Trump's Classified Intelligence Leak to Russia 'Highly Damaging,' Says Ex-CIA Deputy Director

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U.S. President Donald Trump is under fire from security experts and the American intelligence community for leaking classified information to Russian officials. Yuri Gripas/Reuters

President Donald Trump's decision to reveal classified information to Russian officials is "highly damaging," according to a former deputy director of the CIA, who said there's also a positive side to the leak.

Early Tuesday President Trump confirmed that he shared what American officials have described as "highly classified" information with Russia that was collected by a U.S. ally.

Trump tweeted that he wanted to share "facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety" with Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov during a visit to the Oval Office May 10. Trump said he did it for "humanitarian reasons" and to get "Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism." The White House had initially denied reports of the leak.

The revelations are damaging for more than one reason, former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell told CBS News' Scott Pelley late Monday.

"First, the Russians will undoubtedly try to figure out the source or the method of this information to make sure that it is not also collecting on their activities in Syria," said Morell, who served as the CIA's deputy director from 2010 to 2013.

In attempting to find the origin of the intelligence, he said, Russia "could well disrupt the source."

Read more: Trump says he leaked ISIS intel to Russia for 'humanitarian' reasons

The second damaging consequence, Morell said, "is that third countries who provide the United States with intelligence information will now have pause to do so if the United States is sharing such information with the Russians without their permission."

Several intelligence officials have echoed his concerns, but there is a brighter side to all of this, he said: "The good news is that the president was receiving his intelligence briefings regularly."

After winning the election in 2016 Trump said he is "a smart person" and didn't need a daily briefing. Yet the president "clearly absorbed this information" from regular briefings "and that was good news for the intelligence community," Morell said.

Morell understands the importance of briefings since he was the man to give President George W. Bush intelligence briefings after 9/11 and was a close adviser to President Barack Obama during the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

"But now there's a question raised" in the minds of American intelligence agencies again, he said, "about whether [Trump] can appropriately handle that information."