After the unprecedented private meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in the Helsinki Summit, American politicians and intelligence agencies have been looking for ways to find out what was discussed.
John Meyer with Politico explains, “American spies still have extraordinary capabilities to piece together what was discussed.”
That’s in large part due to the existence of a top-secret U.S. collection service that specializes in tapping adversaries’ communications on the fly, including those of Putin’s entourage at last week’s summit in Helsinki.
Privately, sources familiar with U.S. intelligence capabilities expressed confidence that the so-called Special Collection Service scooped up not only Putin’s readout of the two-hour meeting, but what the Kremlin’s top spymasters really think about it — and how they’re spinning it to their foreign counterparts.
With that said, the National Security Agency and CIA are not at the strategic disadvantage that U.S. intelligence officials tend to acknowledged publicly, which is likely by design. Downplaying U.S. intelligence capabilities is to be expected.
David Priess, a former CIA officer and daily White House intelligence briefer says: “Most of the questions about what happened in Helsinki — and about the risks the president created there — are skipping over a more fundamental concern: How can intel officers effectively support policy, at any level, when only the president knows what the policy is?”
Priess continues, “If, one-on-one with Putin, the president made or changed policy, and he refuses to tell anyone exactly what happened, how can the national security bureaucracy prepare the memos and talking points for future meetings to be held about those very policies?”
Dan Coats, Trump’s director of national intelligence, said in a public statement last week that he does not have full visibility into what was discussed, and that there’s a “risk” Putin had secretly recorded the meeting. However, remember, U.S. intelligence capabilities are much stronger than officials state publicly.
Trump’s team has refused to say whether or not he has briefed his top security aides on the meeting.
The meeting, which took place on July 16, has sent shockwaves through American politics, as Trump left the meeting siding with Putin over American intelligence agencies on the issue of Russian interference in the U.S. election of 2016, which very factually and provably happened.