Jordan, not Israel, was likely the original source of secret intelligence information given by US President Donald Trump to the Russians, the Qatar-based al-Jazeera news network reported Thursday, citing current and former Jordanian intelligence officials.
Speculation has swirled as to which country provided information that, according to a bombshell Washington Post story Monday, Trump disclosed to Russians officials in the White House last week. Trump later confirmed and defended the passing over of sensitive details about potential terror threats.
The country supplying the intelligence to the US was identified in the Post story only as “an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State.” But The New York Times reported Tuesday that Israel was that country, prompting reports in local media that Israeli officials were reassessing intelligence sharing cooperation with the US.
ABC news even reported that, as a result of the information leaked by Trump, an Israeli spy’s life was believed to be at risk. The spy was said to have tipped handlers off about an Islamic State plan to blow up a passenger plane headed for the US by hiding a bomb in a laptop, ABC said, quoting current and former US officials.
However, the Jordanian sources assessed to al-Jazeera that Israel is unlikely to have been able to position a key spy in IS, the jihadist terror group.
The sources said the intelligence that Trump shared with the Russians came mainly from Jordanian spies. Jordan, they said, has developed human intelligence resources with agents on the ground, including some who have infiltrated militia groups — among them IS — inside Syria and Iraq.
“When it comes to ISIL, unlike Jordan, Israel relies on its electronic surveillance collection and its intelligence sharing-arrangement with its Arab partners,” said one source, using another acronym for IS and who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The report noted that several thousand Jordanians have joined IS since it formed a few years ago, among them former military officers. Many reached high-ranking positions within the terror group.
Meanwhile, US media continued to name Israel as the origin of the intelligence, with the Wall Street Journal reporting late Wednesday that multiple US officials had confirmed that the source of the information was Israeli and considered “the most valuable source of information on external plotting by Islamic State.”
The officials, who were said to be familiar with the gathering of intelligence on IS, stressed that the spy — or possibly spies — were particularly valuable for providing information on the terror group’s efforts to attack commercial airplanes.
US intelligence officials claimed that although Israel has publicly said that cooperation with Washington remains untarnished, privately, Israeli officials are “fuming,” having “worried for months that Mr. Trump would expose state secrets, even unwittingly, because of his lack of experience in handling classified information and his propensity to shoot from the hip.”
Some disagreement remain over how much of an impact Trump’s revelation will have on counter-terror efforts, the report said. While some doubt the Russians can pin down the source of the information in Syria, one official said it may have been compromised. Another official was quoted as saying it could take a while until the extent of any damage becomes clear.
However, “all the officials agreed that the president’s impromptu revelation had shaken career intelligence officers’ confidence in Mr. Trump’s ability to keep secrets and exacerbated long-standing tensions between him and the intelligence community,” the report said.
An Israeli TV news report Wednesday night said the highly classified intelligence concerning IS activities came directly from the terror group’s self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa in Syria, and was sourced to the Israel Defense Force’s Military Intelligence.
On Tuesday morning Trump spoke by phone with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, the White House said at the time. In Israel, the Prime Minister’s Office later confirmed that the president also spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but said the conversation focused only on arrangements for Trump’s visit to Israel next week.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.