Former Israeli spy chief: If reports are true, Trump made calculated move

Chairman of Knesset Intelligence Committee calls mix up between intelligence sources “nightmare scenario,” says too early to tell if Trump is an intelligence-sharing liability.

Avi Dichter

Avi Dichter, the former head of the Israeli Security Agency (Shin Bet) and current chairman of the Knesset’s powerful intelligence and foreign affairs committee, cautiously waded into the discussion of the reported intelligence leak carried out by US President Donald Trump, hours after reports emerged that the information Trump shared with Russian officials in an oval office meeting came from an Israeli source and that the reveal put an Israeli agent at risk.

White House will not say if Israel was source of sensitive info (credit: REUTERS)

Dichter, who is a member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party, told Army Radio that “when intelligence information is used in order to prevent a terror or military attack, there is a chance that you ‘burn’ your source. Intelligence professionals do their jobs so as to minimize the damage."

“Leaders don’t always, nor are they required to, do the same thing,” Dichter continued.

“If the publications are correct and the President of the United States decided to reveal the information, and I assume that he knew it was classified, to a foreign power- in this case Russia- he did it out of cold calculation that it would pay off, even at the cost of ‘burning’ a source,” he added.

Dichter assured listeners that Israel chooses its intelligence sharing partners carefully , but acknowledged that the “nightmare scenario” for intelligence professionals “is that since leaders see lots of intelligence, from various sources, ranging from top secret to unclassified, they mistakenly expose top secret information, believing it came from an unclassified source.”

He also said that he had experienced previous cases in other countries in which far more outrageous actions were taken based on shared intelligence and that it was far too soon to judge whether the US under Trump was an intelligence-sharing liability.

Dichter’s statement did not significantly deviate from the official line expressed by the Israeli Ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, who said that “Israel has full confidence in our intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States and looks forward to deepening that relationship in the years ahead under President Trump.”

According to a report on ABC News, Trump's alleged intelligence disclosure to Russia has endangered the life of a spy who was placed inside ISIS by Israel to track an ISIS plot to bring down a passenger jet on its way to the US with a bomb hidden in a laptop.

Two US officials, one current and one former, said Trump shared the intelligence supplied by Israel in the fight against Islamic State with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak during an Oval Office meeting last Wednesday.

Russia had earlier dismissed reports first published by The Washington Post, calling it “fake news.” But facing a deluge of criticism over his handling of highly classified information, Trump took to Twitter on Tuesday, defending having shared “facts” with senior Russian officials. The president said he had an “absolute right” to do so and had been trying to get Moscow to become more active in combating Islamic State.

“As president, I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety,” he posted on Twitter. “Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.”