Among other things, they discourage foreign leaders from speaking with the president.
The word “leaks” does not begin to describe President Donald J. Trump’s problem. “Geysers” is more like it. He should apply a giant wrench to this deluge.
The latest apparent leak involved two pages of Trump’s 2005 tax return. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow hyperventilated Tuesday night over this “absolutely historically unprecedented” news. She looked absolutely historically foolish when these records confirmed that Trump earned some $150 million that year and paid $38.4 million in federal taxes. His 25.3 percent effective rate trumped the 22.5 percent average for his income level, the 18.7 percent that Obama paid in 2015, and the 13.5 percent that Senator Bernie Sanders (Socialist, Vt.) chipped in for 2014. So, Trump actually is rich and pays more of his “fair share” than do these two leftists who have denounced people like Trump as “the top 1 percent.”
While this presumed leak benefited Trump, it still reeks of stolen goods. If, in fact, an IRS staffer or another federal employee swiped Trump’s return, he perpetrated a felony under 26 U.S. Code § 7213. Punishment could include a $5,000 fine, five years in the slammer, or both.
President Trump should instruct the Justice Department to investigate how this document surfaced. Anyone at the IRS or elsewhere in the swamp who released it should be handcuffed, tried, and, if convicted, catapulted into a federal penitentiary.
Even more worrisome are the leaks that have scattered state secrets to the winds. Since Trump’s inauguration, the entire planet has read details about his phone calls with the leaders of Mexico and Australia, the communications of former National Security Council chief Mike Flynn with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, the CIA’s possible reopening of overseas interrogation sites, its eerily high-tech surveillance methods, and much more.
Trump haters in the bureaucracy may think they are harming him. In fact, they are wounding America.
Why would foreign leaders want to call Trump, knowing that their confidential words might get splashed across the world’s front pages within days? Why should Great Britain’s MI6, Israel’s Mossad, or Japan’s PSIA share intelligence with Washington? Why not skip the middleman and simply hold a press conference on such matters?
Never mind heads of state. Why should pro-American chauffeurs, secretaries, or soldiers abroad approach or cooperate with U.S. intelligence agents, given the risk that their identities might be exposed?
This badly damages our national security. Who knows how many erstwhile foreign informants have sealed their lips because we can’t seal ours?
Just eight days before he left office, Obama amended Executive Order 12333. Essentially, this gave the National Security Agency much broader leeway to share raw data and communications intercepts with 16 other U.S. intelligence agencies.
“Analysts will then be able to sift through the contents of those feeds as they see fit, before implementing required privacy protections,” Kaveh Waddell explained in The Atlantic. “Previously, the NSA applied those privacy protections itself, before forwarding select pieces of information to agencies that might need to see them.”
These new rules move often-warrantless intelligence, sometimes bearing the names of American citizens, from one possibly leaky reservoir to as many as 16 others. No wonder Washington resembles a kitchen full of sieves.
I asked former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy, the counterterrorism expert who jailed the late, not-so-great “Blind Sheik,” for his thoughts on this burgeoning mess. He offered the president this advice: “If I were Trump, I would suspend Obama’s amendment for three months and order the director of national intelligence – in conjunction with the attorney general, and the directors of FBI, CIA, NSA, and DIA – to provide the president with a report on the pros and cons of watering down the NSA’s gatekeeper role, and a recommendation about whether he should reinstate Obama’s amendment or return to the status quo ante.”
This seems like a good start.
Trump, his agenda, the confidentiality of Americans’ tax records, and U.S. national security all are being soaked, thanks to these firehose-like leaks. So far, his response has been far too gentle.
Please, Mr. President. No more Mr. Nice Guy!
A version of this piece also appeared on National Review Online.