Trump’s in­tel re­veal: New ISIS bomb

Of­fi­cial says pres­i­dent di­vulged ad­vances on ex­plo­sives in lap­tops

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Tom Van­den Brook

The in­tel­li­gence find­ing that Pres­i­dent Trump di­vulged to Rus­sian of­fi­cials in a meet­ing last week at the White House in­volved an ad­vance in bomb­mak­ing de­vel­oped by the Is­lamic State that could be used against com­mer­cial air­craft, ac­cord­ing to a U. S. of­fi­cial.

Op­er­a­tives from the Is­lamic State, or ISIS, have de­ter­mined how to plant and mask an ex­plo­sive in­side the bat­tery of a lap­top com­puter, in­creas­ing the like­li­hood that a bomb could be slipped past screen­ers onto an air­plane.

The bat­tery with the ex­plo­sive charge func­tions enough to al­low air­port se­cu­rity of­fi­cials to power up the lap­top, a stan­dard test to de­ter­mine whether the ma­chine is safe, said the of­fi­cial, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause of­fi­cials are not au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly about in­tel­li­gence mat­ters.

The re­lease of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion was de­scribed in a memo to gov­ern­ment agen­cies af­ter the meet­ing be­tween Trump, Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov and Am­bas­sador Sergey Kislyak and was first re­ported by The Wash­ing­ton Post.

Such no­tices are stan­dard op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dure af­ter clas­si­fied ma­te­rial has been di­vulged, an event that is re­ferred to as “spillage,” the of­fi­cial said.

ISIS de­ter­mined how to plant and mask an ex­plo­sive in­side the bat­tery of a lap­top com­puter, in­creas­ing the like­li­hood that a bomb could be slipped past screen­ers onto an air­plane.

Trump’s dis­clo­sure of the city where the plot was hatched was “code- word” in­for­ma­tion, a su­per- se­cret clas­si­fi­ca­tion, the of­fi­cial said.

The of­fi­cial — and the White House — played down the value of the in­for­ma­tion Trump re­leased.

It was known to many in the gov­ern­ment, and given ISIS’ shrink­ing foot­print, there are only a few cities where the in­for­ma­tion could have come from, the of­fi­cial said.

The New York Times re­ported that Is­rael was the for­eign part­ner that passed along the in­tel­li­gence.

Trump and na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser H. R. McMaster de­fended the dis­clo­sure of in­for­ma­tion to the Rus­sians. Trump, in a tweet, pro­nounced “an ab­so­lute right” to in­form­ing the Rus­sians of the threat. McMaster said the dis­clo­sure was “wholly ap­pro­pri­ate” and added that Trump wasn’t aware of its source.

A se­nior con­gres­sional staffer con­firmed that the in­for­ma­tion di­vulged by Trump in­volved lap­top com­put­ers and bat­ter­ies. This of­fi­cial said the dis­clo­sure harmed U. S. in­tel­li­gence col­lec­tion ef­forts and that Trump may have tipped the Rus­sians off to other sen­si­tive sources and meth­ods for col­lect­ing in­for­ma­tion. The staff mem­ber spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity, be­cause staffers are not au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly on in­tel­li­gence mat­ters.

In Brus­sels on Wed­nes­day, U. S. Home­land Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials and their Euro­pean coun­ter­parts ex­changed se­cu­rity in­for­ma­tion as U. S. of­fi­cials pressed their plan to ban lap­tops and tablets from the cab­ins of trans- At­lantic flights.

The Amer­i­can plan would ex­pand a ban es­tab­lished in March for in- flight lap­tops and other large elec­tron­ics for U. S.- bound flights from 10 air­ports in eight coun­tries in the Mid­dle East and Africa. The ex­pan­sion in­volves routes car­ry­ing up to 65 mil­lion peo­ple a year on more than 400 daily flights, ac­cord­ing to Home­land Se­cu­rity.

The con­cern, of­fi­cials said, was that ex­plo­sives could be smug­gled aboard in those con­sumer elec­tronic de­vices.

The In­ter­na­tional Air Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion, which rep­re­sents more than 250 air­lines in more than 100 coun­tries, es­ti­mated that the ban would cost more than $ 1 bil­lion a year in lost time to pas­sen­gers.

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