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New Allegations Surface About U.S. Spy Agencies and Russians

Charles Dharapak / AP

James Risen, national security reporter for The Intercept, released an expose Feb. 9 alleging that the U.S. intelligence community has been “conducting a top-secret operation to recover stolen classified U.S. government documents from Russian operatives,” and that “the operation has also inadvertently yielded a cache of documents purporting to relate to Donald Trump and Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.”

Shortly after The Intercept published its story, The New York Times published a piece by Matthew Rosenberg alleging that a Russian who claimed to have NSA cyberweapons and compromising information on President Trump received $100,000 of U.S. government money routed through an indirect channel.

The CIA has called both reports “fictional,” adding that “the people swindled here were James Risen and Matt Rosenberg. The fictional story that CIA was bilked out of $100,000 is patently false.” Trump asserts that the report from The New York Times is true.

Risen told CBS: “It’s a very complicated story. First, the CIA and the NSA were trying to recover stolen NSA documents that allow people to do very sophisticated hacks, and they were worried that those documents would allow for really horrible hacks of American systems. So that was their main focus, was to try to buy back documents from the Russians on that. And in this process of conducting a secret channel with the Russians, some of the Russians began to offer documents related to Trump and to the 2016 campaign. And the Americans were very ambivalent about whether they wanted to get these documents, because they know how explosive this whole issue is.”

“So there was a lot of back and forth between the Russians and the Americans about whether the Americans would even accept the documents about Trump,” he said. “And so finally it appears that they accepted some, but their primary goal all along for the CIA and the NSA was to get these documents back from a group called Shadow Brokers.”

CBS News reports:

The Times reported that the Russian, early in the negotiations, dropped the asking price from $10 million to $1 million for the cyber tools and the Trump-related information.

U.S. officials had said the payment was intended to recover the alleged NSA materials and was abandoned after the Russian produced “possibly fabricated” information on Mr. Trump related to the 2016 presidential election and alleged ties between his associates and Russia, the Times reports. The U.S. agents reportedly considered the information “tabloid gossip pages” rather than intelligence gathering and ultimately terminated the deal. Several American officials said they did not want the alleged information about Mr. Trump.

The Times reports that the coveted cyberweapons were built to break into the computer networks of Russia and China, but wound up in the hands of a mysterious group called the “Shadow Brokers.” The weapons have helped hackers breach millions of computers around the world, including hospitals, businesses and factories, the Times reports.

The Times claimed it obtained four of the documents the Russian tried to give to American intelligence, noting that the newspaper did not pay for the documents. The documents, according to the newspaper, discuss former Trump campaign aide Carter Page and billionaire GOP donors Robert and Rebekah Mercer. But the reports, according to the Times, draw almost entirely from publicly available news reports.

Rosenberg, who wrote The New York Times story, responded to the CIA’s comments on Twitter, writing:

Trump also took to Twitter to comment on the Times piece, saying: “I hope people are now seeing & understanding what is going on here,” though he has previously called reporting from the paper “fake news.”

In a podcast from The Intercept, Risen added that within the CIA there has been debate on whether or not to take possession of compromising information on Trump, as some officials do not want to assist in Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Risen said, “To understand the full extent of possible collusion between Trump and Russia, it strikes me that you need evidence out of Moscow, and/or out of Russia. And to the extent that Mueller will be able to do that without the support of the intelligence community is something that I question. And that’s where I think this is a really interesting story, is to me: How far is the intelligence community willing to go to support Mueller versus how the degree to which they’re afraid of attacks by Trump and the right wing for claiming that they’re part of some mythical deep state?”

Emily Wells
​Emily Wells is an Ear to the Ground blogger at Truthdig. As a journalist, she began as a crime reporter at the Pulitzer-winning daily newspaper, The Press-Enterprise...
Emily Wells

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