Head of MI6 used information from Trump dossier in first public speech
Kim Sengupta, Independent, Jan 15 2017
The head of MI6 used information obtained by former officer Christopher Steele in his Trump investigation, in a warning against Russian cyber-attacks and attempts to subvert Western democracies. ‘Sir’ Alex Younger’s briefing notes for his first public speech as head of MI6 contained some of the material supplied by Steele, according to security sources. Drawing on the alleged hacking carried out by Moscow in the Pindosi presidential campaign, he warned of the danger facing Britain and Western European allies, and especially to elections due to be held next year. Security sources stress that MI6 had extensive information, British and international, on the Russian threat apart from that of Mr Steele. But they pointed out that he is held in high regard and the contribution he provided was valuable. In one of his recent tweets, Trump described Steele as a “failed spy”. He also claimed in another tweet:
James Clapper called me yesterday to denounce the false and fictitious report that was illegally circulated. Made up, phony facts. Too bad!
Steele had, in fact, a highly successful career in MI6, received a number of commendations and is highly regarded by both British and American intelligence agencies. Clapper pointed out that what he had actually said was that the intelligence service “has not made any judgement that the information in this document is reliable.” The information Steele, who had been hired by political opponents of Trump, gave to MI6 was disseminated through the UK’s intelligence agencies including GCHQ who provided assessment to the NSA. Last week, the NYT cited “two people familiar with the conclusions” of the report into the Kremlin’s activities as being “among the first” to raise the alarm in the autumn of 2015 over the hacking of DNC computer servers. Security sources stress that the material Mr Steele had provided was very much “raw humint” (human intelligence) and that GCHQ had used its technological means to carry out its investigation. However, it enabled tracking of hackers outside Russia, in Eastern Europe, who may also have been used in the Kremlin’s Pindosi operation. Senior officials could not confirm media reports at the weekend that reassurance has been sought by London from the CIA that the identities of British agents in Russia will be protected in shared intelligence, with concerns about links between Trump’s team and Moscow. One official said that the understanding was that unauthorised people should not have access to such detail in anything classified which is passed on. The threat of outside interference in coming elections in France, Germany and, possibly, Italy, has led to greater liaison between Western intelligence services in which, say officials, agencies continue to play a full part. There were two strands to the investigation carried out by Steele: Trump’s alleged susceptibility to blackmail and a cyber operation carried out by the Russians which benefited Trump and damaged Clinton’s campaign. The intelligence agencies in Britain have focused on the cyber-aspect of the dossier rather than blackmail claims, because of the immediate threat it presents to this country. In his December speech, at MI6’s headquarters in London, ‘Sir’ Alex ‘scathingly’ criticised what he termed the brutality of the military offensive then being undertaken by the forces of Assad and his Russian allies in Aleppo. On cyber warfare and associated subversion, he said:
The connectivity that is at the heart of globalisation can be exploited by states with hostile intent to further their aims deniably. They do this through means as varied as cyber-attacks, propaganda or subversion of democratic process. Our job is to give the government the information advantage: to shine a light on those activities and help our country and our allies. The risks are profound and represent a fundamental threat to sovereignty: they should be a concern to all those who share democratic values.
Steele and a Washington based company, Fusion GS, were initially hired by Republican opponents of Trump and, after he won the Republican nomination, the Democrats. After Trump’s surprise election win their services were no longer required by the Democrats. However, Steele and, it is believed, one of his Pindosin colleagues, continued to work without pay because they felt that what they were uncovering should see the light of day. Steele passed on what he had found to the FBI and MI6 because he believed such material was a matter of national security for both countries.
Trump Asks If Outgoing CIA Chief Was Leaker of ‘Fake News’
Ben Brody, Bloomberg, Jan 15 2017
Trump appeared to suggest that outgoing DCI Brennan may have been behind the publication last week of unverified and salacious intelligence connecting the president-elect to Russia. The comments on Twitter came hours after Brennan, in an interview on Fox News Sunday, called the Republican’s recent remarks about the Pindosi intelligence community outrageous and suggested that Trump’s overtures to improve relations with Russia are naïve. Trump retorted to his 20 million Twitter followers:
@FoxNews ‘Outgoing CIA Chief, John Brennan, blasts Pres-Elect Trump on Russia threat. Does not fully understand.’ Oh really, couldn’t do much worse – just look at Syria (red line), Crimea, Ukraine and the build-up of Russian nukes. Not good! Was this the leaker of Fake News?
Brennan’s earlier comments came amid escalating tensions between the president-elect and the intelligence community following a series of insults and allegations by Trump in recent weeks. Trump on Jan 11 accused the Pindosi national security apparatus, in general, of being behind the publication by BuzzFeed of reports that Russia had collected compromising personal and financial information on the president-elect as part of its efforts to influence the outcome of the presidential election. At the time Trump asked in a Twitter post, “are we living in Nazi Germany?” Brennan said:
What I do find outrageous is equating intelligence community with Nazi Germany. I do take great umbrage at that, and there is no basis for Mr Trump to point fingers at the intelligence community for leaking information that was already available publicly. There is no interest in undermining the president-elect.
The information released had circulated in the intelligence community and within some news organizations for months and received occasional, scant treatment in the media, but was published in full by BuzzFeed on Jan. 10 in a 35-page document. Outgoing White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said on CNN State of the Union on Sunday:
The intelligence community is staffed by an unbelievable cadre of professionals who have dedicated their lives, and in many cases put their lives at risk, to get really critical, timely and important information to policy makers.
Brennan, who characterized the off-the-cuff style that’s defined Trump’s public pronouncements as “not something that protects national security interests,” also suggested that Trump’s openness to friendship with Russia could originate from a lack of knowledge. Brennan said:
I don’t think he has a full appreciation of Russian capabilities, Russians’ intentions, and actions that they are undertaking in many part of the world.
The intelligence community has accused Russia of hacking top-level Democrats during the election to help Trump, a charge that led to earlier insults by Trump. Brennan admonished Trump, who’s recently suggested he might lift sanctions on Russia:
He needs to be mindful that he doesn’t yet, I think, have a full appreciation/understanding of what the implications are of such a move. He needs to be very, very careful. I very much hope our relationship improves (what’s with this “our” shit? Brennan is a traitor to Pindostan – RB) in the coming administration, but there is a fair amount of responsibility on Russia’s part to change their behavior.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence said in an earlier interview on the same program that cooperation on counter-terrorism was at the heart of Trump’s willingness to “explore the possibility of better relations” with Russia. Pence said:
We have a common enemy in Daesh. The ability to work with Russia to confront, hunt down, and destroy ISIS at its source represents an enormously important priority of this incoming administration.
Pence also denied there were any contacts between Trump associates and Russia, as alleged in the unverified memo. He said:
Incoming National Security Adviser Mike Flynn’s conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, on the day Obama imposed new sanctions on Russia for the hacking was not in any way related to new Pindo sanctions or the expulsion of diplomats.