Friday, August 3, 2018

Russian To Judgment, Con't

The spy games between the Trump regime and the Kremlin continue, as The Guardian breaks an impressive story of a deep-cover Russian agent with access to the US embassy in Moscow.

US counter-intelligence investigators discovered a suspected Russian spy had been working undetected in the heart of the American embassy in Moscow for more than a decade, the Guardian has learned.

The Russian national had been hired by the US Secret Service and is understood to have had access to the agency’s intranet and email systems, which gave her a potential window into highly confidential material including the schedules of the president and vice-president.

The woman had been working for the Secret Service for years before she came under suspicion in 2016 during a routine security sweep conducted by two investigators from the US Department of State’s Regional Security Office (RSO).

They established she was having regular and unauthorised meetings with members of the FSB, Russia’s principal security agency.

The Guardian has been told the RSO sounded the alarm in January 2017, but the Secret Service did not launch a full-scale inquiry of its own. Instead it decided to let her go quietly months later, possibly to contain any potential embarrassment.

An intelligence source told the Guardian the woman was dismissed last summer after the state department revoked her security clearance. The dismissal came shortly before a round of expulsions of US personnel demanded by the Kremlin after Washington imposed more sanctions on the country.

The order to remove more than 750 US personnel from its 1,200-strong diplomatic mission is understood to have provided cover for her removal.

“The Secret Service is trying to hide the breach by firing [her],” the source said. “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.”

Asked detailed questions about the investigation into the woman, and her dismissal, the Secret Service attempted to downplay the significance of her role. But it did not deny that she had been identified as a potential mole.

In a statement, it said: “The US Secret Service recognizes that all Foreign Service Nationals (FSN) who provide services in furtherance of our mission, administrative or otherwise, can be subjected to foreign intelligence influence.

This is of particular emphasis in Russia. As such, all foreign service nationals are managed accordingly to ensure that Secret Service and United States government interests are protected at all times. As a result, the duties are limited to translation, interpretation, cultural guidance, liaison and administrative support.

To recap, the US had identified a possible Russian mole in the USSS, who had been in the agency's employ for a decade.  The Trump regime was informed when Trump took office.  The USSS quietly let her go and pretended nothing was wrong.   Nobody would have suspected anything, but then this story hits.

On the same day that this story broke, yesterday, the White House press briefing was presented by not just press secretary Sarah Sanders, but by four cabinet officials who all just happened to be responsible for the executive branch's defense against Russian interference in the 2018 midterm elections.

The top officials' presence in the White House briefing room amounted to the administration's most significant effort to date to convey that a whole of government effort is being undertaken to combat Russian attacks on US democracy, which Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said is "in the crosshairs." 
The briefing came on the heels of weeks of scorching criticism Republicans and Democrats have unleashed on the President following his refusal to back the US intelligence community's conclusions about Russian interference in the 2016 election over Russian President Vladimir Putin's denials.

"Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of our democracy, and it has become clear that they are the target of our adversaries who seek ... to sow discord and undermine our way of life," Nielsen said. 
The briefing came on the heels of weeks of scorching criticism Republicans and Democrats have unleashed on the President following his refusal to back the US intelligence community's conclusions about Russian interference in the 2016 election over Russian President Vladimir Putin's denials. 
Trump has since reaffirmed his confidence in the US intelligence assessment, but his absence from the briefing room on Thursday and his ongoing branding of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation as a "witch hunt" have only kept alive questions about whether Trump is serious about confronting ongoing Russian interference. 
That cognitive dissonance was on display during the briefing Thursday as Coats, national security adviser John Bolton and FBI Director Chris Wray were pressed about contradictions in the administration's messaging and the President's. 
"I think the President has made it abundantly clear to everybody who has responsibility in this area that he cares deeply about it and that he expects them to do their jobs to their fullest ability and that he supports them fully," Bolton said, adding that Trump opened his private meeting with Putin by raising election interference. 
Still, Coats said he is "not in a position to either understand fully or talk about what happened in Helsinki," despite being one of the US's top intelligence officials. 

And so the same day we find out about a major, major Russian mole in the USSS.

This is not a coincidence.  Maybe there's finally enough pressure from Republicans in Congress to motivate the Trump regime to fight back.

Maybe.  I have serious doubts, but we'll see.  

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