DC and Jerusalem reel over Trump disclosure of ISIS plan to– hush!– put laptop bombs on planes

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Last night before the biggest story yet of Trump’s dysfunctional administration hit (the James Comey memo re the president’s possible obstruction of justice), the big news of the day was that a highly classified intelligence secret Trump had divulged to the Russian Foreign Minister a week before at the White House had been provided to the United States by Israeli intelligence. That secret was apparently ISIS’s plans to get laptop-bombs on airplanes. Or to quote the articles: “details” of those ISIS plans.

Leaving aside the questions that should strike any reasonable citizen — Why is the U.S. fighting wars in the Middle East? Isn’t this “secret” a bit obvious? (gee, laptops; who would have thought)– the story is roiling the chambers of state-and-spycraft in Washington and Israel.

Israelis are “freaking out” over the disclosure, per the Forward. While Newsweek says the entire intelligence operation is “in crisis.”

President Donald Trump’s decision to disclose highly classified information to Russia, which Israel reportedly provided to Washington, has put the intelligence services “in crisis,” according to a former senior Israeli intelligence official and recruiter of assets for Israel’s Shin Bet security service.

Haaretz is also wringing its hands over Trump’s threat to Israeli intelligence gathering. Anshel Pfeffer says Trump’s disclosure threatens “an intimate intelligence relationship”. Some more hoopla about the vaunted Israeli intelligence assets:

For lack of divulgeable classified details, the value of intelligence Mossad and the IDF’s intelligence branch pass on to their American counterparts can only be described using superlatives. “We literally give them the crown jewels,” said one senior Israeli intelligence officer who was intimately involved in the relationship with the Obama administration.

Pfeffer goes very close to divulging the undivulgeable when he tells us about those laptop bombs:

According to the reports in American media, confirmed largely by Trump’s tweets and his spokesman Sean Spicer, the intelligence Trump shared with the Russian foreign minister concerned plans by ISIS to smuggle explosives aboard a civil airliner, disguised as a computer laptop.

The Washington Post’s report on the not-to-be-divulged secret contained these (typically not very specific) quotes attributed to Trump:

Trump seemed to be boasting about his inside knowledge of the looming threat. “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day.”

Sure sounds like the crown jewels! Officially, of course, the Israelis are saying that everything is hunkydory. Reuters:

Israeli officials have… been quick to say counter-terrorism coordination with the United States is strong. On Tuesday, Trump called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss his visit to Israel next week, but the two did not discuss the intelligence leak during their 20-minute conversation, the prime minister’s office said.

“The security relationship between Israel & our greatest ally the United States is deep, significant & unprecedented in volume,” Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Twitter, remarks that were echoed by the intelligence minister.

Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, issued a similar statement, saying: “Israel has full confidence in our intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States and looks forward to deepening that relationship in the years ahead under President Trump.”

But privately, oh no no no. Here is Gershom Gorenberg, liberal Zionist, expressing horror as only a true Middle Easterner can:

While David Cohen, the former under-secretary for terrorism in Treasury (who was backed by Alan Dershowitz) writes at the New York Times that Trump has tarnished the ideal of a just and true America that beckons to would-be spies to betray their countries all around the world. And you thought it was good old American greenbacks that got them to turn. No:

Tarnishing the idea that America stands for something uniquely good makes it harder for the C.I.A. to recruit spies. The best arrow in the C.I.A.’s quiver — the arrow that has led to countless high-quality recruits signing up over the years — will not be nearly as sharp.

No one can say how many potential spies will decide that working for America is not worth the risk. But the administration’s rejection of the American idea will surely mean that some will say no.

Shorter Cohen (per Donald Johnson): “We are shocked, shocked I tell you, to see the US under Trump supporting autocrats and downplaying human rights. And speaking of American values, who better than the CIA to talk about them.”

Better yet, here is a famous New Yorker cartoon on a related “Industrial Crisis,” from 1928 by Gluyas Williams:

Industrial Crisis, the day a cake of Ivory soap sank at Proctor & Gamble’s by Gluyas Williams

Speaking of Trump the disrupter, Israelis and their US supporters are also expressing apprehension about the Jerusalem statements coming out of the administration in advance of the president’s trip. HR McMaster equivocated on the Western Wall here. Here’s an Orthodox Union statement:

“We appreciate that President Donald Trump will make a historic trip to Israel next week and will be the first sitting president to visit and pray at Judaism’s holiest site – the Western Wall of the Temple Mount.

However, we are dismayed that just days before the trip, the White House’s National Security Adviser declined to state at the press podium that the Western Wall is part of Israel.

The questions posed to NSA Gen. McMaster today were prompted by press reports yesterday that U.S. officials (working in Israel to prepare the President’s trip) stated the Western Wall is “not part of [Israel’s] territory, it is the West Bank.” A senior administration official subsequently issued a statement that “the comments about the Western Wall were not authorized communication and they do not represent the position of the United States and certainly not of the president.”

We were relieved by this clarification. But it is all the more troubling today that Gen. McMaster did not affirm it when asked at today’s on-the-record briefing.

The Western Wall is indeed the holiest site that Jews can visit today for prayer and reflection as it is the only accessible remnant of the Holy Temple that once stood in Jerusalem. For centuries, Jews across the globe turned toward Jerusalem and prayed to return. Those prayers were answered 50 years ago next week as Jerusalem was reunified by Israeli forces in the Six-Day War – and Jews across the globe will celebrate this anniversary.

Now, therefore, is a crucial time for highlighting the historic connection of the Jewish People to Jerusalem and to give no credence to those who deny it. We therefore ask President Donald Trump to explicitly affirm that the Western Wall was – and is now – by the grace of G-d under Israel’s sovereignty.

With God on our side. There couldn’t be a sounder basis for policy.

Thanks to Scott Roth, Adam Horowitz and Mark Peterson

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… The Western Wall is indeed the holiest site that Jews can visit today … For centuries, Jews across the globe turned toward Jerusalem and prayed to return. … We therefore ask President Donald Trump to explicitly affirm that the Western Wall was – and is now – by the grace of G-d under Israel’s sovereignty. … Turning toward Jerusalem and praying to “return” is Zionism’s equivalent of Monty Python’s “farcicle aquatic ceremony”: Neither act… Read more »

Even before it was reported that Israel was the source of the intelligence (or claims to be), I inferred that must be the case from all the uproar in DC. The horror!

Reports say that the stuff Trump divulged came from a US ally, so it can’t be Israel. Seriously though, the laptop bomb plot was already known about, and had already got the TSA’s knickers in a twist – putting in place a supposed solution (making passengers put their laptops in the hold rather than cabin baggage) that is actually more dangerous than the situation it hopes to alleviate. I’m a fan of airline pilot blogger… Read more »

Terrorists smuggling bombs in laptops is a serious security concern to all aircraft. That concern becomes farcical when the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee John McCain advocates arming those same terrorists with manpads. And only a few miles from Ben Gurion airport, shameful. WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Media reported earlier in October that Syrian rebels asked Washington for Stinger missiles to use them against Russia’s military jets. “Absolutely… Absolutely I would,” McCain said when asked… Read more »

I’m genuinely shocked that Phil seems to be going along with this plan to throw Trump out of the Presidency. The whole thing stinks to high heaven. “James Comey memo re the president’s possible obstruction of justice” But Comey testified to the Senate, under oath, that Trump had not pressured him to stop any investigation. Lying then? “a highly classified intelligence secret Trump … divulged to the Russian Foreign Minister ” Where is the evidence… Read more »