A Russian agent is extracted to the U.S., and we are "flying blind"
September 10, 2019 9:10 PM   Subscribe

CNN broke the news on Monday. In 2017, the U.S. extracted a spy who "had access to Putin and could even provide images of documents on the Russian leader's desk." The agent, who was recruited decades ago, had been one of the CIA's most important assets, providing crucial information about Russian interference in the 2016 election.

But as the CIA grew more concerned about his identify becoming compromised, they decided to remove him, limiting our knowledge about meddling in the 2018 election, among other issues. Concerns about President Trump's handing of intelligence may - or may not - have contributed to that decision. Obtaining such a source "may happen once a generation, if ever." His name was Oleg Smolenkov, and until this week, he was living in plain sight outside of Washington, as NBC revealed, reporting that one media critic considered irresponsible.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some (27 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
So how long before Trump lets Russians smuggle polonium into the country?
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 9:27 PM on September 10 [9 favorites]


NYT: "But her emails."
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:40 PM on September 10 [36 favorites]


No need for polonium or nerve poison, the assassination of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili shows the Russians are happy to use more easily available methods to dispatch their enemies on foreign soil.

Russia Orchestrated Chechen Rebel’s Murder in Germany, U.S. Officials Say, the murder is rekindling concerns that Moscow is ramping up a foreign assassination campaign against perceived enemies abroad.
posted by peeedro at 10:25 PM on September 10 [4 favorites]


So basically on nearly day one in office during one of his first meetings with foreign officials Trump accidentally (or not) outs the most important intelligence asset the U.S. has. This is the way it's going to go down. We will probably continue learning for years that everything he did we thought was terrible was actually much more horrific than we thought at the time.
posted by xammerboy at 11:08 PM on September 10 [18 favorites]


If this person was so valuable, publicizing his removal like this seems like it would be a death sentence.

I'm not sure if the feeling that something isn't quite right about this means par for the course, or if this is too anomalous.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:31 PM on September 10 [6 favorites]


I agree. I wonder if this kind of grandstanding with a national security issue would have happened under Obama.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 12:09 AM on September 11


Meanwhile, the Russians still have an asset who sits behind the President's desk on a regular basis.
posted by kyrademon at 12:20 AM on September 11 [46 favorites]


I think it's entirely possible that dropping this gem of a story on CNN's desk is itself a message from the Trump administration to Putin. It reads: here he is.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 2:23 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]


I feel like I always need versions of these stories that are as ELI5 as they are irrefutable and cited in the least contentious way possible, not for myself but for family or acquaintances who inevitably deny or act incredulously when the atrocities come to light.

It is so exhausting.
posted by RolandOfEld at 3:28 AM on September 11 [7 favorites]


I think it's entirely possible that dropping this gem of a story on CNN's desk is itself a message from the Trump administration to Putin. It reads: here he is.

I would presume that 1) Putin already knows that we had this asset, and that Trump burned him, and b) that the CIA or whoever doesn't have the guy living under his own name but rather a false identity.

This story then would seem to be aimed at embarrassing Putin by revealing that we had such a highly placed asset (and why not; we're all embarrassed by having an obvious Russian agent in the Oval Office) and embarrassing Trump by making clear that his blundering ruined a key intelligence asset that was vital for national security.

Trump's loyalists like to think that his phony tough guy act keeps them safe, but anyone who's read a Tom Clancy novel would know how badly Dumb Donald blew it.
posted by Gelatin at 5:34 AM on September 11 [5 favorites]


sighs, throws out first page of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Trump" novel
posted by Etrigan at 5:48 AM on September 11 [11 favorites]


Previously from Etrigan le Carré:
The Trump Who Came in from the Cold
A Small Trump in Germany
The Naïve and Sentimental Trump
A Perfect Trump
The Russia House
Our Kind of Traitor
posted by kirkaracha at 6:47 AM on September 11 [7 favorites]


With a shitty reality show personality elected to POTUS and this latest plot twist, I can only repeat what has been said many times over the past few years: LAZY. Lazy, lazy, lazy, writing this season. The worst writing.
posted by elkevelvet at 6:48 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]


, and until this week, he was living in plain sight outside of Washington, as NBC revealed,

Why. Do reporters. Do this. Why. WHY.
posted by pelvicsorcery at 7:18 AM on September 11


Why. Do reporters. Do this. Why. WHY.

They didn't. His details were printed first in the Russian media. NBC just confirmed it. Russia basically sent out a "won't someone rid me of this meddlesome priest" in their newspapers and NBC went to confirm the priest was still alive.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 7:24 AM on September 11 [12 favorites]


If it wasn't for this asset we apparently wouldn't have had rock solid evidence that Putin had personally interfered in the U.S. election. Presumably, if the agent hadn't been outed we would have gathered even more intelligence on this attack on our democracy.

It's a federal crime to reveal national intelligence through gross negligence. It's literally what Hillary was investigated for. Here it is in plain sight, and again, Republicans don't really care about national security after all.
posted by xammerboy at 7:31 AM on September 11 [23 favorites]


So basically on nearly day one in office during one of his first meetings with foreign officials Trump accidentally (or not) outs the most important intelligence asset the U.S. has.

That's not the story (that's been told). It's that he was so sloppy with other intel than the CIA deemed it necessary to extract the asset rather than risk his life should Trump have also ended up exposing him. If Trump had exposed him, it's extremely unlikely that there would have been any possibility of getting him out of Russia.
posted by Candleman at 7:45 AM on September 11 [8 favorites]


... it's extremely unlikely that there would have been any possibility of getting him out of Russia.

Under the old cold-war rules, the opposing country could deny any involvement, the agent would be uppacreek, and life would go on (well, not for him perhaps, but you get what I mean). That they went to lengths to get him out makes me wonder if there might not be a 2nd act for this guy, say, at Trump's impeachment trial?.
posted by pseudophile at 8:48 AM on September 11 [1 favorite]


I think the more likely option here is that there is at the least another highly placed asset and they want Trump/Putin to think think they are in the clear.
posted by srboisvert at 8:58 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]


Under the old cold-war rules, the opposing country could deny any involvement

Not entirely. Agents were extracted when possible and spy for spy exchanges happened as well. Pragmatically, if you don't take care of your own, you're not going to get people interested in working with you and even after someone is burned, there is a wealth of knowledge you can still get out of them through debriefs.
posted by Candleman at 8:59 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]


it's extremely unlikely that there would have been any possibility of getting him out of Russia.

The traditional Russian exit for dissidents, out the sixth floor window
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 9:51 AM on September 11 [1 favorite]


Just a reminder of the number of people killed in Russia by Putin after Trump's election:

Russian Lawyer Nikolai Gorokhov Thrown From Window Was a Witness for the U.S. Government

And lest we forget, Trump's buddy is a guy who rose to power by faking terrorist attacks and bombing his own country's apartment buildings.
posted by benzenedream at 10:09 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]


Sometimes you have to fell a little sorry for the American Intelligence agencies. At best their boss is complete loose cannon who could out a swath of agents at anytime either carelessly or to prop up his ego. And at worst is an actual bought and paid for Russia agent along with most of his extended family. Can't imagine the latter was ever part of their planning.
posted by Mitheral at 11:43 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]


Anybody read Red Sparrow?
posted by rossmeissl at 12:09 PM on September 11


Anybody read Red Sparrow?

No. But I did walk out of the movie.
posted by hal9k at 2:09 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]


Here's the Wikipedia article on Trump's gaffe:

On May 10, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump disclosed classified information to Russian government representatives, creating political and security concerns in the United States and its allies, especially Israel. Soon after the meeting, American intelligence extracted a high-level covert source from within the Russian government, on concerns the individual could be at risk due, in part, to Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandling classified intelligence.
posted by xammerboy at 2:35 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]


Hands up those who had a visit from their surprised face over this revelation?

Me neither.
posted by Pouteria at 8:12 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]


« Older Why do I take photos?   |   the protagonist and the punch-up writer Newer »


You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.