President Trump did not cause the Central Intelligence Agency to withdraw a top-level spy from Russia. Obama did. And so did indiscreet intelligence officials. CNN’s report to the contrary is false, as usual. CNN has a track record of fake news, including false and biased reporting that elevates white supremacists.
On Monday, CNN bragged of an “exclusive” report that “the United States successfully extracted from Russia one of its highest-level covert sources inside the Russian government” partly because “President Donald Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source as a spy.”
In fact, however, officials “mishandled intelligence” and tried to extricate this source in 2016, before Trump even won the presidential election. The New York Times reports intelligence officials compromised this source by gossiping about him to news reporters.
“When intelligence officials revealed the severity of Russia’s election interference with unusual detail … the news media picked up on details about the C.I.A.’s Kremlin sources.” Then, “C.I.A. officials … made the arduous decision in late 2016 to offer to extract the source from Russia. … [T]he C.I.A. pressed again months later after more media inquiries.”
President Obama compromised this source even further, right before Trump’s inauguration. Obama authorized the public release and declassification of a report by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) alluding to this source’s placement in the Russian government. The New York Times cites the public release of the DNI report as another reason for extracting the source.
The DNI report incredibly claimed President Trump was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s favored candidate in the United States presidential election. It said Mr. Putin was, in part, motivated by a “grudge” against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton “for comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging him.”
In publishing those claims, intelligence officials publicly revealed they were privy to Putin’s private motivations and policy process. This implied they either had a mole in Putin’s inner circle or else were eavesdropping on Putin’s most sensitive discussions. Such a revelation would have been clever if it were false because this could cause Putin to distrust, investigate, or even purge members of his inner circle.
But now it appears the leak was true. Intelligence officials spoiled a bona fide top-level intelligence source operating inside an adversary foreign government just to damage their own American president and government.
To be sure, the source himself may be untrustworthy. The New York Times reports that some officials doubted his “trustworthiness” and had multiple “reasons to suspect the source could be a double agent,” which “would almost certainly mean that some of the information the informant provided about the Russian interference campaign or Mr. Putin’s intentions would have been inaccurate.”
Watch whether the source comes forward now, during the 2020 presidential election campaign, with “bombshell” revelations accusing Trump of being a Manchurian candidate. His testimony would be a predictable follow-up to the “salacious and unverified” Steele dossier, for which Democrats paid money to a retired foreign intelligence official who claimed to receive information directly from Russian agents.
Russian interference has offered tremendous return on investment to Democrats, who solicited it, to the media, who proliferate it, and to the Russian government, which is always happy to undermine the American president, regardless of political party.
Laughably, the New York Times says, “The informant’s information was so delicate, and the need to protect the source’s identity so important, that the C.I.A. director at the time, John O. Brennan … sent separate intelligence reports … in special sealed envelopes to the Oval Office.”
Yet Brennan himself compromised this source through his authorship of the DNI report. And since then, Brennan has shown himself to be dishonest and obscenely partisan. Protecting the source’s identity and preserving the appearance of integrity and objectivity in the U.S. intelligence community are both less important to Brennan than scoring political points.
CNN now admits it “initially withheld” information “which adds further understanding to the value of the informant” and that “was subsequently reported by the New York Times.”
The silver lining to CNN’s false reporting is that it reminds Americans about the importance of protecting the “sources and methods” of foreign intelligence. It is unconscionable that CIA officials such as John Brennan would spoil a deeply embedded foreign spy. Americans must demand better.