The Slatest

Report: U.S. Intel Officials Told Israel to “Be Careful” About Sharing Information With Trump

Donald Trump addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington, D.C., on March 21.

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

According to a report in the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot, U.S. intelligence officials have warned their Israeli counterparts about sharing information with Donald Trump’s administration, suggesting it could end up in Russian hands. Reporter Ronen Bergman writes that in a recent meeting, according to his sources, the Americans “voiced despair” over Trump’s election and said they believed that Russian President Vladimir Putin had “leverages of power” over Trump. This would be particularly worrying for the Israelis, given Russia’s ties with the governments of Syria and Iran. Berman writes:

Advertisement

The Americans implied that their Israeli colleagues should “be careful” as of January 20, Trump’s inauguration date, when transferring intelligence information to the White House and to the National Security Council (NSC), which is subject to the president. According to the Israelis who were present in the meeting, the Americans recommended that until it is made clear that Trump is not inappropriately connected to Russia and is not being extorted – Israel should avoid revealing sensitive sources to administration officials for fear the information would reach the Iranians.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Bergman is a prominent investigative journalist, but the sourcing on his story is vague and, as with nearly all the reporting so far about Trump’s Russia ties, skepticism is warranted.

If true, this would be extraordinary. There’s a long-standing close relationship between U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies that has only gotten deeper in recent years. Documents released by Edward Snowden detailed a “far-reaching technical and analytic relationship” between multiple intelligence agencies in the two countries aimed at targets in the Middle East. Controversially, this reportedly included the National Security Agency providing its Israeli counterpart with raw intelligence data without first removing information about U.S. citizens. The two countries also reportedly cooperated on the deployment of the Stuxnet cyberattack against Iranian nuclear facilities. (An underdiscussed looming dilemma for Trump’s foreign policy, as suggested by this story, is that his desire for a close working relationship with Russia is at odds with the hard line he and his advisers have taken on Iran.)

Advertisement
Advertisement

There’s been mutual suspicion as well. Another document released by Snowden identified Israel as a major counterintelligence target alongside China, Russia, Iran, and Cuba. During the 1980s, Israel received classified U.S. intelligence from analyst Jonathan Pollard, which may have ended up in Soviet hands.

Advertisement

But now, it seems that rather than spying on each other, the two spy communities could band together in the face of an unprecedented challenge in the form of the new U.S. president. If Bergman’s sources are right, it’s hard to believe that the Israelis would be the only ones getting a warning like this. The U.S. maintains close intelligence-sharing relationships with a number of other governments, the “five eyes” network of English-speaking countries for instance. Reporting by Newsweek during the election suggested that NATO allies were deeply alarmed by Trump’s blasé response to reports of Russia’s election hacking. If confirmed, Bergman’s report suggests that at least some members of the U.S. intelligence committee trust their foreign counterparts more than they trust the incoming U.S. president and his team.

Advertisement