BBC’s FISA Reporter Argues CIA Should Lead Trump Investigation

Paul Wood is the BBC reporter who, in a January story focusing largely on MI6 officer Christopher Steele’s dossier, repeated the Louise Mensch report that the government had obtained a FISA order targeting two Russian banks.

On 15 October, the US secret intelligence court issued a warrant to investigate two Russian banks. This news was given to me by several sources and corroborated by someone I will identify only as a senior member of the US intelligence community. He would never volunteer anything – giving up classified information would be illegal – but he would confirm or deny what I had heard from other sources.

Last night he posted another story, confirming that one of the figures described in Steele’s dossier as having been withdrawn from DC because of his close ties to the election operation, Mikhail Kalugin, was indeed a Russian spy operating under diplomatic cover.

[S]ources I know and trust have told me the US government identified Kalugin as a spy while he was still at the embassy.


A retired member of a US intelligence agency told me that Kalugin was being kept under surveillance before he left the US.

But I’m more interested in the vague details Wood offers about Steele’s past cooperation — and how he pitches a claim that the FBI is screwing up the investigation.

Remember: the public story is that only the FBI had any contact with Steele. But the first time this article describes him sharing information he collected for other sources with US intelligence agencies, it doesn’t specify that.

I understand – from former officials – that from 2013-16, Steele gave the US government extensive information on Russia and Ukraine.

This was work done for private clients, but which Steele wanted the US authorities to see.

One former senior official who saw these reports told me: “It was found to be of value by the people whose job it was to look at Russia every day.

Indeed, the article distinguishes between what those agencies believed about Steele from what the FBI did.

In light of his earlier work, the US intelligence community saw him as “credible” (their highest praise).

The FBI thought the same; they had worked with Steele going back to his days in MI6.

The article goes on to complain that Steele never briefed the CIA on the dossier, which it explains by saying his Russian related contacts had moved on.

But the CIA never interviewed him, and never sought to.

This comes from several people who are in a position to know.


I understand that Steele himself did not ask to brief the CIA because he had a long-standing relationship with the FBI.

The Russia people at the CIA had moved on and he felt he did not have the personal contacts he would need.

As a reminder, the Intelligence Community offered completely ridiculous explanations for when it first obtained the dossier, which were implausible, even ignoring the way they pretended FBI wasn’t part of the IC.

In any case, having laid out these distinctions, the article then voices the complaints of those who believe the FBI is screwing the investigation up, and that only CIA has the contacts to conduct it.

This comes from several people who are in a position to know.

They are alarmed at how the investigation is going, and worry it is being fumbled.

One said: “The FBI doesn’t know about Russia, the CIA knows about Russia.

“Any sources Steele has in Russia, the FBI doesn’t know how to evaluate.

“The Agency does… Who’s running this thing from Moscow? The FBI just aren’t capable on that side, of even understanding what Chris has.”

The article cites one reason this complaint is bogus — the CIA, along with other agencies, are part of the task force investigating this case. It doesn’t explain why the theory voiced by its sources — that the Russians would need to steal voter roll data from states (or even cooperate with Trump) to micro-target messages. Voter rolls are readily available. And while cooperating with Trump’s campaign would make micro-targeting more effective, it would not be necessary for a knowledgable person.

In any case, these complaints sound like the excuses given for why Steele did not, ultimately, take payment from FBI (which I discussed here), with one difference. It wasn’t just that Steele thought the FBI was paying too much attention on Hillary’s email campaign, but he thought publicizing his dossier would make the difference in the election.

“He really thought that what he had would sway the election,” said one.

That claim, with questions introduced by this article about which agencies he has worked with, is rather interesting.

One final point. After the article got posted, the Beeb took out a critical line (highlighted below) claiming that Steele didn’t share his dossier with reporters himself, but instead did so through his employer.

That doesn’t make sense for a lot of reasons — and is belied by David Corn’s account of what happened. But I find it particularly interesting given the fact that — after Chuck Grassley first asked the FBI to provide information on the dossier — Grassley has since asked the consulting firm questions that would provide a way to double check the FBI’s claims. Fusion’s answers, which are due by April 7, might present problems for this claim, which has since disappeared. Poof!

Among the things Richard Burr suggested yesterday is that the committee may not succeed in getting Steele to testify (suggesting that being outside the country put him beyond subpoena). Given the airing of complaints from Steele and his friends here, I really look forward to seeing whether he cooperates with SSCI.

15 replies
  1. Charles says:

    Marcy says,

     It doesn’t explain why the theory voiced by its sources — that the Russians would need to steal voter roll data from states (or even cooperate with Trump) to micro-target messages. Voter rolls are readily available.

    True, but if you’re a hacker operating ten time zones away, the trip to the county voting offices can be a killer. Not to mention, visiting the necessary subset of 1700 relevant voting officials would draw attention. In other words, “need” might be the wrong frame…  “find it easy” is entirely sufficient.


    As for Steele’s belief that his file would sway the election, I don’t find that strange or suspicious at all. If you had found that a presidential candidate was working with a foreign power to gain high office, would you want that person to succeed?  Only the coldest sort of political operative would be indifferent to the consequences of his/her work.


    The same comment applies to many of the notations of oddities in the narrative we have. True, oddities need to be noted, because they may indicate that some sort of con is on.  But almost all accounts have oddities, little things that don’t fit. Sometimes those are reportorial errors, or subtle flaws in our understanding of the timing of events. Others may be attempts to mask the true source of intelligence. But some could indicate misdirection, or an attempt to manipulate public opinion–some kind of con.


    There is, after all, a huge oddity about the story–of Vladimir Putin’s alliance with a right-wing authoritarian political party given the fact that the predecessor state to Russia was nearly destroyed by that, not to mention the fact that the West worked with just such a party in overthrowing Russia’s satrap in Ukraine.  And yet, despite the utter improbability of it, it seems to be true that Putin is willing to work with right-wing authoritarians, the evidence being Marine Le Pen and other right-wing politicians flocking to make common cause with Russia.


    What would be very helpful would be a huge chart of the timeline, along with an index of the personalities involved in this increasingly Byzantine scandal.  I’m not volunteering.

  2. SpaceLifeForm says:

    Red Herrings for sale!

    The BBC has learned that US officials “verified” a key claim in a report about Kremlin involvement in Donald Trump’s election – that a Russian diplomat in Washington was in fact a spy.

    [No kidding.  Means nothing.  All diplomats can be considered ‘spys’.  It is their job to collect intel]
    One former senior official who saw these reports told me: “It was found to be of value by the people whose job it was to look at Russia every day.
    [‘Of value’ may not be referring directly to the content, but the fact that Steele had the info]
    “They said things like, ‘How can he get this so quickly? This fits exactly with what we have.’ It was validated many times.”
    [Maybe because it was leaked to Steele]
    In light of his earlier work, the US intelligence community saw him as “credible” (their highest praise).
    The FBI thought the same; they had worked with Steele going back to his days in MI6.
    [Implication here is that FBI is the unwanted stepchild in the IC]
    He flew to Rome in August to talk to the FBI.
    Then in early October, he came to the US and was extensively debriefed by them, over a week.
    [Looks like FBI did some heavy digging in September]
    He gave the FBI the names of some of his informants, the so-called “key” to the dossier.
    But the CIA never interviewed him, and never sought to.
    [Maybe because they already had the info.   Maybe they really did not want to investigate, as extra personnel inside CIA may become more informed.  Compartmentization]
    This comes from several people who are in a position to know.
    They are alarmed at how the investigation is going, and worry it is being fumbled.
    [Entire story says CIA panic.  That FBI is no good, the CIA should lead investigation. Well, if all of the false flag ops are really CIA ops, then sure, CIA would want to investigate.  And delay.   And delay.  And delay.  Until the story is forgotten]
    Another reflected growing frustration with the inquiry among some who served in the Obama administration: “We used to call them the Feebs. They would make the simple cases, but never see, let alone understand and go after, the bigger picture.


    [They keep attacking FBI.   Panic.  Maybe FBI actually has a really good handle on the mess]
    But the Russian government was never shown to have been responsible.
    [It is false flag op]
    There are either a series of coincidences or there is a conspiracy of such reach and sophistication that it may take years to unravel.
    [I vote for latter]
    “I hear a lot of people comparing this to Watergate,” said Congressman Eric Swalwell, a Democrat who sits on the House Intelligence Committee.
    “Let me just tell you, the complexity of this case is unlike anything we’ve ever seen.
    “Watergate doesn’t even come close. That was a burglary in the Metro section of the Washington Post.

  3. SpaceLifeForm says:

    Speaking of Watergate….

    It was Spy vs Spy, CIA and FBI.

    A good read:

    A manic state of unreality can occur, in which things that don’t make sense will start to make sense.

    [This is why it is very important that everyone pays attention.  Spot the false flag ops, spot the red herrings, spot the propaganda.  The bad part is that a lot of people in “leadership positions” have lost their capacity to do so.  Too much MIC indoctrination.]



  4. Maybe ryan says:

    Chicago radio used to have an ad for a company that claimed to eliminate the need to ‘drive around looking for a drapery store. This ad was still running after the Internet had killed the yellow pages.

    That’s what I think of Charles’s claim that one might hack databases to avoid driving to 1700 County clerks. You buy the database from a consultant, silly.

    • greengiant says:

      Someone raised the rational for hacking the voter database.  Minor name change,  inactivity checkmark,  or other change to cause disenfranchisement.   You read how many lawyers and helpers the Republicans sent into the Michigan?  recount.  The thought occurs that the over count in some precincts may have been the result.   Other articles write about the North Carolina polling place shell game they play to disenfranchise minorities.   I have heard a second testimonial about one county? in the US in another election they were set to send the results to the press and someone had an Eureka and the overcount was 29 percent. Certainly there was the mindset at the highest levels of the campaign. Just listen to Stephen Miller talking about 6,000 “new” voters bused into New Hampshire, ( And you can not deny ).

    • Charles says:

      Failure to consider alternative explanations is silly.


      And if you want to criticize my post, you might do it directly so that we could discuss the matter.


      Greengiant gave a potential answer to you, namely that corrupting the database could have been the objective. Or maybe the objective was simply to sow doubt and distrust and undermine whoever became president. Or perhaps whoever did the hack didn’t have the sophistication or the time to hire a consultant.  We simply don’t have the information to rate one or the other as certainly the answer.


      Resolving the many, many possibilities is what investigations are for. There are those on the left and on the right that want to shut down the investigation by excluding alternative explanations in favor of their pet explanations: The Russians did it! The Deep State did it! Each explanation has its own implications, and by using those implications to develop good questions, we might someday be able to exclude some.


      I have my own hypothesis, namely that Trump did it using hackers with some connection to the Russian intelligence services.  That hypothesis matches with many observations and, as far as I know, doesn’t conflict with any. But I would not tell someone they were being silly for proposing an alternative.

  5. Jg says:

    I am curious if manafort and page will testify while aware that Flynn is in discussions.

    Could manafort and Oage already have deals. Reporting seems like that is a no. But is there anything definitive? I’m trying to figure out why the hesitancy over giving Flynn immunity. The hesitancy seems to indicate he MAY be only one charged.

    I want The Felix sater story please.

  6. harpie says:

    o/t-but something that may be of interest:
    @zeynep explains on Facebook about “how Ashley Feinberg tracked down the Twitter and Instagram accounts that the FBI director James Comey had allegedly locked down”. [tbc]

    • harpie says:


      […] It just goes to show you that even people who deal with national security do not fully understand how the online environment works. […]

      [She wrote it on FB because Twitter “broke threading”]
      She links to the post, here

      […] Let’s break this down because there is more to this—and it is significant. A less understood issue with algorithms and privacy is how computation can suss out things you did not disclose. […] In short, in the age of computational inference with sufficiently big data, privacy and boundaries around information are not stable–they are not stable because networks leak information; because your acts reveal deeper dynamics; because people like you give hints about what you will do; because this is all asymmetric: there is a business model, and then there is us, in the middle of all of this, connecting to one another because that is what people do. This whole shift in boundaries of revelation and how people lost control of them is one of the politically most significant shifts in recent memory, and we have just begun–sensors are coming, too. It is going to be a wild ride.

      Also, this came out yesterday:
      Facebook Failed to Protect 30 Million Users from Having Their Data Harvested by Trump Campaign Affiliate, The Intercept, Matthias Schwartz, 3/30/17

  7. Bob In Portland says:

    The initial “hack”, which the DNC handed to CrowdStrike to investigate, was kept from the FBI. The purveyors of this hack meme clearly favor keeping the FBI out and the CIA in.

    I would suggest this indicates how lines are drawn in the halls of power.

    “We were hacked, but keep the FBI out of this.”

    • Bardi says:

      Well, the FBI seems quite good at entrapping, um, slow people.  Other than that, there seems to be a giant hole.

  8. SpaceLifeForm says:


    Misattribution always in play. As in, a really smelly red herring.
    WikiLeaks’ latest Vault 7 release contains a batch of documents, named ‘Marble’, which detail CIA hacking tactics and how they can misdirect forensic investigators from attributing viruses, trojans and hacking attacks to their agency by inserted code fragments in foreign languages.  The tool was in use as recently as 2016.  Per the WikiLeaks release:
    “The source code shows that Marble has test examples not just in English but also in Chinese, Russian, Korean, Arabic and Farsi. This would permit a forensic attribution double game,
    for example by pretending that the spoken language of the malware creator was not American English, but Chinese, but then showing attempts to conceal the use of Chinese, drawing forensic investigators even more strongly to the wrong conclusion,— but there are other possibilities, such as hiding fake error messages.”



  9. Procopius says:

    I had thought it was illegal for the CIA to do anything inside the United States, but after doing a little googling I discover that, aside from Executive Order (EO) 12333, Bush signed EO 13470 in 2008, allowing the CIA to conduct counter-intelligence operations in the U.S. I think this was a terribly foolish thing to do, and much as I despised the Old Queen, at least Hoover successfully defended his turf from the CIA upstarts.

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