Top CIA Operative With Access To Putin Extracted From Russia After Worries That Trump Might Blow His Cover
The United States successfully extracted in 2017 a top CIA informant from Russia who had access to President Vladimir Putin, it was reported Monday.
According to The New York Times, the extraction came soon after U.S. intelligence officials started to become aware of Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election. More specifically, the decision followed an infamous meeting between President Donald Trump and two high-level Kremlin officials — Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak — in the Oval Office in May 2017. Officials were reportedly concerned Trump and his administration would misuse classified information and potentially reveal the CIA informant’s identity. The spy’s name remains unknown.
Then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who is now the Secretary of State, reportedly told other White House officials in 2017 that too much classified information about the CIA operative was being exposed.
The spy in question quickly became one of the CIA’s top assets, although the operative refused initially to be extracted from Russia. The extraction process, also known as “exfiltration,” is typically only carried out when American intelligence officials fear a covert source or other asset may be in immediate danger. The Times also reported that even before Trump took office, White House officials went to extreme lengths to protect the covert source. In 2016, then-CIA Director John Brennan intentionally did not include details about the spy in Barack Obama‘s daily intelligence brief.
The CIA informant had also been sending secret information to the U.S. for more than a decade. CNN reported that the spy also had access to photos of documents on Putin’s desk.
Spy pulled from Russia may have been a major loss for US intel services, says Valerie Plame, the former CIA officer whose identity was revealed during the George W. Bush administration in 2003.
— CNN (@CNN) September 10, 2019
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham denied the veracity of CNN’s report, saying: “CNN’s reporting is not only incorrect, it has the potential to put lives in danger.”
According to NBC News, the CIA operative — who was living openly under his real name — is now residing in the Washington, D.C. area under protection from the U.S. Government.
Officials also cited the case of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian intelligence agent who was poisoned alongside his daughter in Britain in early 2018 as part of an alleged assassination attempt by the Kremlin. Skripal had moved to the United Kingdom in 2010 as part of a high-profile spy swap.
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