Trump’s Intelligence Officials Unsure About Giving Him Briefings on Russia

Credit: Gage Skidmore, Flickr Creative Commons

Buried inside a New York Times article on cyber programs against Russia is a juicy tidbit that should startle many.

Sources inside the federal government have told the Times that intelligence officials are hesitant to brief President Trump on cybersecurity operations against Russian defenses, for fear he’ll shut them down or tell specific details to foreign interests (including Putin himself).

The U.S. has begun digital attacks against Russia’s power grid as a warning to President Vladimir V. Putin and as a demonstration of the Trump administration’s more aggressive use of cyber tools. The attacks reportedly come as a response to Russian malware that could sabotage American power plants, pipelines, or water supplies in the future.

According to the Times, at least two Trump administration officials said they believed Trump had not been briefed “in any detail” about the cyber operations.

Both officials from the Pentagon and intelligence sources reported a deep hesitation to address operations against Russia with Trump, due to concerns over how he might react. Sources said the concern is that Trump may countermand the decision to conduct operations, or that he might discuss those operations with foreign officials, as he has done in the past. In 2017, Trump mentioned a sensitive operation taking place in Syria to Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.

Trump issued a directive giving Cyber Command more leeway to conduct offensive digital operations without presidential approval last summer. Under the new law, actions in cyberspace are defined as being the same as traditional military activity, making regular briefings on such operations unnecessary.

Still, the idea that the leader of the free world isn’t trusted by his own administrative team is startling. Startling, but perhaps not unexpected. After all, there is a Wikipedia entry dedicated to Trump’s illegal disclosures of classified information, and the White House’s subsequent denials.

How might President Trump respond to the article? Look no further than his favorite platform, Twitter:

How Putin’s government is reacting to the U.S.’ more aggressive cyber-posture isn’t clear.

Bill Arceneaux has been an independent writer and film critic in the New Orleans area since 2011, working with outlets like Film Threat, DIG Baton Rouge, Crosstown Conversations, and Occupy. He is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association and is Rotten Tomatoes approved. Follow him on Twitter: @billreviews

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