Trump's best defense on Russia is incompetence

This leaves us with the president’s incompetence. On this score, the Washington Post story is damning. It says that current and former U.S. intelligence officials fear that Russia could reverse engineer the sources and methods of the intelligence Trump shared because he revealed the city from which the Islamic State was plotting laptop bombings against airliners. The error was serious enough that the Post reported the White House briefed the intelligence community and intelligence oversight committees on the breach. Senior Trump administration officials did not dispute those facts in on-the-record statements Monday evening.

In addition to being incompetent in a national security sense, the flub is also politically embarrassing for the president. Remember that Trump campaigned on the idea that Hillary Clinton was unfit to be president because her use of a private email server was evidence of mishandling classified information. Clinton must find in this story a delicious schadenfreude.

But in light of that, it’s also important to get some perspective. Let me make a prediction here. Whichever allied intelligence service had its sources and methods endangered will not end intelligence sharing with the U.S. I base this on the fact that in the last seven years, the U.S. has endured worse. American allies were also exposed by the State Department cables shared with the world by WikiLeaks and the NSA documents provided to journalists by Edward Snowden. The Obama White House blamed a 2012 Associated Press story on another threat to airlines for disclosing a source from an allied intelligence service within al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Today we remember this incident primarily for the extraordinary steps the Justice Department took to monitor the phone records of AP reporters in its subsequent leak investigation.

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