As a former intelligence officer, it pains me greatly to see the utter chaos and wild speculations coming from the leaders of the intelligence community regarding Russia and its alleged interactions with Trump.
As you likely have already seen, CNN reported senior intelligence officials have informed Trump, Obama and Congress of “unverified reports” saying Russia has gathered compromising personal and financial material on him. The synopsis of this information was attached to a report on Russian interference with the election. Speculation by the intelligence officials is that the Russians had damaging information on both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, but only released the information on Hillary Clinton.
Apparently the two-page synopsis was constructed from this document published by Buzzfeed, from which all have originated.
It is a professionally done series of reports, with the mysteriousness of having been photocopied and having certain items blacked out and others highlighted. We have a mixture of “insider” information with the damaging stuff, with a smattering of things you might know if you read the news in depth. Enough to make you go “hmmmmmm…”
But these are fake.
I’m calling fake on these for a very simple reason. No professional intelligence analyst would EVER reveal enough information in a report to compromise a source. If you compromise a source, you lose that source. An analyst would much prefer to provide a bland report, than to have the slightest risk to a source.
In World War II, the British broke the German ENIGMA codes in a most secret program know as “ULTRA.” When they broke their first codes they discovered a convoy of Allied supply ships was about to be destroyed by the Germans. The British actually allowed the convoy to be bombed, killing hundreds, rather than risk the chance that the Germans would realize we had broken their codes. And, yes, they were correct in doing so. The subsequent information from the ULTRA program helped win the war. That is how important it is to protect your source.
And, oh, by the way, where it is a human source, a CIA case officer likely spent from 6 months to several years cultivating that source, who by that time has become a close friend (that’s how agent recruiting works oftentimes). Any analyst who got a source killed by publishing too much would have to answer to that case officer. And believe me, they can be mean when you kill their friends!
So do you think any genuine analyst would expose a source like this, especially the high level ones presumed here?
It. Just. Does. Not. Happen.
But if you have a fake document with fake sources, you don’t have to worry about that. But you do have to be convincing. And people are convinced by other people. To do that you have to give your sources some character.
In the very first document, citing a “former top Russian intelligence officer” who is “still active” in Russian intelligence with access to the information provided, is enough information to get your source executed. They have just narrowed the list to just a few people. This is an easy lift for the paranoid internal security folks at the FSB, a mere week’s worth of interrogation.
Let’s talk about “Source E” an ethnic Russian close associate to Donald Trump. First of all, this source, again, is compromised by his description. How many ethnic Russians are close associates to Donald Trump? If he is not close enough to be identifiable, then he is lying. (FBI, would you please pick him up?)
Second, Source E seems to have an exceptionally wide breadth of information if he is also privy to the Russian strategy with Wikileaks. Why would he know this? In a professional intelligence service, you would never give high level strategy information to an agent – they don’t have a “need to know.” It would put him in even greater danger. Unless of course, this guy doesn’t exist.
Next, “source close to Igor Sechin” who had access to a secret meeting? How many of those could there be, with direct knowledge of so private a meeting? If he were real, he would be dead now, compromised by this report. But no worries, he probably doesn’t exist. Did Trump lawyer Carter Page go to meet with this guy? I don’t know, but there are a hundred reasons for Carter Page, an oil industry consultant, to meet with the guy who controls most of the oil in Russia. In a fake report, all you have to do is say “see, he did travel there” and point to his airline tickets, which becomes “proof” that all of what they say is true.
Many other examples are contained in these documents, but these are enough to call “BS.”
These are high quality fakes, no doubt, but there is nothing magic about it. Professionals in this business know how to balance truth with fiction and add gravitas to documents.
Do our politically appointed intelligence officials know these things? Of course they do, but they are part of the Obama administration, so their objectivity has flown out the window.
Once Trump takes office, these political appointees will disappear, but he may have to clean out another layer in order to regain the confidence that has been shattered by the politicization of intelligence. Whichever analysts have supported these attacks are politically tainted and they have to go.