Thursday, May 18, 2017
Spooks are spooked
The Israelis seem a tad perturbed about Trump:
Shabtai Shavit, who led the Mossad in the 1990s, said that were he in charge of the intelligence organization today, he would not be inclined to share more information with his American counterparts.
“If tomorrow I were asked to pass information to the CIA, I would do everything I could to not pass it to them. Or I would first protect myself and only then give it, and what I’d give would be totally neutered,” Shavit told The Times of Israel in a phone interview.
“If some smart guy decides that he’s allowed to leak information, then your partners in cooperation will be fewer or just won’t be at all,” he warned.
Another former head of the Mossad, Danny Yatom, said Israel should penalize the US over Trump’s leak because his acts could endanger Israeli sources.
“We need to punish the Americans, it’s possible, so that we don’t put Trump in a position where he is again tempted, we need to abstain from transferring information to him, or to only give him partial information so that he can’t endanger any source,” said Yatom, who headed the spy agency between 1999 and 2001.
Even though it is Trump’s right to declassify information, if he keeps doing it Israel will “stop sharing in the future,” he estimated, speaking in an interview with Radio 103 FM.
‘We have to reevaluate if we should pass along information and what information we should pass along to the Americans’
On Wednesday morning, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily quoted an unnamed Israeli intelligence official who said the country’s clandestine services could not continue passing along high value information until they are convinced that the United States can be trusted to protect it.
“We have to reevaluate if we should pass along information and what information we should pass along to the Americans. This is our greatest ally, and we share with them heaps of super-secret information,” the source said.
“Until we can be sure that this channel is absolutely secure, we must not hand over our crown jewels through it,” the official added.
Amnon Sofrin, a former head of the Mossad’s Intelligence Directorate, said on Wednesday that while the incident was troubling, he did not anticipate that it would have a tremendous effect on the overall relationship between Israeli and American security services.
“If this really happened and there is some reflection about the source, it can cause a big problem for us because it can put the source at risk and cause damage for our activities,” he said, in a phone briefing with the Israel Project.
“I don’t believe that [this] will cause such a big damage. It might cause small damage… but not a disaster,” Sofrin added.
In an apparent attempt to assuage concerns, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman took to Twitter on Wednesday morning with reassurances that Israeli-American security cooperation would continue to be “deep, significant and unprecedented in their scope and contribution to our strength.”
He added that he was certain that “the Mossad will do all in its power so that the source can keep giving information, but will try to extract him if need be.”
Earlier in the day, Likud MK Avi Dichter, a former head of the Shin Bet internal security service, downplayed the severity of the incident, describing it as part of the cost of doing spy business.
“I know of more than a few incident over the years, from different countries, in which they made use of intelligence in far more scandalous ways than how the media has described this,” Dichter, who chairs the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, told Army Radio.
But Shavit, the former Mossad chief, scoffed at the notion that it was a one-off incident, chuckling when asked if it was the kind of thing that happened from time to time but was not necessarily indicative of a trend.
“It’s what? One hundred and twenty days since he got into the White House? Foul-up follows foul-up over there,” he said, referring to a number of embarrassing leaks and failures that have come out of the Trump administration.
‘Before he makes any decision, he posts on Twitter. Is that how you run a country? That’s not how you run a corner-store’
“[Trump] is trying to run the country like he ran his private company — and it doesn’t work. What can you do? It doesn’t work. That’s the source of the troubles,” Shavit said.
He also took Trump to task for his social media game.
“Before he makes any decision, he posts on Twitter. He tweets and then checks the responses in order to make his decision. Is that how you run a country?” Shavit asked. “That’s not how you run a corner store.”
Maybe these guys were talking out of school but that's doubtful. It sounds as though someone wanted a message sent outside the normal channels.
The Israelis have been terrified of Trump's lack of discipline from the beginning. It's not that they don't like his politics. I imagine the conservatives in the government are fine with them. It's that he's a childlike imbecile that freaks them out. They live in a dangerous neighborhood.
I would imagine the other middle east governments --- hell the rest of the world --- are equally freaked out and never more than they have been this week with the news that Trump blurted out secrets to Russian officials without knowing what the hell he was saying. (Or, even worse, knowing what he was saying.)
The world's only superpower may never have been fully trusted but I don't think the world thought up until now that it could be this out of control. We are much more dangerous than we've ever been.
And that makes everything more dangerous for Americans as well.
digby 5/18/2017 04:30:00 PM