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Politics What to make of the intelligence failure over the Steele Dossier?

16:15  20 november  2021
16:15  20 november  2021 Source:   thehill.com

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On Jan. 11, 2017 (one day after its publication by BuzzFeed), I wrote that the Steele Dossier was bogus, a fake, and a scam. In this and subsequent articles, I explained how and why I reached this conclusion, even with the limited information available at the time. Four years later, we have definitive proof from an inspector general and a special counsel that the Steele Dossier was indeed a hoax, one that paralyzed American politics for an entire presidential term.

What to make of the intelligence failure over the Steele Dossier? © Greg Nash What to make of the intelligence failure over the Steele Dossier?

At the time, I expected the intelligence community to reach the same conclusion as I. All that would be required was for them to observe general rules of intelligence collection. I was wrong then. To my alarm, the FBI was taking the fake dossier seriously. We are still waiting for some kind of disavowal of the dossier from our masters of intelligence.

DOJ and FBI gave cover to Steele dossier source accused of lying

  DOJ and FBI gave cover to Steele dossier source accused of lying The Justice Department and the FBI continued defending their use of information from Christopher Steele’s main source, Igor Danchenko, even after interviews with the bureau during which special counsel John Durham says the Russian lied repeatedly. © Provided by Washington Examiner Danchenko, a U.S.-based and Russian-born researcher, was charged “with five counts of making false statements to the FBI” that Durham claims he made about the information he provided to Steele for the dossier. The Durham indictment stated Danchenko lied to the FBI five times in 2017. He pleaded not guilty on Wednesday.

We should not let the frenzy of the Steele Dossier by the media and anti-Trump politicians deflect attention from the intel community's behavior. Yes, media and politicians march to different drummers. The media sell clicks and newspapers. Media failures are to be expected, but rarely of this magnitude. Yes, politicians engage in dirty tricks that threaten to cross the line of legality, but it is hard to find another dirty trick of this magnitude. Those who dreamed up "Trump as a Russian agent" probably did not expect it to profoundly affect American political life as it did.

Professionals who gather intelligence are supposed to be truth seekers. Let the media and politicians roll in the gutter, but not us, they would say under normal conditions.

Byron York's Daily Memo: When Adam Schiff loved the dossier

  Byron York's Daily Memo: When Adam Schiff loved the dossier Welcome to Byron York's Daily Memo newsletter.WHEN ADAM SCHIFF LOVED THE DOSSIER. March 2017 was a heady time for Trump-Russia conspiracy theorists. The collapse of their enterprise lay two years in the future, when Robert Mueller, the special counsel in whom they placed their hopes of bringing down President Donald Trump, announced that after an intensive investigation he could not establish any conspiracy or coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election.

Yet, our intelligence community, primarily the FBI, allowed an intelligence dossier compiled by a private opposition firm using anonymous private contractors interviewing anonymous Russian sources making once-in-a-century charges against a presidential candidate and then president to shape the nation's most sensitive intelligence operations against a fictional plot cooked up by opposition politicians. That is a long sentence but it summarizes what happened.

I need only one excerpt from the Steele Dossier to illustrate why I reached the conclusion that it was a scam back in early 2017 - and why the intelligence community should have reached the same conclusion in short order.

Here is the excerpt from the first page of the report:

"Speaking to a trusted compatriot in June 2016 sources A and B, a senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure and a former top level Russian intelligence officer still active inside the Kremlin respectively, the Russian authorities had been cultivating and supporting US Republican presidential candidate, Donald TRUMP for at least 5 years. Source B asserted that the TRUMP operation was both supported and directed by Russian President Vladimir PUTIN."

Morgan Ortagus says Adam Schiff looked 'surprised' to face 'tough questions' on Steele dossier

  Morgan Ortagus says Adam Schiff looked 'surprised' to face 'tough questions' on Steele dossier Former State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus says Rep. Adam Schiff appeared surprised that she confronted him about his promotion of British ex-spy Christopher Steele's now-discredited dossier.She told Fox News host Sean Hannity on Friday that it was "important" to her to ask Schiff, who is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, "tough questions that quite frankly should have been asked before I had the opportunity to do so" on Tuesday's episode of The View on ABC.

Let's get this straight: The dossier claims that two high-level Kremlin officials let a Steele "sub source" in on one of Russia's deepest secrets - that then presidential candidate Trump was a Russian asset and had been one for five years! These two Kremlin sources had revealed the intelligence plot of the century, and no one was saying: "Wait a minute, this can't be real! We need to check this out with a fine tooth comb."

Indeed, the FBI did "check out" the dossier by constructing a spreadsheet of the dossier's few checkable facts, such as times, dates, and places. Their exercise failed to confirm any substantive points of the dossier. But the FBI did not perform the most basic checks by asking: "Who are these sources? If they are truly Kremlin insiders, why are they talking? What is the message being imparted and for whose benefit?"

A common refrain during this early period of RussiaGate was that the dossier's author, Christopher Steele, stood as the guarantor of its authenticity. After all, Steele was an ex-MI6 agent who served undercover in Moscow in the early 1990s and had occupied the Russia MI6 desk in London from 2003 to 2006. He had not visited Russia for 13 years. Since 2006 he owned a private intelligence firm, and it was, in this capacity, that he was hired by a D.C. opposition research firm to dig dirt on Trump.

After indictment of Steele source, question remains whether Durham will charge FBI agents or leaders

  After indictment of Steele source, question remains whether Durham will charge FBI agents or leaders As John Durham's investigation takes shape, the question of whether the special counsel will charge anyone else at the FBI looms large. © Provided by Washington Examiner Michael Sussmann, a Democratic cybersecurity lawyer, was indicted in September for allegedly concealing his work for the Clinton campaign when pushing claims of a connection between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russian bank Alfa Bank to the FBI's top lawyer. And Igor Danchenko, a U.S.

Steele was not hired to find the truth but to dig up opposition research of salacious, weird, and incredible rumors and gossip concerning Trump and his campaign. He was no "James Bond MI6" but, rather, a hustler trying to please his anti-Trump clients with talk of "golden showers" in a luxury Moscow hotel, cloak-and-dagger meetings in Prague, and fantastic bribes for Trump campaign advisor Carter Page. Moreover, Steele did not "write" the dossier. He collated the sub source reports and puffed up the credentials of the supposed informants. Steele's own rolodex of Russian state officials would likely have been empty after not visiting Russia for more than a decade. The sub sources were on their own. Their checks would stop if they did not deliver juicy stuff.

Gathering and evaluating raw intelligence from sources is the bread and butter of intelligence. In such work, they need to know whether the sources are who they claim to be. Is the interrogator well-trained and without personal bias? Does what the informants say make sense and check out against related facts? In the case of private intelligence-gathering, they need to know who the interrogators are as well as how they found the informant and whether the informant required payment or other inducements to talk.

The timeline of Trump's ties with Russia lines up with allegations of conspiracy and misconduct

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So where does this leave us? We have "sub sources" whose identity we do not know claiming to speak to two high-level officials identified by generic job titles who reveal the intelligence secret of the century. Any intelligence expert would see all kinds of red flags here. The first question to ask would be: "By any chance is all this made up?" (Indeed, Steele's primary sub source confessed this to be the case in testimony before the FBI. Why was this not the end of the lurid Steele Dossier business?)

We know from the work of Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz and special counsel John Durham that Steele's (two) sub sources were fringe figures. They were in no way "trusted colleagues" of the two purported Kremlin officials. Why would a top-level security agent active in the Kremlin want to talk to Steele's down-and-out sub sources? Nor could the sources buy testimony. Steele's budget was only $168,000.

As explained by a respected Russian liberal commentator: "After all, 'sources' of this kind in Russia ... have their own palaces, yachts, private jets. It is not entirely clear why these corrupt billionaires ... should reveal top-secrets to a consultant who had not visited Russia for 13 years?"

With all these red flags, the FBI, at a minimum, should have treated the dossier as radioactive and started an investigation into whether it was Russian disinformation cleverly infused into U.S. politics.

Amazingly, the FBI not only relied on it to obtain warrants from FISA courts but, after the election, the FBI agreed to pay Steele to continue gathering "intelligence" about Trump and Russia. The bureau pulled out of that arrangement after Steele was publicly identified in news reports.

We must ask why such garbage and fakery was allowed to affect public policy - namely, to influence FISA surveillance warrants of U.S. citizens, the appointment of a special prosecutor, and the use of Steele to build an impeachment case?

Why was the dossier not investigated quietly by FBI or CIA professionals, who should have swiftly discarded it and directed attention to possible Russian disinformation? I suspect that this did not happen because our intelligence experts were pulling for it to be true.

Paul Roderick Gregory is a professor emeritus of economics at the University of Houston, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and a research fellow at the German Institute for Economic Research. Follow him on Twitter @PaulR_Gregory.

The many Russian links to the operatives behind the Steele dossier .
The Russian links to the figures behind Christopher Steele’s discredited dossier have come into clearer focus following special counsel John Durham’s indictments. © Provided by Washington Examiner Steele was working for Vladimir Putin-linked oligarch Oleg Deripaska before, during, and after his time targeting then-candidate Donald Trump, and the former MI6 agent was hired to put the dossier together by an opposition research firm, Fusion GPS, which was simultaneously working for Kremlin-linked lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya of the now-infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting.

usr: 1
This is interesting!