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Even Presidents Should Have Limits

Even Presidents Should Have Limits
Illustration by Allie Sullberg | Staff Illustrator

Arturo Samaniego
National Beat Reporter

How much classified information should a president be allowed to disclose with foreign nations? This has become a legitimate question after President Trump revealed classified intelligence pertaining to Israel to Russian officials. Trump also disclosed the locations of two nuclear submarines with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.

On Twitter, Trump defended himself by stating that he had an “absolute right” to share the information with Russian officials since it aided in the fight against terrorism, according to The New York Times. In concern to his disclosure of the nuclear submarines, Trump mentioned the submarines to affirm their presence near North Korea. North Korea has recently advanced its own nuclear arsenal.

Though the president has the final say in what information is disclosed with foreign nations, Trump and other officials should show caution and discretion when it comes to discussing highly sensitive information. This helps to ensure that relationships with allies are maintained and that our national security is not endangered.

Some may argue that the administration should be given some leeway since “it was not clear whether the president or other Americans in the meeting were aware of the sensitivity of what was shared.” It was only after the meeting that the information was “flagged as too sensitive to be shared.”

It may seem tempting to give the president a pass as he may have been ignorant of the exact nature of the information that he shared. Yet, such a revelation raises other concerns. If the president was unaware of the intelligence’s sensitivity, it would have been best if he had never revealed it. It is reckless to carelessly share information that relates to foreign allies. When dealing with classified intelligence, officials should be more cautious.

Representative Adam B. Schiff reveals another great reason why presidents should display great caution when disclosing intelligence. As quoted by The New York Times, a country that usually shares information with the U.S. “could decide it can’t trust the United States with information” after hearing the news.   

If long term allies grow reluctant about sharing vital information with the U.S. out of fear that the president will disclose that information, this can greatly hinder our ability to detect and fight terrorist threats.

The New York Times adds, “Israel is one of the United States’ most important allies and runs one of the most active espionage networks in the Middle East.” Without key allies, the U.S. may lose valuable insight on the operations of ISIS which may put our national security at risk. Once again, this emphasizes why caution should be taken when one deals with classified intelligence. Reckless disclosure has the potential to alienate and drive away important allies.

One important note is that “Trump has broad authority to declassify government secrets” reports The Washington Post. Though Trump is free to disclose information as he wishes, he should keep the consequences in mind. Sharing classified intelligence from allies “undercuts trust considered essential to sharing secrets.”

Relating back to Trump’s disclosures on the nuclear submarines in North Korea, it is important to note that “the Defense Department historically does not reveal the locations of its submarines, since keeping the vessels’ movements secret is key to their missions,” says The Hill. Through his reckless action, Trump has undermined our national security by sharing information that relates to one of our defense’s essential tools.

When it comes to the disclosure of classified information, presidents need to show great caution. Discretion will ensure that officials do not upset essential allies or threaten our national security.

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Arturo began as a staff writer for TBL back in the Fall of 2016 of his Freshmen year. Over the four years, he has been part of TBL he has served as a national beat reporter, news editor, and managing editor for the 2019-2020 school year. Despite the countless hours he spent working to ensure that the paper put out quality content every week, Arturo will deeply miss being part of TBL and all the wonderful and amazing people he met along the way.


  1. So where have you been the last eight years ‘Turo?

    When Osama bin Laden was killed, President Obama was not content to explain that fact to the American people. His administration gratuitously disclosed that the raid on the al-Qaeda emir’s compound in Pakistan produced a “trove” of actionable intelligence. From a national-security standpoint, this political grandstanding was a foolish: It gave al-Qaeda operatives a heads-up that their cells and activities had likely been exposed, providing them the opportunity to disappear before our forces could roll them up.

    Where were you when Obama was covertly sending $1.7 billion in cash to the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism (aka Iran)?

    I could go on, but maybe some readers will get the point. The people who were there when the President decided to do what he did, aren’t on record as to what specifically was said, so you’re happy to criticize based on hearsay. Double standard much?

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