America’s leaker-in-chief said today while attending NATO meetings in Brussels that he has instructed the Justice Department and others to stop intelligence leaks from the government, but he made no mention of stopping the leaks that have come from him in recent weeks.
This comes in the wake of the latest embarrassment for President Trump: information provided to U.S. police and intelligence, including the identity of the 22-year-old Manchester bomber, showed up in American newspapers and other media before British police had released it to the public, compromising their own investigation into the horrific attack.
As a result, the Greater Manchester (England) Police have suspended intelligence sharing, the Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, said, according to CNN.
“The decision,” Burnham told CNN, “that’s been taken is – not to suspend any sharing of information – it’s just information related to this particular investigation because we, quite frankly, can’t afford to risk it anymore, it has been compromised by the leaks and we can’t afford any more, so we’ve taken a temporary decision to say, ‘let’s clear it out and draw a line, let’s not have a row that lingers on.'”
On Wednesday, British Home Secretary Amber Rudd had issued what the BBC called “a stern rebuke to the U.S. government for leaking the name of the suspect in the Manchester bombing to American news outlets before U.K. authorities were prepared to make it public,” the BBC reported, adding: “She might as well have been shaking her fist at a cloud, for all the good it did.”
Coming into Trump’s first meeting today with the collected NATO leaders, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said she would “make clear to President Trump that intelligence that is shared between our law enforcement agencies must remain secure.”
“The decision to stop sharing police information with U.S. agencies was an extraordinary step for Britain,” reported Reuters, “which is usually at pains to emphasize it ‘special relationship’ with the United States.
The decision not to share intelligence about the Manchester bomber would continue “until such time as we have assurances that no further unauthorized disclosures will occur,” a counter-terrorism source told Reuters.
Trump tried to get ahead of the anger from key allies by releasing a statement as he arrived in Brussels for the NATO meetings: “The alleged leaks coming out of government agencies are deeply troubling. These leaks have been going on for a long time and my administration will get tot he bottom of this.”
There was considerable skepticism about Trump’s posturing. That starts with the leaks from Trump himself including sharing confidential Israeli information about plans for airplane security with the Russians, telling the murderous leader of the Philippines about secret U.S. submarine movements in his region, embarrassing information about interaction with foreign leaders (Australia, Canada, etc.) and a pattern of continuing leaks about White House battles between warring factions.
“At the moment we have a U.S. administration and U.S. intelligence agencies all leaking like sieves,” said former U.K. Ambassador to the U.S. Christopher Meyer, “so I’m afraid this is the reason why this has happened…This is a serious knock. It is a serious dent [in the relationship].”
Some blame leaks from those angry about Trump’s attacks on the U.S. intelligence agencies over the quality of their information, unproven accusations that he and his campaign were wiretapped, and the biggest irritant to him, the on-going investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
“Mr. Trump has complained,” the BBC reported today, “that the intelligence community hasn’t taken the onslaught of leaks seriously over the past few months.”
While other intelligence services have not announced plans to curb sharing information with their U.S. counterparts and the White House, that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening or won’t happen, according to Leonid Bershidsky, founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti.
“Allies of the U.S. won’t always be as open about withholding information as the British police have been,” warned Bershidsky in a Bloomberg View column today. “They will withhold it quietly, and they won’t leak those decisions to the press.”
As long as the U.S. has a president who can’t be trusted, overseeing an administration at war with itself, surrounded by a government shaken to its roots by huge cuts in funds to operate as it has for generations, the leaks will continue and danger will lurk for America and the world.
The real answer isn’t to just find out who is leaking, but to get rid of the biggest leaker of them all, the one who can’t keep from tweeting in the middle of the night and bragging to foreigners about his power by flashing confidential intelligence.