CNN returns to the theme of the Russiagate hoax in Jim Sciutto’s “Exclusive: US extracted top spy from inside Russia in 2017.” You’d think the network might have followed the New York Times in moving on from “Russia” to “racism,” but no. It has induced the Times to return to the Russiagate hoax with one of those triple bylined stories by David Sanger and the gang in “C.I.A. informant extracted from Russia had sent secrets to U.S. for decades.”
Citing precisely one source, CNN inserts the key Trump-hating angle in the story’s second sentence: “A person directly involved in the discussions said that the removal of the Russian was driven, in part, by concerns that President Donald Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source as a spy.” What “discussions”? The lead sentence refers to no “discussions.”
Both CNN and the Times raise concerns about President Trump’s treatment of highly classified information. I always find this concern to be deeply touching in the case of the Times, which prefers to reserve to itself the decision to blow highly classified national security information. See my “Tears of the Times” — please!
The Times story raises the question whether the spy might not be a double agent. Despite the danger to his well-being allegedly posed by President Trump, the spy initially declined to be extracted. Perhaps he is the real deal. Perhaps Putin persuaded him that he had to consent for the good of Mother Russia.
I wonder. This spy is allegedly the guy who advised Brennan et al. that Putin preferred Trump to Madam Hillary:
The Moscow informant was instrumental to the C.I.A.’s most explosive conclusion about Russia’s interference campaign: that President Vladimir V. Putin ordered and orchestrated it himself. As the American government’s best insight into the thinking of and orders from Mr. Putin, the source was also key to the C.I.A.’s assessment that he affirmatively favored Donald J. Trump’s election and personally ordered the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.
His offerings were valued so highly that Brennan excluded them from the presidential daily brief and sent them over to Obama special delivery:
The informant’s information was so delicate, and the need to protect the source’s identity so important, that the C.I.A. director at the time, John O. Brennan, kept information from the operative out of President Barack Obama’s daily brief in 2016. Instead, Mr. Brennan sent separate intelligence reports, many based on the source’s information, in special sealed envelopes to the Oval Office.
The information itself was so important and potentially contentious in 2016 that top C.I.A. officials ordered a full review of the informant’s record, according to people briefed on the matter. Officials reviewed information the source had provided years earlier to ensure that it had proved accurate.
Even though the review passed muster, the source’s rejection of the C.I.A.’s initial offer of exfiltration prompted doubts among some counterintelligence officials. They wondered whether the informant had been turned and had become a double agent, secretly betraying his American handlers. That would almost certainly mean that some of the information the informant provided about the Russian interference campaign or Mr. Putin’s intentions would have been inaccurate.
Some operatives had other reasons to suspect the source could be a double agent, according to two former officials, but they declined to explain further….
The Times does add this: [F]ormer intelligence officials said there was no public evidence that Mr. Trump directly endangered the source, and other current American officials insisted that media scrutiny of the agency’s sources alone was the impetus for the extraction.” Translation: the Times was a bigger threat to the guy than Trump.
Take this for what it is worth. Brennan and Obama kept Clapper in the cloud of unknowing: “James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence who left office at the end of the Obama administration, said he had no knowledge of the decision to conduct an extraction. But, he said, there was little doubt that revelations about the extraction were ‘going to make recruiting assets in Russia even more difficult than it already is.’”
CNN was unable to extract a comment from Secretary Pompeo’s spokesman, but it extracted this from White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham: “CNN’s reporting is not only incorrect, it has the potential to put lives in danger.” The warning following the comma is the only statement in the two linked stories that I take at face value.
The Times story is more substantial than CNN’s and carries the usual trademark: “This article is based on interviews in recent months with current and former officials who spoke on the condition that their names not be used discussing classified information.” These “current and former officials” and their friends at the Times are beneath contempt.
UPDATE: Sciutto’s version of the story essentially disintegrated during the day. Please see “Sciutto from shinola.”