The disclosure of information to Russians by the president, though not specifically about the Russian spy, prompted intelligence officials to resume earlier discussions about the potential risk of exposure, according to a source directly involved in the matter.
At that time, then CIA Director Mike Pompeo told other top Trump administration officials that there was too much information about a hidden source known as an asset. The extraction or "exfiltration" of such an operation, mentioned by intelligence officials, is an exceptional remedy when US intelligence believes an asset is in imminent danger.
An American official stated that prior to the covert operation, there was media speculation about the presence of such a hidden source and such cover or public speculation posed a safety risk to anyone who suspected that he suspected the government. This official did not identify public reporting in that sense at the time of this decision, and CNN could not find a related reference in media reports.
Asked for comment, Brittany Bramel, CIA Director of Public Affairs, told CNN: "CNN's story that the Central Intelligence Agency is making a life or death decision based on anything other than objective analysis and sound collection, is simply false.Mistak speculation that the president is handling our country's most sensitive intelligence ̵
Spokesman for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declined to comment.White House Stephanie Grisham stated that "CNN reporting is not only incorrect but has the potential to put life at risk."
Widespread concerns about Trump in the intelligence community
The removal happened in time of great concern in the intelligence community about the mismanagement of intelligence by Trump and his administration, these concerns were described to CNN by five sources who have served in the Trump administration, intelligence agencies and Congress.
These concerns continued to grow in the aftermath of Trump's Oval Office meeting with Kislyak and Lavrov. Weeks after the decision to extract the spy, in July 2017, Trump met privately with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Hamburg and took the unusual step of confiscating the translator's remarks. Subsequently, intelligence officials reiterated concern that the president may have discussed misclassified intelligence with Russia, according to an intelligence source who knows the intelligence community's response to the Trump-Putin meeting.
Knowledge of the existence of a Russian hidden source is severely limited in the US government and intelligence agencies. According to one source, there was no "equal alternative" inside the Russian government providing both information and information about Putin.
CNN withheld several details about the spy to reduce the risk of facial identification.
"The impact would be enormous because it is so difficult to develop such sources in any disavowed area, especially in Russia, because surveillance and security are so rigorous," a former senior intelligence official told CNN. "You can't acquire that ability overnight."
Months of growing fear
The decision to withdraw the asset from Russia was the culmination of months of fear accumulation in the intelligence community
At the end of the Obama administration, US intelligence officials had already voiced their concerns on the safety of this spy and other Russian assets, given the length of their cooperation with the US, according to a former senior intelligence officer.
In the first months of his administration, Trump's work with classified intelligence additionally affected intelligence officers. In the end, they decide to launch a difficult operation to remove an asset that has been working for the United States for years.
The President was informed in advance of the removal, along with a small number of senior officials. Details of the extraction itself remain secret and the location of the asset is unknown to CNN today. Marshal Cohen of CNN contributed to this report.