Friday, July 29, 2016

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will be given top secret intelligence briefings next week.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Reuters. 

Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will be given top secret intelligence briefings next week. Reuters. Vice presidential candidates, Senator Tim Kaine and Governor Mike Pence will also be briefed. Candidates typically get one briefing, which can be broken up into smaller parts. Aides and advisers will not be allowed to attend these meetings unless they have top secret authorization. Both candidates may have aides that will be barred from the briefing. Anyone involved with Hillary Clinton's e-mail scandal could be barred and some of Trump's aides could be barred due to connections to Eastern Europe. The briefings are said to be general and will not reveal any ongoing operations or overseas agents. 

My Comment:
I thought I would post about this because people, on both sides of the political spectrum, are saying that these candidates are not qualified to handle secrets. There is an argument to be made for both candidates, and I will get into that later, but first I want to reassure people. On the short term, this shouldn't be much of a security issue for either of the candidates. 

The article said that none of the information would be operational or have the potential to expose agents deployed overseas. That information is critical and can not be allowed to get out and right now neither candidate will be given that information. So even if one or both candidates inexplicably blab about what they learn in these briefings, critical information can't leak out. These briefings will be top secret but I doubt they will contain the kind of information that could get people killed if it leaks. It's going to be basic stuff, but just at a slightly higher level of secrecy. 

I would also hope that both candidates understand that you don't release secrets. Even if Hillary Clinton thinks she is above the law, she can't possibly be so stupid as to risk another scandal like the ones currently rocking her campaign and party. And if Trump doesn't understand the same thing, I am sure whoever is giving these briefings will explain it to him and he will keep it under wraps. In short I have confidence that both candidates won't abuse this information or be reckless with it, to avoid scandals at the very least. 

These briefings are going to be very general as well. I expect things like how ISIS is doing in Syria, what North Korea is up too, and what is going on with Russia right now. They are most likely not going to get into the nitty gritty anytime soon. This is just to get the candidates up to speed. Remember, Clinton hasn't been in the government for a few years and Trump has never served in public office before. Both of them probably need a refresher course on world politics. 

All that being said, is there reason to be concerned, long term, with these candidates? I would say that Hillary Clinton has demonstrated, at the very least, bad judgement with her e-mail server. She had many classified e-mails on her server and those servers had been compromised. I don't know if she has actually learned her lesson. On the short term I expect her to play it clean since she knows that another intelligence scandal would sink her. She also knows that Democrats are being targeted by someone right now, and that she is especially at risk for being exposed if she doesn't play it clean.

But what happens after she is elected? I don't think she really learned anything from her e-mail scandal. She knew it was wrong but she did it anyways. I don't know if she did it for convenience or to hide something but I doubt that if she is the president she will follow the law. Indeed, I fully expect her to keep doing what she was doing, regardless of the risk. The only thing I can say in her defense is that when she was First Lady she didn't leak anything that I am aware of and the same was true when she was a Senator. 

As for Trump, much has been made of his obvious joke about the Russians providing the 30,000 e-mails deleted from Hillary Clinton's server. Though nobody is reporting it this way, it was clear to me he meant something to the effect "if you have them give them to us", not "please attack us". To argue otherwise is stupid but that hasn't stopped anyone before. People need to score their political points after all. And to be fair, it may have been planned by Trump because he pretty much stole Clinton's thunder at the convention because of the press conference where he said it. 

But there could be other reasons why Trump could be a security threat. I don't think he is anywhere near the threat that Clinton is, but he is very inexperienced. You would expect that a major businessman like Trump would understand that keeping secrets is important, which is why I am not all that worried. Still, keeping secrets is hard, and he might not have picked up on how important it is when you are the President of the United States. He may have some things to learn yet, but overall I trust him more then I trust Clinton.

No matter what though, these briefings are pretty standard, and I have to say that the idea that they represent some kind of security risk is rather dumb. It's pretty obvious that people on both sides are only hitting on this issue to hurt their political enemies. How both candidates will treat classified information is obviously very important, but I doubt that we will learn anything about that because of these briefings. I know I am biased against Clinton and for Trump, but even I admit that Clinton can handle one Top Secret briefing without it turning into a huge leak, and I would hope that deep down Trump critics would say the same thing. It should be a non-issue but in this election, nothing is. 

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