Let’s take a little break from all the coverage of Mueller’s “Russia” investigation –- the mission of which seems to be setting President Trump on the road to prosecution or impeachment by putting his former campaign manager on trial for old loan fraud and tax charges –- and have a look at a very real example of high-level Russian spying on Americans. This stunning new story from The Guardian reflects the kind of infiltration we SHOULD be investigating: Russian spying that resulted in access to some of our most highly classified information, even the President’s daily schedule. While the Mueller team is wasting time showing jurors pictures of Manafort’s expensive suits and threatening him with life in prison to get him to offer up his former boss on a platter, a story is emerging of very real Russian “meddling.”
But since it’s a huge embarrassment to the intelligence community and perhaps even an unwelcome distraction from the “get-Trump” narrative, having nothing whatsoever to do with Trump, we probably won’t be hearing much about it.
It’s the British press that uncovered this. Investigative reporter Nick Hopkins has learned that that for more than a decade, a Russian national was working undetected as an alleged spy at the American embassy in Moscow. She was hired by the Secret Service –- we still don’t have the details surrounding her hiring or how (if?) she was vetted –- and she didn’t come under suspicion until 2016, when the State Department’s Regional Security Office conducted a routine security sweep of the London, Paris and Moscow offices. They made their report in January of 2017, but instead of launching an inquiry, which might have ended up making them look bad, the Secret Service just revoked her security clearance last summer and quietly let her go.
Her dismissal attracted essentially no attention at the time because it conveniently occurred when the Kremlin was demanding an expulsion of diplomatic personnel in the wake of new Washington-imposed sanctions. Over 750 out of 1,200 employees lost their positions, and the downsizing was used as cover to make it it look as though she was just part of it.
According to the Guardian’s source, “The Secret Service is trying to hide the breach by firing [her]. The damage was already done but the senior management of the Secret Service did not conduct any internal investigation to assess the damage and to see if [she] recruited any other employees to provide her with more information. Only an intense investigation by an outside source can determine the damage she has done.”
So, there may be more spying going on at our embassy in Moscow. Oh, goody.
When the Secret Service was pressed for details, they released a statement downplaying the role this woman played. “At no time,” it said, “in any US Secret Service office, have FSNs [foreign service nationals] been provided or placed in a position to obtain national security information.”
Right, and Peter Strzok voted for Donald Trump. The State Department refused to comment on allegations related to intelligence or personnel matters, but acknowledged “that US government employees, by virtue of their employment with the US government, may be targeted by foreign intelligence services...when we identify an employee in violation of security directives, we take appropriate action at the appropriate time.” In other words, this woman WAS in a position to gain information from Americans working at the embassy. To admit that fact completely negates the lame attempt at reassurance offered by the Secret Service.
According to the source, this woman had a role that gave her insight into ongoing Secret Service investigations, and her position gave her access to the Secret Service intranet. Through this official email system, she had access to the schedule of the Presidents (current and former), the Vice Presidents, and their spouses, including Hillary Clinton. I would add that it probably included all immediate family members and anyone else who was receiving Secret Service protection. (Hey, I've got a family member who has to have that!)
The woman went against the rules by interacting with several embassy employees on her personal email. There’s no telling what information she was able to glean from conversations with Americans. She apparently operated with very little supervision and was having “numerous unsanctioned meetings and communications” with the FSB, Russia’s principal security agency, and that’s what aroused suspicion.
To top it off, once the Secret Service was on to her, the potential breach was not reported to any of the congressional oversight committees. There needs to be a serious look at why the Secret Service hid what happened and failed to conduct an internal investigation. Of course, the special counsel charged with investigating “Russian meddling” could look into it; they have all the security clearances and their mission, after all, is to investigate what the Russians are up to. But Mueller is much too busy right now going after Donald Trum---I mean, Russian Facebook ads, as well as former campaign managers with pricey ostrich jackets.
I could have spent this time writing about the past couple of days at the Paul Manafort show trial. That information will be everywhere; FOX News has been doing some excellent reporting on it and will keep you up to date. (The important thing is that Judge Ellis knows exactly what is going on in his courtroom.) But for now, it seems more important to put his trial in perspective by talking about a REAL story about a REAL intelligence breach involving a REAL Russian spy –- and the attempt to keep anyone from finding out about it.