Sunday, January 15, 2017

Why is Christopher Steele in hiding?

Donald Trump's statements always reveal more than he intends.

On the "golden" dossier, he said that they were put together by a "failed spy afraid of being sued." Let's try to squeeze as much juice as we can get out of those six words.

First: What we've learned about Steele indicates that he was no failure, certainly not in the sense that we can call Trump a failed casino operator. When you research Steele, you keep running into the adjective "respected."

Second, and more importantly: What is the deeper meaning behind that remark about "being sued"? The dossier was prepared not by one man but by a company called Orbis, which has a regular address (11 Grosvenor Gardens, London). If Trump wants to sue, he can have someone go there and serve papers; he doesn't need to meet with Steele personally. Lots of people have sued Trump without serving him personally. (Lots and LOTS of people.)

So why did Trump say those words? The answer is obvious: He felt obligated to explain away the fact that Steele went into hiding.

The obvious answer leads to an obvious question: Why did Trump feel obligated to explain away the fact that Steele went into hiding? The wicked man flees when no man pursueth, and the wicked president-elect explains matters that he really ought not address.

Steele's partner was clearly terrified when he revealed that Steele had vanished. This man is not afraid of a lawsuit -- he's afraid for his life.

I think that someone said something to him. A threat. A warning.

Let me repeat: Trump always reveals more than he intends in his statements. He felt obliged to give a false reason for Steele's disappearance. Why?

At this point, let's have a little background...
Although the report credited to Mr Steele has been dismissed by its subject as “phony”, “lies”, and “fake news”, those who know him have given positive accounts of his earlier work.

One form Foreign Office official who said he had known Mr Steele for 25 years told The Guardian his former colleague was not the type to pass on false information.

“The idea his work is fake or a cowboy operation is false, completely untrue. Chris is an experienced and highly regarded professional. He’s not the sort of person who will simply pass on gossip,” the official said.

“If he puts something in a report, he believes there’s sufficient credibility in it for it to be worth considering. Chris is a very straight guy. He could not have survived in the job he was in if he had been prone to flights of fancy or doing things in an ill-considered way.”

After being outed as the author of the damaging dossier, Mr Steele is believed to have fled his Surrey home, and is said to be fearing for his safety, concerned about Russia’s reaction.
There's more on Steele here, in a piece by "Nigel West." This is a pen name for Rupert Allason, a conservative member of parliament who often writes on spooky stuff. (His book A Thread of Deceit is a must-read expose of various WWII espionage myths.) He is himself a controversial figure, so caveat lector and all that. Still, Allason has remarkable contacts, and when it comes to a "secret squirrel" like Steele, we need all the information we can get.
Steele is a man with a mission. He has excellent contacts within the Russian émigré community in London, and remains understandably bitter that very soon after his premature resignation one of the agents for whom he had responsibility as case officer, Sasha Litvinenko, was murdered in London on direct orders from the Kremlin.
He was Litvenenko's case officer? Huh!
Case officers inevitably develop relationships of trust with their assets and Steele lectured on the complex issues involved when he ran SIS’s Intelligence Officers’ New Entry Course (IONEC) at the training establishment in Gosport. IONEC graduates are taught not to “fall in love” with their agents but, contrary to the movies, few ever experience the trauma of an assassination.
One of the things Allason is trying to do here is to establish Steele's professionalism.
It may be that Donald Trump was honey-trapped in his Ritz Carlton suite, and he would hardly have been the first western diplomat, businessman or politician to have succumbed. A British, Norwegian and Canadian ambassador have been so entrapped. So was the first CIA officer sent to the Moscow embassy and, famously, an unrepentant French attaché asked for extra copies when he was the victim of a blackmail attempt by a KGB officer threatening to publish compromising photos. Another, less defiant Frenchman, shot himself to avoid the anticipated disgrace.

However sinister a view is taken of the ubiquitous Russian security and intelligence apparatus, and however ruthless Putin’s administration, the evidence in Steele’s dossier amounts to pretty thin gruel, with some confusion over the precise roles played by Source D and Source E, who switch roles midway through the series of reports. Sloppy drafting or suspicious inconsistency? Intelligence analysts are taught not to trim their sails to suit their paymasters, but this may indeed be the exception.
"Switch roles"? I'm not sure what Allason is talking about. Maybe I should re-read.

As I've stated in a previous post, this dossier is not finished intelligence and was never meant for public consumption. An assessment of the various sources would be conducted separately. That assessment would have to be kept very close, and perhaps not even written down, for the simple reason that any such document would reveal the sources.

We should also keep in mind that the 36 pages available to us at present are not the full and complete thing-in-itself.

It seems increasingly likely that the dossier was leaked by John McCain, who received it from British diplomat Andrew Wood. I suspect but cannot prove that Wood contacted McCain because "Source E" worked on McCain's 2008 campaign.

As noted earlier, I was told by an informant that Source E is Boris Epshteyn, the Russian emeigre who is Trump's inauguration chief and friend to his son. (In his most recent tweet, Epshteyn still brags about the fact that Jennifer Holliday is scheduled to perform. I presume he already knows the bad news.)

I probably should have mentioned in my previous post that Epshteyn is married to a Google executive. Maybe I should think about moving off the Blogger platform. (Any suggestions? I would prefer a free host located in the UK, if such a thing exists.) (Come to think of it, now that I've turned against Putin in a big way, it may be time to look for a replacement for Yandex.)

So here's an interesting poser: How could Litvenenko's case officer ingratiate himself with Boris Epshteyn?

If "Source E" has FSB contacts, then is it not possible that they recognized Litvenenko's case officer?

Steele's reaction to Litvinenko's death goes a long ways toward explaining why Steele felt so passionately about the Trump/Putin relationship that he "worked for free."
Glenn Simpson, a former investigative reporter with the Wall Street Journal, reportedly felt the same way about Steele’s findings and joined him in his unprofitable crusade, according to people familiar with the matter.

Simpson — who runs the Washington, D.C.-based Fusion GPS — was contracted by some of Trump’s Republican opponents in September 2015 and sources said he and Steele began working together last July.
The Daily Mail says that Fusion GPS was the firm which hired Orbis. Note: That article is a pro-Trump hit piece which slams the Orbis dossier as "discredited." Not true. It hasn't been verified, but it has not been discredited; there's a difference.

How widespread is kompromat? In the preceding post, I said -- half in jest -- that the FSB probably has compiled blackmail information on Republican members of Congress in order to make sure that they stay compliant. That's not as fanciful a notion as some may think. Take a gander at this Guardian piece on the use of kompromat in British politics...
A former Foreign Office minister has claimed that senior British politicians are being targeted by the Kremlin for potentially compromising details about their private lives that might be used to discredit them.

The Labour MP, Chris Bryant, a former minister for Europe and ex-chair of the all-party parliamentary group for Russia, said he had been a victim of such tactics himself, and was “absolutely certain” that high-profile government figures such as the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, and the international trade secretary, Liam Fox, will have been investigated by individuals linked to Russia or employed directly by Moscow.
Bryant, former shadow leader of the Commons until resigning last June, said technological advances made it far easier for enemies to acquire personal information. “You can do a lot of the work by long distance now, you don’t physically have to be close to somebody to be able to track them, using their mobile phones and so on,” he said.
Here's the truly frightening thing: The FSB will outsource the work.
London-based businessman Bill Browder, whose company was one of the biggest foreign investors in Russia before his lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was arrested and died in police custody after exposing a tax fraud worth more than £144m, said he was aware of other former British intelligence agents who had been hired to gather kompromat, compromising material that is intended to be used against someone.

“British companies are being hired to do the work of Russia’s FSB security service. They are collecting sensitive financial and personal information about London-based enemies of the regime as well as spilling the beans on national security and UK foreign policy,” said Browder.
Need I make the obvious point? If they're doing it in the UK, then you know full well that they are doing it here. Putin needs to keep Trump in power. Putin hopes to destroy NATO and to bring the former constituent states of the USSR back into the fold, and Trump has given every signal that he is willing to go along with that program.


Amelie D'bunquerre said...

Maybe I should re-read the thing also (Marcy refers her reader to Cannonfire for the text), but I'll assume that it's not the sources (D and E) that get switched midway, but the funders of the project who switch (from GOP to DEM), and I'll assume that the silly author isn't confused but intends to sow confusion.

Do we now have three men without a country: Assange, Snowden, and Steele?

Would anyone say I'm wrong if I believe that Trump stayed up late in the 1980's listening to Larry King on the radio? He talks just like Larry King, folks, I mean it, take it from me.

We are so bereft without the unashamed biased reportage of Izzy Stone (print), Howard Cosell (TV), and Paul Harvey (a.m. radio).

gerry-troll said...

i think it's more likely he's hiding from Putin.

OldCoastie said...

I'm wondering if Chaffetz is compromised. He's acting very strangely.

Marc McKenzie said...

I'm wondering if Chaffetz is compromised. He's acting very strangely.

Good point, OldCoastie.

Remember that the RNC was also hacked--but Wikileaks was always leaking things related to Clinton and the DNC. That no one in the media asked, "Hey, where's the GOP stuff?" is telling.

Perhaps not all in the GOP are compromised, but it's clear that Ol' Yellow Stain and his inner circle are. Never forget that the media felt it was necessary to run after emails instead of look at the blockbuster that was in their possession.

@Amelie: Do we now have three men without a country: Assange, Snowden, and Steele? Interesting point, but unlike the first two, Steele has honor and integrity and isn't beholden to Putin--or Ol' Yellow Stain.

b said...

I don't believe for one moment that the recent former head of MI6's Russian desk, who ran IONEC (according to Rupert Allason anyway), and who had been Alexander Litvinenko's case officer, worked pro bono running agents gathering information suggesting that a strong contender for the US Presidency was a ~KGB asset.

Who is he hiding from? From everyone who wants to ask this supposed private-sector operator any questions, probably. The two questions that come to mind are these: "Mr Steele, did you write these documents?" and "Are the published versions altered in any way from what you wrote?"

Then there's the question of who redacted them.