Most of us understand the world of spies through things we’ve read or movies—pretty basic and sensationalized stuff that probably doesn’t touch the nitty-gritty of what it means to be undercover in a foreign country. But the average person would still probably know how to handle intrigue better than President Trump, because he straight-up told the Russians about a U.S. spy in their midst.
The story of an unidentified C.I.A. agent in the Kremlin is pretty convoluted and confusing, in part because so much of the information about him remains a secret. As it should, because his life is in danger if he is uncovered.
The New York Times reports that the “asset,” as they call spies more formally, was extracted from his position near Putin over myriad concerns. The asset had revealed that Russia interfered with the 2016 election amongst other things and some the info was apparently so explosive it was even held back from Barack Obama during his terms.
Enter Trump, a man who would probably tweet the nuclear codes if it suited him. It’s apparently even harder to get people in Russia to work with the C.I.A. now, because of the president’s erratic sense of loyalty to his country.
The final straw was Trump revealing classified information to two Russian agents, leading to the removal of this asset in 2017. The U.S. has been “blinded” to the internal workings of Putin’s plans because of his actions, and now everyone knows.
After the decision to extract the spy, Trump met privately with Putin and took the unusual step of confiscating the interpreter's notes. Intel officials again expressed concern that the President may have improperly discussed classified intel w/ Russia.https://t.co/OykStpTYeW— Julia Davis (@JuliaDavisNews) September 9, 2019
“We have a president who, unlike any other president in modern history, is willing to use sensitive, classified intelligence however he sees fit,” said Steven L. Hall to the NYT, a former C.I.A. official who led the agency’s Russia operations. “He does it in front of our adversaries. He does it by tweet. We are in uncharted waters.”
A former lawyer at the C.I.A. and the National Security Agency, Robert Deitz, told Business Insider that it’s unprecedented for a president to be so untrustworthy, on a basic safety level.
“For most of us, in order to gain access to this kind of information, we go through countless briefings in which desk tops are pounded saying how important and how dangerous these secrets are,” Deitz said. “By contrast, the president is provided with this by virtue of his election, and this president in particular has no understanding how dangerous it is to share this information with the bad guys.”
If you don’t know enough about national security to understand how far over the line Trump stepped, just read the above. If this were a movie, dramatic music would be playing.