Ex-MI6 officer Christopher Steele, named as writer of the Donald Trump memo, is a very ‘highly regarded professional’ by European and American Intelligence agencies.
As good as he was in the field he decided to quit the service in 2009. As the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, exerted influence in all kinds of spheres, so Steele’s background made him hot property. Though he could no longer travel to Russia, he appears to have maintained his contacts and made new ones there.
With his partner, Chris Burrows, he set up the London-based company Orbis Business Intelligence, which was busy and expanding. Their operation was a good choice for anyone trying to gather intelligence about Russia and Trump.
It is unlikely that Steele would have had direct contact with the unnamed Kremlin officials who allegedly gave sensitive information on the president-elect. Rather, Steele would have tapped up his network of sources deep inside the country. In turn, these individuals will have had sources of their own. Steele would likely have subcontracted some of his Trump investigation to trusted intermediaries in Moscow, who will have reported back to him via secure channels.
It was Steele’s job to collate, evaluate and verify the material before passing it to his American client Fusion GPS, a Washington-based political research firm. The company had been hired originally by some of Trump’s early Republican opponents before the contract was then taken up by senior Democrats.
The strongest reason for giving this report credence is that intelligence professionals in the US take it seriously. They were sufficiently persuaded by the author’s track record to find the contents worth passing to the president and president-elect.”
The CIA and FBI will have taken various factors into consideration before deciding on its credibility. They could include Trump’s public comments during the campaign, when he urged Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails. The agencies may also have classified, intercepted material provided by the National Security Agency and Britain’s GCHQ.
They must, equally, have considered whether some of the claims in the report might have been part of an elaborate Russian disinformation exercise. “This is unlikely. The dossier is multi-dimensional, involving many different people, and many moving parts,” a British Foreign Office official suggested.
Steele’s personal views on Russia are unlikely to be very different from those of his former employers – or from those of the former UK ambassador to Moscow who is understood to have passed the dossier to the Republican senator John McCain, who in turn passed it to the FBI.
MI6 has been privately warning that Putin, unchallenged by the west, has grown in confidence and, of course, that the Kremlin has targeted Trump. It would be odd if it hadn’t. The consensus among British securocrats is that “Putin is a wolf … and he preys on the weakest sheep.”
But intelligence is not evidence, and Steele would have known in the smoke-and-mirrors world of counterespionage, there are few certainties.
Those caveats do not appear on the documents – but they are given by Steele as a warning to prospective new clients.
Whether he could have imagined that a summary of his work would be used in this way is a moot point; Steele did not go to ground in the weeks before Christmas as US media outlets reported some of the claims against Trump. He was in London, thinking about where to take Orbis next and pottering around Victoria, the home of his newly refurbished office. At that point he did not know his name would be revealed by American news agencies or that his life may be in danger. Putin has long arms.
Putin was former KGB spy
BBC correspondent Paul Wood has since come forward to reveal that there are multiple intelligence sources alleging Russia is in possession of potentially embarrassing or compromising material regarding President-elect Donald Trump. Formerly, only a single source was known to have been aware of the alleged material.
"I saw the report, compiled by the former British intelligence officer, back in October," Wood said. "He is not, and this is the crucial thing, the only source for this.”
The Wall Street Journal alleged the British source is Christopher Steele, a director of the London-based Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd.
A member of the U.S. intelligence community also told Wood that "at least one East European intelligence service was aware 'that the Russians had kompromat or compromising material on Mr. Trump.' Wood said that he "got a message back" from the U.S. intelligence community member and that there is reportedly "more than one tape, not just video, but audio as well, on more than one date, in more than one place, in both Moscow and St. Petersburg."
Wow!! What another fine mess this is becoming. And the guy is still going to be