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U.S. ally 'might stop sharing intelligence' after Trump's leak

The nightmare scenario: Donald Trump's leaks to Russia may lead allies to stop sharing sensitive secrets with the United States.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump listens to his mobile phone during a lunch stop, Feb. 18, 2016, in North Charleston, S.C. (Photo by Matt Rourke/AP)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump listens to his mobile phone during a lunch stop, Feb. 18, 2016, in North Charleston, S.C.
Donald Trump's first overseas trip as president was already poised to be awkward. Foreign Policy magazine reported yesterday that our NATO allies are "scrambling" to tailor their upcoming meeting "to avoid taxing President Donald Trump's notoriously short attention span."A source briefed extensively on the meeting's preparations explained, "It's kind of ridiculous how they are preparing to deal with Trump. It's like they're preparing to deal with a child -- someone with a short attention span and mood who has no knowledge of NATO, no interest in in-depth policy issues, nothing.... They're freaking out."And that was before our NATO partners learned that Trump apparently shared highly classified secrets with Russia for unknown reasons. The Associated Press reported today that U.S. allies "have anxiously wondered" if America's strange amateur president could be trusted with sensitive national security information, and now those countries have "new reasons to worry."

A U.S. official said Trump revealed highly classified information about an Islamic State plot to senior Russian officials during an Oval Office meeting last week. The information had been obtained by a U.S. partner and shared with Washington, according to the official."If it proves to be true that the American president passed on internal intelligence matters, that would be highly worrying," Burkhard Lischka, a senior German lawmaker, said in a statement to The Associated Press.A second European official told the AP that their country might stop sharing intelligence with the United States as a result of Trump's disclosure to Russia.

"Look, there is a core assumption that undergirds our intelligence relationships the world over, our information sharing relationships with friends, with allies, and frankly at times even with adversaries. And that is we will share with you if you share with us with a reciprocal understanding that we will safeguard each other's information. And there is not to be onward passage of that information without explicit consent of the country that gave us that piece of information."So, if the details today in the Washington Post report are true, President Trump betrayed that core premise, that core assumption under which all of our intelligence relationships are forged."And, of course, it will infuriate this purportedly close ally. But that's, in a way, small potatoes.  What is a much graver threat I think to the United States and to our people is that countries around the world -- countries that perhaps have a better presence in places like Syria, or have more expertise in groups like ISIL or core al Qaeda -- they will think once, they will think twice, or maybe they will stop sharing information with us to begin with if they cannot be confident that we can safeguard their information."

Even if some foreign officials decide they'll renew a cooperative relationship with the United States once Americans elect a more responsible leader, the national security implications in the interim would be considerable -- and January 2021, at the earliest, is a long time to wait.