23:31 GMT31 May 2020
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    On 9 September, America's mainstream media delivered a new US-Russian spy story on how the CIA managed to extract a highly-valuable source that used to work in the Russian government. US political commentators have discussed the timing, purpose, and alleged sources behind the surprising exposé.

    The latest spy story, broken by the CNN’s Jim Sciutto on Monday, is growing more and more detailed with one question remaining unanswered: Why did the US mainstream media rush to expose a former CIA mole in the Kremlin whose life, by their account, was in danger?

    According to the stories told by CNN, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, the CIA extracted its "highly valuable" source in 2017.

    These three flagships of the US MSM cited different reasons behind the move. While CNN and WaPo insisted the intelligence agency had been driven by the fear that President Trump might accidentally expose the asset, The New York Times revealed that the plan to evacuate the source had emerged under Barack Obama's presidency. The CIA later denounced CNN's version of the events as being "misguided" and simply "false".

    It took just hours to identify the alleged spy: Kommersant, a Russian newspaper, swiftly connected the dots and presumed that the mole in question was Oleg Smolenkov who went missing with his family in 2017.

    The newspaper cited home sales data from The Washington Post site according to which Oleg Smolenkov and his wife Antonina acquired a house in Stafford, Virginia, on 5 June 2018 – nearly a year after going missing in Montenegro. A Sputnik correspondent found out Wednesday that the Smolenkovs had apparently left their Stafford mansion in haste after the exposure.

    On 10 September, the Kremlin confirmed that Oleg Smolenkov indeed used to work for the presidential administration in 2016 and 2017 as a mid-level bureaucrat who had no access to President Vladimir Putin or sensitive intelligence reports. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov noted that it is up to the Russian counterintelligence service to find out whether the ex-official was a spy.

    Deliberate Exposé: Are WH, CIA Diverting Attention From Someone Else?

    Commenting on the possible reasons behind the sudden exposé, Philip Giraldi, a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer, does not rule out that it could be an intentional move by the White House and the CIA.

    "The deliberate leak of the Smolenkov story is intended to provide cover for another, much more high level American spy in the Kremlin", the CIA veteran suggested. "The US government hopes that the disappearance of Smolenkov will end the search for a mole in Moscow, protecting the spy in place".

    As for the coverage by the media, Giraldi continues, "it is to be expected that they would use the story to embarrass Trump".

    The spy story has kicked up the "Russiagate" narrative: According to the US MSM, the alleged mole was a key source about Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential race. Moscow has resolutely denied the supposed interference in the US election cycle, citing the assumption's absurdity.

    "I also believe that tying Smolenkov in with the 2016 election is most probably a complete fabrication by the press", says Giraldi.

    He quoted yet another former CIA analyst, Larry C. Johnson, who wrote in a recent op-ed that Smolenkov was typical of a low level spy recruited by a case officer to help along his or her career.

    Citing his intel friend with knowledge of the matter, Johnson noted that the spy in question had reportedly never been polygraphed.

    "He probably never provided anything useful and if was not polygraphed that probably means that he was not regarded as important", Giraldi believes.

    Photo shot September 10, 2019 shows the house in Stafford, Virginia, of alleged spy, Oleg Smolenkov
    © AFP 2020 / ERIC BARADAT
    Photo shot September 10, 2019 shows the house in Stafford, Virginia, of alleged spy, Oleg Smolenkov

    Purpose of US MSM Leak is Twofold

    Techno Fog, a pseudonym for a US lawyer, believes that "the purpose of the leak is twofold":

    ·         "First, to show that the Intelligence Community (IC) had a Russian 'spy' close to Putin feeding information on Kremlin efforts to influence the election".

    ·         "Second, to have someone to blame if the ongoing Barr/Durham/IG investigation finds illegal activities perpetuated by the IC", the lawyer suggests.

    Techno Fog referred to two ongoing probes into the DOJ, FBI, and CIA's role in the so-called "spygate" – an effort aimed at spying on Donald Trump's aides during the 2016 election cycle under the pretext of his supposed "collusion" with Moscow. While Inspector General Michael Horowitz is about to release his conclusions on the alleged abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), prosecutor John Durham appointed by Attorney General William Barr is looking into the origins of the FBI-led "Russia investigation".

    "Exposing him takes the heat off the IC and puts it on Oleg", the lawyer presumes. "You can imagine the IC response if it all blows up: we trusted a source who lied to us".

    CNN Breaks 'Spy Story' While Dems are Pushing for Trump's Impeachment

    Charles Ortel, a Wall Street analyst and investigative journalist echoes the lawyer: "The timing is suspicious coming right before the expected release (long overdue) of Inspector General Horowitz’s report on likely FISA court warrant application abuses, and potential declassification and release by Attorney General William Barr of information concerning foreign involvement in the 2016 primaries, election and aftermath".

    The Wall Street analyst expects that the upcoming exposures may seriously hit former Obama administration officials including ex-Secretary of State and former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

    According to Ortel, a potential source behind the latest spy story could include "long-time 'career' bureaucrats in the State or Defence Departments, as well as entrenched employees and contractors to the 'deep state'".

    "CNN is desperate to protect former and current deep state actors, and their international franchise selling stories via airport lounges and hotels to other proponents of unregulated  globalism", the analyst opines. "Long ago, they proved their bias and willingness to ignore basic fact-checking requirements. So, they rushed out with a story that was sure to grab headlines, just as Democrats in the House of Representatives increased the volume of cries to impeach President Trump by all means possible".

    Indeed, on 12 September, the House Judiciary Committee gave the nod to the parameters for its impeachment probe into Trump, promoted by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY). The move comes amid the 2019/2020 presidential cycle with Donald Trump being one of its favourites.

    Alleged Kremlin Mole May Corroborate Lack of Russia's Involvement in 2016 Vote

    According to Ortel, there is a silver lining in this story since the alleged Kremlin mole could "corroborate the lack of meaningful Russian involvement" in the US 2016 presidential election.

    However, this means that the supposed informant now poses a threat to ex-CIA chief John Brennan, ex-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and others "who manufactured the Russian hoax narrative as a means of obstructing Donald Trump and the expressed will of the American people in November 2016", the analyst emphasises.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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    exposure, 2016 US Presidential election, 2020 election, The Kremlin, spy, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Oleg Smolenkov, Donald Trump, Russia, United States
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