Some of the intelligence President Trump provided to Russian officials is so secret that American news organizations are still being asked not to report it, two U.S. officials told NBC News.
The requests by U.S. intelligence officials cast doubt on the assertion by the president’s aides that the sharing was appropriate.
Trump told the Russian foreign minister and the Russian ambassador in the Oval Office that the Islamic State had used stolen airport security equipment to test a bomb that could be hidden in electronic devices and slipped undetected into an airplane cabin, the officials said. And he named the city in ISIS-held Syria in which the intelligence was gathered, the officials added.
U.S. intelligence officials have asked NBC News and other media organizations not to report the type of equipment, where it was stolen, and the name of the city where the intelligence was gathered, because doing so could harm U.S. national security, they say. But Trump told the Russians those things, the U.S. officials said, as he described intelligence that led to the new rules banning electronic devices in the cabins of certain flights.
The sharing of classified information with other governments is not uncommon, but in this case Trump went beyond what Bossert believed had been authorized, two U.S. officials said.
The information came from Israel, multiple government officials told NBC News — another fact some news organizations had been asked not to disclose, U.S. officials said.
White House counterterrorism adviser Tom Bossert, who was not in the May 10 meeting, learned about what Trump said when he read notes immediately afterward, a U.S. official with direct knowledge told NBC News. He immediately called officials at the CIA and the National Security Agency to report a security breach, the official said.
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters Tuesday that what Trump shared was "wholly appropriate," and that Bossert acted "maybe from an overabundance of caution."
McMaster, a serving Army general who is not steeped in counterterrorism, did not immediately realize the impact of what Trump had said, the U.S. official recounted.
Many current and former intelligence officials said they were aghast at what they described as a reckless mistake by the president. But behind the scenes, U.S. intelligence officials were divided on the real world impact. Some said it could harm intelligence sharing, while others disagreed. Many pushed back on a news report that the life of an Israeli asset was in danger.
Four U.S. officials told NBC News they did not believe any lives were put at risk. Two said, however, that the Israeli operation, one of the West’s best windows into ISIS, was in jeopardy in the wake of the president’s disclosure.
McMaster told reporters that Trump had not been aware of the source of the information he conveyed to the Russians, a statement that raised questions about whether the president has been properly briefed on how he should treated classified intelligence.