Last week, the Washington Post got its hands on nearly complete transcripts of telephone conversations that President Trump had with several foreign leaders, including Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.
It is rare for full transcripts of such sensitive information to be leaked to the media, as this intelligence is highly restricted. It is only available to top White House officials. Former national security advisors say the leaks could have lasting damage on American diplomacy.
The former advisors are correct. The Washington Post’s publication of these telephone calls sets a dangerous precedent, and now the White House is cracking down on the practice.
During the telephone calls, President Trump asked Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to stop publicly saying his government would not pay for a border wall. Another transcript shows just how tense the president’s infamous phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was when it took place back in January.
The calls should have never been published in the first place. The president needs to be able to honestly, openly and bluntly communicate with foreign leaders. Neither the president of the United States nor other foreign leaders want sensitive information leaked. These leaks affect not only the United States but also its allies.
During one of the calls, the prime minister of Australia told President Trump that he thinks that Germany made a mistake by letting in so many refugees. Now, he will have to explain that comment to the German chancellor, and potentially strain Australia’s relations with the country and perhaps the European Union as a whole.
Because of these leaks, foreign leaders may be hesitant to communicate openly and honestly to our president. This kind of hesitancy is not in our nation’s best interests. For a good working relationship, the president needs to be able to be candid with foreign leaders.
Now, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has vowed to track down classified leaks, and prosecute leakers to the full extent of the law. Sessions understands that no government can be efficient when the leaders cannot talk about sensitive information in confidence or talk openly with foreign leaders.
He says that it is vital that the nation get rid of the culture that promotes information to be leaked. The attorney general vows to “take a stand” against leaks, saying that four have already been charged.
FBI Director Christopher Wray will work with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to supervise all classified leak investigations. They will actively monitor the progress of the investigations and continue to investigate ongoing leaks.
A new counterintelligence unit was created to manage leaked information cases as they have exploded in number recently. Cases that involve unauthorized disclosures will be placed on a priority status. The department will not hesitate to bring appropriate and lawful charges against those people that abuse the nation’s trust by leaking sensitive information to media sources.
Sessions also criticized the Washington Post and other liberal media outlets for leaking this information, saying that it could risk lives. He added that he would order a review of the current subpoena policy regarding classified leaks.
The initiative comes not without media resistance. The chairman of the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press says that the American people have a right to know what their leaders are doing.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told Fox News that there should be bipartisan outrage about the leaks. Just last month, a Senate report warned that the Trump administration faced a staggering amount of media leaks, and that the information posed a national threat to the security of the United States. The report estimates that there has been approximately one leak per day since Trump took office.
It is believed that the leaks are coming from Obama-era intelligence workers. According to Fox News, federal prosecutors say that the leaks probably constitute a federal crime. Sessions says that the message for the intelligence community is “don’t do it” as the Justice Department will not hesitate in the least to bring lawful charges against those violating the public’s trust and committing criminal acts.
~ Liberty Planet