As we move into 2018, we are seeing a rapid unravelling of the infamous Fusion GPS-Christopher Steele “dossier.” With this discredited report dies the false narrative that the Trump Administration was involved in collusion with the Russian government. It’s about time — the Justice Department investigation into “Russian collusion” was always the fruit of this poisoned tree.
What should be disconcerting to Americans is that this document ever saw the light of day, much less that it formed the centerpiece of an official USG investigation. The whole sad affair demonstrates how far the professionalism of our Justice Department and Intelligence service has fallen in the wake of the rampant politicization that was the hallmark of the Obama Administration.
This entire debacle has been well covered by conservative media — a particularly good piece is this recent article.
While I do not wish to rehash all of the facts of the case, I wanted to write of my overall impression of the affair, how the information was likely gathered, and what it says about our federal government — particularly our Intelligence agencies.
Intelligence Services gather clandestine intelligence for a reason. Information gathered secretly, by recruited and properly vetted sources — who are not acting in their country’s own interests — is what I did for more than 12 years. Identifying and recruiting such individuals is time-consuming, difficult, and rare. Most people do not wish to give away national secrets — but there are some who will. These might include people who find themselves working for evil regimes, who have had a “moral awakening,” or they might be the more prosaic, corrupt individuals pursuing personal enrichment or revenge. They may be ideologically opposed (justifiably or not) to the government which they serve. My job was to separate the wheat from the chaff, get close to such people, and obtain information which was of interest to the U.S. government. Fortunately for me, I was most often working with the individuals who were determined to work against repressive or corrupt regimes under which they suffered. Regardless of motivation, however, these individuals pursued a risky course that could end in imprisonment or worse — it was my job to meet them securely and protect them.
This method of gathering information was the antithesis of what was done under the Steele dossier, as I understand it. The dossier did not rely on clandestine sources supplying incompatible information. Meeting your former Russian “contact” (Steele was a former British MI6 Officer who spent some time in Moscow) for tea, having jetted in from Washington or London, is not clandestine work. Had Steele actually recruited assets while serving in Moscow, the most rigid counterintelligence fishbowl on the planet, he would never have been permitted to meet those assets as a former member of MI6. Those clandestine sources would only be met by other MI6 officers. What this means is that Steele likely met with his former Russian official contacts — persons which had been previously authorized by the Russian government for him to meet. I had many such contacts and relationships in the Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish, and Moldovan intel services, to name a few.
The difference we thus see is that Steele’s sources were almost certainly loyal Russian government officials (at best) or actively under the direction of their Kremlin bosses (at worst). A high profile, successful former MI6 spy, well paid for his services, no doubt also “spread the wealth” amongst his contacts. Paying an asset does not disqualify a source’s information, but the overt (vice covert) nature of the contacts tells me that Steele’s contacts were either telling him what he “wanted to hear” (sound familiar?), parroting unsubstantiated rumors they had from other sub sources of information, or reading the script of a Putin disinformation campaign. That this was done free from the controlling strings of the Kremlin is hard for me to imagine.
It's due to challenges like this that Intelligence services “grade” sources of information as a way of handicapping the information they provide. In general, a clandestine source with say, 10 years' experience is going to be more trustworthy, and his information considered “better,” than a new, yet-to-be-recruited “contact.” If the source heard the information from a subsource, rather than witnessing it himself, this in turn will be documented, with as much info on the subsource as can be attained. Intelligence services invest a lot of resources into this because it helps determine the quality of information. This is ignored at their peril.
All of this helps us understand why clandestine reporting is considered more important than say, reporting from State Department or the Treasury Department. If a State Dept. officer has an overt meeting with a Deputy Foreign Minister, an official “contact,” why would we think he was ever giving State anything other than the Official Party Line? The same would very likely be true of an official Intelligence “contact” met in an official capacity. Steele should/would have known this … but maybe he just didn’t care. He was selling a “product” to enhance a certain narrative.
These distinctions I have outlined seem to have been admitted by Steele himself, who has backpedaled on the authoritativeness of his reporting. Bottom Line: as the Station Chief has suspected, and commented on, for over a year, has been proven true — the Steele dossier was unconfirmed trash that would have caused me to be recalled from operations overseas had I been foolish enough to submit it.
Quite as troubling as this “amateur hour” debacle itself is the fact that the fatally flawed Steele dossier was apparently used as the basis of an entire investigation, including FISA warrants, into the Trump Campaign. That the Progressive senior leadership (the Deep State) of Justice, the FBI, and the Intelligence Community were able to short-circuit all of the checks and balances created over decades, just to avoid such gross incompetence, demonstrates the deadly effect that politicization has had on our government. These antics reflect a betrayal of the rank and file officers who sacrificed and served our country. I for one welcome a Congressional Investigation into the decisions and decision-makers who subverted our Justice Dept. and intelligence community in the promotion of the Steele fraud.
Scott Uehlinger is a retired CIA Station Chief and Naval Officer. A Russian speaker, he spent 12 years of his career abroad in the former Soviet Union. In addition to teaching at NYU, he is a frequent Newsmax TV and Fox Business TV commentator, and has a weekly podcast, "the Station Chief," that can be found on iTunes or at www.thestationchief.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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