The names of intelligence sources in the field are among the most highly protected information, not just in the US, but in any nation. This information is so widely recognized as critical, both to the lives of the individuals involved, and ability of the nation to collect good intelligence, that names of in-place agents is often the “McGuffin” of books and movies about international intrigue. Whether it’s James Bond, Mission: Impossible, the latest John le Carré novel—or real life—the names of intelligence sources are something that nations have been willing to sacrifice and struggle to protect.
But now, in what would seem one of the most ironic—and hypocritical—turns of the last year, the same Republicans who were once so concerned about “unmasking” that they attempted to turn routine requests into a scandal, are publicly determined to do something genuinely damaging to the nation and dangerous to the people involved—they want to unmask the identity of an intelligence source in the field.
The source in question is the person who apparently provided information to the FBI showing connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. And as the Washington Post demonstrates, Donald Trump wants him.
It’s not clear who this person is. Or whether it’s one person. Or whether they are in the United States, or Russia, or Ukraine, or Cyprus, or Seychelles, or one of the other nations where money and information on Trump’s campaign circulated before the election. But it’s certain that there is at least one person out there, and the FBI has made it plain that revealing that person wouldn’t just endanger the integrity of their investigation. It endangers the ability of the United States to conduct any intelligence operation, as well as the lives of those involved.
“The day that we can’t protect human sources is the day the American people start becoming less safe,” [FBI Director] Wray said. “Human sources in particular who put themselves at great risk to work with us and with our foreign partners have to be able to trust that we’re going to protect their identities and in many cases their lives and the lives of their families.”
But just as Donald Trump was willing to roast American credibility in breaking the Iran agreement, making it obvious no nation can now trust the United States to meet treaty obligations, he’s more than prepared to destroy America’s intelligence operations. In this movie, there’s no doubt about which side is the bad guys.