Report: Obama White House manipulated flow of intelligence in its final days

by WorldTribune Staff, March 2, 2017

The Obama administration worked to limit the number of incoming Trump administration officials who could view highly classified information while also leaking intelligence on alleged ties between Russia and President Donald Trump’s team, a report said.

The Obama White House also lowered classification ratings on some information about the ongoing Russia investigation so that it could be more widely shared across the government, The New York Times reported on March 1.

President Barack Obama greets President-elect Donald Trump at inauguration ceremonies swearing in Trump as the 45th president of the United States on Jan. 20. /Reuters

Sources told the Times that Obama administration officials engaged in the intelligence manipulation campaign “out of fear that the Trump administration would cover up or destroy some of the information.”

The Obama administration’s intelligence-sharing effort involved the White House, intelligence agencies and State Department, the report said, adding that the campaign was not personally directed by former President Barack Obama.

In new details revealed in the report, the Times’ sources said that in late summer, American intelligence officials began picking up discussions in which Russian officials mentioned contacts with Trump associates. European intelligence services also began providing information “about people close to Mr. Trump meeting with Russians in the Netherlands, Britain and other countries.”

The Times noted that the intercepted communications provided little useful information.

The Times also did not report the names of the Trump advisers and Russians who were allegedly involved in the discussions. It is unclear whether the Times’ sources provided the names, and if so, why they withheld the information.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer, in a statement to the Times, said “the only new piece of information that has come to light is that political appointees in the Obama administration have sought to create a false narrative to make an excuse for their own defeat in the election. There continues to be no there, there.”

According to the Times report, Obama administration officials asked specific questions in intelligence briefings because they knew the questions and answers would be documented and saved for future review.

Intelligence agencies also increased efforts to convert raw intelligence on Trump advisers into information that could be used by analysts. The intelligence was also classified at relatively low levels “to ensure as wide a readership as possible across the government,” according to the Times.

The State Department, then led by Secretary of State John Kerry, also took part in the intelligence-sharing campaign. Just before the Nov. 4 election, the agency sent documents classified as “Secret” to Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee.

The Obama officials also moved to cap the number of incoming Trump officials who could view extremely sensitive information, “including the names of sources and the identities of foreigners who were regularly monitored.”

The report of the intelligence manipulation campaign appears to support the position of the Trump Administration that the Obama White House sought to undermine the incoming president by leaking classified information.

“I think that President Obama is behind it because his people are certainly behind it. And some of the leaks possibly come from that group, which are really serious because they are very bad in terms of national security. But I also understand that is politics. In terms of him being behind things, that’s politics. And it will probably continue,” Trump told Fox & Friends in an interview this week.

Trump has alleged that Obama appointees still working in the government have leaked information about some of his phone calls with foreign leaders and about Michael Flynn, the former Trump national security adviser who resigned last month because of phone calls he had with Russia’s ambassador in December.

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