when classified information is disclosed, even if technically authorized, the intelligence community often does a damage assessment—either formally or informally—to determine if sources and methods had been compromised, a former senior administration official told FP in a phone interview.

“It’s ultimately the IC’s call, but [I’m] surprised there wouldn’t be one (even an informal one), in this case,” the former senior administration official told FP in a text message.

While a decision to launch an assessment is ultimately up to the intelligence community, President Trump’s National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster has repeatedly told reporters that the conversations between Trump and the Russian officials on May 10 were “wholly appropriate,” and provided information that could be derived from open sources of information like the Internet.

The U.S. has been openly worried that ISIS associates are planning to plant explosives in laptop devices, to detonate during transatlantic flights. On Wednesday, U.S. officials will meet with members of the European Union to discuss a possible laptop ban.

According to the New York Times, the intelligence Trump shared belongs to Israel, one of the U.S.’s primary military and intelligence partners.

If the report is true, “it would only confirm to many who say off the record they were concerned Israeli intelligence would find its way to Russia,” said David Schenker, a former Pentagon official now with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“Everybody wants to maintain a good relationship and will try no doubt to move on,” he said. “But this will no doubt remain in the back of their minds.”

FP staff writer Robbie Gramer contributed to this article.

Photo credit: MARK WILSON/Getty Images

More from Foreign Policy

A closeup of Russian President Vladimir Putin
A closeup of Russian President Vladimir Putin

What Russia’s Elites Think of Putin Now

The president successfully preserved the status quo for two decades. Suddenly, he’s turned into a destroyer.

A member of the Zimbabwe Republic Police is seen in front of an electoral poster of President Emmerson Mnangagwa
A member of the Zimbabwe Republic Police is seen in front of an electoral poster of President Emmerson Mnangagwa

Cafe Meeting Turns Into Tense Car Chase for U.S. Senate Aides in Zimbabwe

Leading lawmaker calls on Biden to address Zimbabwe’s “dire” authoritarian turn after the incident.

Steam rises from cooling towers at the Niederaussem coal-fired power plant during the coronavirus pandemic near Bergheim, Germany, on Feb. 11, 2021.
Steam rises from cooling towers at the Niederaussem coal-fired power plant during the coronavirus pandemic near Bergheim, Germany, on Feb. 11, 2021.

Putin’s Energy War Is Crushing Europe

The big question is whether it ends up undermining support for Ukraine.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres attends a press conference.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres attends a press conference.

A Crisis of Faith Shakes the United Nations in Its Big Week

From its failure to stop Russia’s war in Ukraine to its inaction on Myanmar and climate change, the institution is under fire from all sides.