I assume that everyone reading this is aware of the basic facts revealed yesterday concerning Trump’s meeting in the Oval Office with the Russian Foreign Minister and the Russian Ambassador to the United States. I cannot possibly make useful up-to-the-minute comments about this because during the time it takes me to type this, more information will be revealed. But I think it might be useful to remind ourselves what is actually at stake here.
It seems that ISIS has been developing a bomb, hidden in a laptop computer, that is not detectible by the machinery used to scanned airline passengers. Apparently there are technical limits on the explosive power of these laptop bombs, such that they can be expected to bring down an airplane only if the explode fairly close to the hull, or metal skin, of the plane. This means that putting them in checked luggage with a timer is probably not going to work. They must be carried onto the plane by a suicide bomber who gets a window seat. OK, got that?
The threat of such an attack has been considered sufficiently serious to lead airlines to ban carry-on laptops on flights originating in a number of Middle Eastern countries, and a world-wide ban on laptops on all flights is under consideration, disruptive as that might be.
Some nation [we do not know which one] has an intelligence plant in a city controlled by ISIS, and that person [it helps to remember that this is an actual human being, not a drone or a listening device] has garnered information about the ISIS project, which that nation has shared with the United States. These sharing arrangements are super-secret for two reasons: First, because the nation doing the sharing may not be officially an ally of the United States, so that it would be compromised by the revelation that it is sharing intelligence with us [and hence would be less inclined to do so in the future], and Second, because revealing the mere fact that someone in that ISIS-controlled city is an agent could easily endanger that person’s life.
Donald Trump blew all of this by shooting his mouth off to the Russians, who are, with regard to ISIS, not at all our allies. Trump’s action could lead ISIS to delay its planning for the laptop bomb attacks until it has discovered the mole, or it could just as well lead them to accelerate the timing of the attacks in order to carry them out before they are stopped. That Trump did in fact do what he is reported to have done is demonstrated by the report that immediately after the meeting, persons in the meeting rushed off to contact the CIA and the NSA to alert them to what the president had done so that they could try to contain the damage.
Why did Trump do this? I have looked at the still photos of the meeting released by the Russian news photographer and I have read the account of what Trump said [an account which the Washington Post and the NY TIMES edited so as to delete the actual information, by the way.] It seems to me self-evident that Trump was trying to show off, to establish that he was a big deal in the eyes of the Russians. He was bragging about the wonderful intelligence he gets every day and then, to prove it, rather like an insecure ten year old trying to gain street cred with the big kids in the playground, blurted out some juicy details.
Let me emphasize: Trump’s braggadocio has put at risk countless air travelers as well as one or more moles in ISIS, and has made it very much less likely that foreign intelligence services will share information with the U. S. in the future.
In a tweet this morning, Trump declared defiantly that he has every right to do what all of his advisors are desperately trying to claim he did not do. He is correct about that.
All of this caused me to delay my morning walk. This is serious stuff, folks.