January 12, 2017


Trump 'compromising' claims: How and why did we get here?  (Paul Wood, 1/11/16,  BBC News)

[T]he former MI6 agent is not the only source for the claim about Russian kompromat on the president-elect. Back in August, a retired spy told me he had been informed of its existence by "the head of an East European intelligence agency".

Later, I used an intermediary to pass some questions to active duty CIA officers dealing with the case file - they would not speak to me directly. I got a message back that there was "more than one tape", "audio and video", on "more than one date", in "more than one place" - in the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow and also in St Petersburg - and that the material was "of a sexual nature".

The claims of Russian kompromat on Mr Trump were "credible", the CIA believed. That is why - according to the New York Times and Washington Post - these claims ended up on President Barack Obama's desk last week, a briefing document also given to Congressional leaders and to Mr Trump himself.

Mr Trump did visit Moscow in November 2013, the date the main tape is supposed to have been made. There is TV footage of him at the Miss Universe contest. Any visitor to a grand hotel in Moscow would be wise to assume that their room comes equipped with hidden cameras and microphones as well as a mini-bar. [...]

Last April, the CIA director was shown intelligence that worried him. It was - allegedly - a tape recording of a conversation about money from the Kremlin going into the US presidential campaign.

It was passed to the US by an intelligence agency of one of the Baltic States. The CIA cannot act domestically against American citizens so a joint counter-intelligence taskforce was created.

The taskforce included six agencies or departments of government. Dealing with the domestic, US, side of the inquiry, were the FBI, the Department of the Treasury, and the Department of Justice. For the foreign and intelligence aspects of the investigation, there were another three agencies: the CIA, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the National Security Agency, responsible for electronic spying.

Lawyers from the National Security Division in the Department of Justice then drew up an application. They took it to the secret US court that deals with intelligence, the Fisa court, named after the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. They wanted permission to intercept the electronic records from two Russian banks.

Their first application, in June, was rejected outright by the judge. They returned with a more narrowly drawn order in July and were rejected again. Finally, before a new judge, the order was granted, on 15 October, three weeks before election day.

Neither Mr Trump nor his associates are named in the Fisa order, which would only cover foreign citizens or foreign entities - in this case the Russian banks. But ultimately, the investigation is looking for transfers of money from Russia to the United States, each one, if proved, a felony offence.

A lawyer- outside the Department of Justice but familiar with the case - told me that three of Mr Trump's associates were the subject of the inquiry. "But it's clear this is about Trump," he said.

How Blackmail Works in Russia (Julia Ioffe, Jan. 11th, 2017, The Atlantic)

The FSB also doesn't hesitate to use kompromat against foreigners, both in Russia and abroad. Take, for example, the case of the American diplomat Kyle Hatcher. In August 2009, videos purporting to be of Hatcher, who worked in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, appeared online. It showed him making calls, allegedly to prostitutes, then him in a hotel room, checking for bugs--at one point even staring into one of them, blinking at it without recognition--before beginning a romp with a woman of ill repute. After its release, allegedly by the FSB, the State Department protested vociferously that it was a doctored, unproven tape, but it nevertheless transferred Hatcher quietly to a posting in the Caribbean, and the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, which had wanted to be a beacon of democracy and morality on the dark banks of Putin's Russia, had dulled its light.

And it revealed a key FSB tactic: Those purported shots of Hatcher and the prostitutes had been gathered before he began work at the Embassy. The Skuratov tape seems to have been made nearly a year before it was shown to him, and months before he launched the corruption investigation that got him in trouble with Yeltsin and Putin. Moreover, according to the investigation conducted by Skuratov's deputy, it seems the prostitutes were gifts, but from whom? In other words, the FSB kompromat operation is akin to a trawler, gathering anything and everything in its path, just in case anything good is down there. Or it puts chum in the water, and gathers the baited fish, too. It then stores it away for when the Kremlin needs just a slightly more forceful argument. I have no doubt that most every journalist and diplomat who has worked in Russia has such a file in his or her name, just waiting to be put to good use.

Aside from the substance of the allegations in the document Buzzfeed released, it would not be surprising or uncharacteristic for the FSB not to have at least tried something similar with a foreign man so rich, so vulnerable, and so shameless. It is in Trump's DNA to go big, and in the FSB's to record any and all proceedings, just in case.

Posted by at January 12, 2017 8:28 AM