National Security Adviser HR McMaster dismissed the story as “false”, but a senior member of Mr Trump’s Republican party called for an explanation.
The information, related to the use of laptops on aircraft, came from a partner of the US which had not given permission for it to be shared with Russia, says the Washington Post.
According to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.
The sensitivity of the information meant that only a few specific officials were aware of it and that allies could not be informed.
During a May 10 meeting with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak, Trump began describing details about an Islamic State terror threat, according to current and former U.S. officials. The Washington Post
What actually happened?
In a conversation with the Russian foreign minister and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak in the Oval Office, the president revealed details that could lead to the exposure of a source of information, officials told the Washington Post and the New York Times.
The discussion was about an IS plot. The president reportedly went “off-script”, revealing specifics of the plot, thought to centre on the use of laptop computers on aircraft, and the city from which that threat had been detected.
The highly classified information came from a US ally and was considered too sensitive to share with other US allies, the papers report.
Mr Trump’s actions would not be illegal, as the US president has the authority to declassify information.
The meeting came a day after Mr Trump fired his FBI chief, James Comey, sparking criticism that he had done so because the FBI was investigating alleged Russian ties. Source BBC
According to The Washington Post:
“This is code-word information,” said a U.S. official familiar with the matter, using terminology that refers to one of the highest classification levels used by American spy agencies.
Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”
Golden rule: Frank Gardner, BBC security correspondent
Despite the denials issued by the White House that any actual intelligence sources were revealed to the Russians, whatever was said in that Oval Office meeting was enough to alarm certain officials and, reportedly, to alert the CIA and NSA.
They in turn will have needed to warn the country that supplied the intelligence. There is a golden rule in the world of espionage that when one government supplies intelligence to another it must not be passed on to a third party without permission of the original supplier. The reason is simple: it could put the lives of their human informants at risk.
In this case it appears to relate to the discovery of plans by jihadists in Syria to devise a way of smuggling viable explosive devices on board a plane inside a laptop computer. Given the well-publicised ban on laptops in cabins on certain Middle Eastern routes, whoever revealed that information is unlikely to be still in place.
Levels of US classification – from lowest to highest
- Confidential: Information that reasonably could be expected to cause damage to the national security if disclosed to unauthorised sources. Most military personnel have this level of clearance
- Secret: The same wording in the first sentence above, except it substitutes serious damage
- Top Secret: Again, the same wording except to substitute exceptionally grave damage
- Codeword: Adds a second level of clearance to Top Secret, so that only those cleared with the codeword can see it. Administered by the CIA.
The material discussed by Mr Trump with the Russians was under a codeword, sources told the Washington Post . Source : BBC
National Security Adviser HR McMaster told reporters that the story, “as reported”, was “false”.
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) May 15, 2017
“The president and foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation,” he said.
“At no time – at no time – were intelligence sources or methods discussed. And the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known. ”
In a statement, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson echoed the point that “the nature of specific threats were discussed, but they did not discuss sources, methods or military operations”.
The Washington Post, which first broke the story, said this did not amount to a denial.
Speaking to the BBC, reporter Greg Jaffe said the Post’s story made it clear the president did not disclose sources or methods.
But he added: “Our story says that the nature of the information provided would have allowed the Russians to ‘reverse engineer’ to discover the sources and methods. He said so much that they could figure it out.” shared from BBC.
The Washington Post writes:
White House officials involved in the meeting said Trump discussed only shared concerns about terrorism.
“The president and the foreign minister reviewed common threats from terrorist organizations to include threats to aviation,” said H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, who participated in the meeting.
“At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed, and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly.”
McMaster reiterated his statement in a subsequent appearance at the White House on Monday and described the Washington Post story as “false,” but did not take any questions.
In their statements, White House officials emphasized that Trump had not discussed specific intelligence sources and methods, rather than addressing whether he had disclosed information drawn from sensitive sources.
The CIA declined to comment, and the NSA did not respond to requests for comment.
— OutFrontCNN (@OutFrontCNN) May 15, 2017
Both Democratic and Republican politicians react critically to the news.
If true, this is a slap in the face to the intel community. Risking sources & methods is inexcusable, particularly with the Russians. https://t.co/CRiSC024F7
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) May 15, 2017
WH comms staffers just put the TVs on super loud after we could hear yelling coming from room w/ Bannon, Spicer, Sanders
— Adrian Carrasquillo (@Carrasquillo) May 15, 2017