Those Russian Spy Houses Trump REALLY Wants To Give Back To Putin? Spied On The FBI And CIA. YEP!
Not long after Vladimir Putin helped steal the 2016 election for Donald Trump, the Obama administration responded by levying new sanctions against Russia, kicking 35 Russian "diplomats" out of America, and confiscating two of their spy houses, or dachas, in Maryland and New York, which had been "suspected" of being used for espionage. But they weren't real clear on exactly what that meant.
Earlier this week, Yahoo! News came out with one of its bigass longform pieces that fills in some of the blanks of what those dachas were really used for, and if you can suffer through their 11,000 words of lugubrious prose, you might find yourself saying WOW. (You know, if you are still awake.) But worry not, Wonkette suffered through it! (Seriously, Yahoo! EDITORS. They exist. And if you hired a couple, this story might not still seem fresh THREE DAYS AFTER IT WAS PUBLISHED, because somebody might've read it!)
Before we get into this, though, we'd like to remind you that not long after Donald Trump was inaugurated, he decided he wanted to try to give the dachas back to Russia, in exchange for nothing. We note this because, if the Obama administration knew what was going on at those dachas, then the Trump administration did too, which presumably means Trump really wanted to let the Russians get back to the hard work of stealing our secrets and surveiling the FBI and the CIA. Gotta watch the Deep State somehow!
America started to figure out most of this around 2012 or so:
Both compounds, and at least some of the expelled diplomats, played key roles in a brazen Russian counterintelligence operation that stretched from the Bay Area to the heart of the nation's capital, according to former U.S. officials. The operation, which targeted FBI communications, hampered the bureau's ability to track Russian spies on U.S. soil at a time of increasing tension with Moscow, forced the FBI and CIA to cease contact with some of their Russian assets, and prompted tighter security procedures at key U.S. national security facilities in the Washington area and elsewhere, according to former U.S. officials. It even raised concerns among some U.S. officials about a Russian mole within the U.S. intelligence community.
"It was a very broad effort to try and penetrate our most sensitive operations," said a former senior CIA official.
American officials discovered that the Russians had dramatically improved their ability to decrypt certain types of secure communications and had successfully tracked devices used by elite FBI surveillance teams. Officials also feared that the Russians may have devised other ways to monitor U.S. intelligence communications, including hacking into computers not connected to the internet.
All of the main ideas from the article are included in that block quote, but let's list them for emphasis:
- The Russians figured out how to follow the Americans who were following them.
- Because of this, the US had to drop a lot of its own Russian assets and sources, because of fears the Russians were listening.
- There were worries that the Russians had figured out how to spy on things like the FBI headquarters and Langley.
- They were maybe hacking computers that were not on the internet?
- Oh yeah, and maybe there was an actual human Russian mole helping the Russians figure out how to do all this.
- The dachas Obama seized, and that Trump tried to give back, were integral to this op.
No big deal!
As we said, Yahoo! reports that the Obama administration started to figure all this out around 2012. For context, this is after the Obama administration started its risky "Russian reset," which, while well-intentioned, didn't go all that well in hindsight. It was two years after the FBI arrested a fuckton of so-called "illegals," i.e. Russian spies living in America under deep unofficial cover, literally as Americans, in an investigation led by Donald Trump's mortal enemy, hunter-of-Russian-spies Peter Strzok. (You know, like the TV show "The Americans" with Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys!)
And it was one year after Vladimir Putin was "elected" president of Russia in a sham "election," which led thousands to protest in the streets, and led Putin to have a paranoid chickenshit episode where he decided to blame then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for manufacturing the Russian protests with her magical lady powers.
So it was becoming pretty clear around this time that Russia was not very interested in becoming America's BFF, though it took many in the Obama administration a li'l bit too long to figure that out.
These compromises, the full gravity of which became clear to U.S. officials in 2012, gave Russian spies in American cities including Washington, New York and San Francisco key insights into the location of undercover FBI surveillance teams, and likely the actual substance of FBI communications, according to former officials. They provided the Russians opportunities to potentially shake off FBI surveillance and communicate with sensitive human sources, check on remote recording devices and even gather intelligence on their FBI pursuers, the former officials said.
"When we found out about this, the light bulb went on — that this could be why we haven't seen [certain types of] activity" from known Russian spies in the United States, said a former senior intelligence official.
Yeah, because they were pursuing their pursuers, and probably still are.
The article is full of quotes from former officials, about how the Obama administration really wasn't ready for this sort of technical threat from the Russians, which was pretty obvious by its slow-on-the-uptake response to the Russian meddling, though that was complicated by other factors also, like #MoscowMitch refusing to call out Russia in a bipartisan way, and threatening to accuse Obama of playing politics before an election.
"We didn't understand that they were at political war with us already in the second term once Putin was reelected and Obama himself was reelected," said Evelyn Farkas, the former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia during the Obama administration.
But Joel Brenner, who was head of US counterintel and strategy from 2006 to 2009, also says on the record that in the years prior, they were focused on "insider threats, and in particular mole hunting," which, as we mentioned above, was part of what they were worried about when they figured out that the Russians were tracking them from their comfy waterfront dachas, which were apparently run by wives of Russian spies we mean diplomats we mean spies.
"You're wondering, 'If this is true, and they can do this, is this because someone on the inside has given them that information?'' said another former senior intelligence official.
Here's a thought that should keep you up at night, about the possibility of moles:
The number of ongoing espionage investigations into U.S. government personnel — at the CIA, the FBI and elsewhere — including those potentially recruited by Russia, "is not a little, it's a lot," said another former senior counterintelligence official.
That's just great. And now they have to deal with the fact that Donald Trump is an obvious Russian intelligence asset, plus whatever hinky shit Jared is doing with his fake security clearance and ... sweet dreams, everyone!
There is so much technology in this Yahoo! piece, so if you are a person who likes stuff like that, or if you just think spy stuff is cool, you'll want to nerd out. Basically, if there was a code to crack related to the FBI's teams charged with following Russian spies, the Russians cracked it, and the dachas were their "listening posts" or "signals intelligence facilities," according to a former official. They hacked their radios, they hacked their cell phones, they hacked their backup cell phones ... all of it.
They got closer, too, brushing up against FBI teams with their listenin' equipment, both on foot and in vans, and according to one former intelligence official, it was just enough to really piss the Americans the fuck off. Oh yeah, and the Russians got so close (are so close?) that officials have been legitimately freaked that they're actually trying to get in (already got in?) to the inner sanctums of FBI and CIA:
Senior U.S. officials were contemplating an even more disturbing possibility: that the Russians had found a way to penetrate the communications of the U.S. intelligence community's most sensitive buildings in and around Washington, D.C.
Suspected Russian intelligence officers were seen conspicuously loitering along the road that runs alongside the CIA's headquarters, according to former senior intelligence officials. "Russian diplomats would be sitting on Route 123, sometimes in cars with diplomatic plates, other times not," a former senior intelligence executive said. "We thought, they're out doing something. It's not just taking down license plates; those guys are interrogating the system."
Cool. Apparently there have been times they haven't even been sure their SCIFs were safe. (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, LEARN THE LINGO, GUYS, God, you'll never be a real spy, you should have majored in business like your mother told you to.)
The article notes a few things to keep all of this in context. First of all, we do all this shit too. Everybody spies. Grow up. But in America, you at least hope that they're trying to stay one step ahead of shit like this. (As a for instance, they figured out that the Russians had maybe figured out how to get into computers that weren't even on the internet partially because we already knew how to do that too.)
Secondly, it notes that Russia has been doing, or trying to do, stuff like this since the mid-2000-sies, but it really all went super hardcore around the time in question, when the FBI discovered it. But yet it took until Putin REALLY stuck his cock in and helped steal an American presidential election for his chosen candidate for Obama to seize those dachas and kick those Russian spies out.
And you just know that, though they remain closed to this day, Trump would just love to give the spy houses back.
When Robert Mueller testified for Congress, he stated in no uncertain terms to retiring GOP Rep. Will Hurd that Russia not only will be back for the 2020 elections, it already is back: "They are doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it during the next campaign." They're always here, and as our most committed adversary in the world, they're always looking for every single way they can fuck with us.
And these days, who's gonna stop 'em? Putin's boy child in the White House? PFFFFFFFFFT.
Well, this has been a rosy and optimistic story, goodbye now!
Follow Evan Hurst on Twitter RIGHT HERE, DO IT RIGHT HERE!
Wonkette is ad-free and funded ONLY by YOU, our dear readers. If you love Wonkette, SUPPORT WONKETTE.
Evan Hurst is the managing editor of Wonkette, which means he is the boss of you, unless you are Rebecca, who is boss of him. His dog Lula is judging you right now.
Follow him on Twitter RIGHT HERE.