Israel says it has changed its intelligence-sharing protocols with the United States after President Donald Trump disclosed classified information to Russian diplomats earlier this month that had come from Israel, even though Tel Aviv had not assented to his handing it to another country.
Israeli defense chief Avigdor Liberman told Army Radio on Wednesday, “I can confirm that we did a spot repair and that there’s unprecedented intelligence cooperation with the United States."
He added, "What we had to clarify with our friends in the United States, we did. We did our checks.”
Liberman declined to say what changes had been made. "Not everything needs to be discussed in the media; some things need to be talked about in closed rooms," he said.
Trump's disclosure came two weeks ago as he met at the White House with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Moscow's ambassador to Washington, Sergey Kislyak. The U.S. leader, according to accounts of the meeting in U.S. media, boasted that he had "great intel," revealing classified information about an Islamic State threat involving bombs implanted inside laptop computers carried on airplanes.
After U.S. news reports that Trump shared the information, he wrote on his Twitter account, "As President I wanted to share with Russia [at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting] which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism."
The issue came up again on his just completed visit to Israel, at one of Trump's several public appearances alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
When Netanyahu was asked about his confidence in Israel sharing intelligence with the United States, Trump quieted a crowd of reporters shouting questions at the two leaders and said, "Just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name ‘Israel’ during that conversation. They were all saying I did, so you had another story wrong.”
“Intelligence cooperation is terrific,” Netanyahu said after Trump spoke. “It’s never been better.”
The original reports said only that Trump had disclosed enough highly classified information that Russian security agents could likely have figured out that the source of the report was Israel. Within days, Washington officials acknowledged the source was indeed Israel.
Last week, Foreign Policy magazine said Israeli officials were “shouting at their American counterparts” over the leak, while ABC News reported the information had come from an Israeli agent embedded with Islamic State fighters and Trump's leak had put the agent's life in peril.
As news of the intelligence leak surfaced in Washington, U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Trump’s conversations were “wholly appropriate. The president wasn’t even aware of where this information came from. He wasn’t even briefed on the sources or method of this information, either.”