“US extracted top spy from inside Russia in 2017” – TTG


Washington (CNN) In a previously undisclosed secret mission in 2017, the United States successfully extracted from Russia one of its highest-level covert sources inside the Russian government, multiple Trump administration officials with direct knowledge told CNN. A person directly involved in the discussions said that the removal of the Russian was driven, in part, by concerns that President Donald Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source as a spy.

The decision to carry out the extraction occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. The intelligence, concerning ISIS in Syria, had been provided by Israel. The disclosure to the Russians by the President, though not about the Russian spy specifically, prompted intelligence officials to renew earlier discussions about the potential risk of exposure, according to the source directly involved in the matter.  (CNN)


In a CNN interview, Mike Rodgers stated it was a fear of Trump’s lack of discipline about intelligence matters after his meeting with Kislyak and Lavrov in the Oval Office spurred the decision to extract the source. It was not out of fear that Trump would ever wittingly out the source. I'm glad the extraction was done before Trump's one on one meeting with Putin in Helsinki. We have no idea what he might have blurted out in that meeting.

I’m sure this is not the only concern the IC had about the security and safety of their source. When the IC assessment about Russian activities during the 2016 election came out, I was astonished with the specificity in the key findings about Putin’s plans and intentions. I thought that was putting a key source, collection capability or both in jeopardy. When the NSA only expressed moderate confidence in one of the findings about Putin’s plans and intentions, I was more convinced that it was a human asset who provided that intelligence information rather than a technical capability. That had to weigh heavily in the decision to extract the source in 2017. I was just as shocked with the specificity of the information revealed in the indictments of the IRA and especially the GRU 12. That may also have cost us some collection capabilities.

Some intelligence officers talk rather cavalierly about the dangers their sources sometimes face. They are more concerned about what the loss of a source would do to their reputation. I despise that attitude. A source’s life and liberty is in the case officer’s hands. Such trust cannot be taken lightly and should weigh heavily in the training and tasking decisions made by the case officer. Your actions could lead to the imprisonment, torture and execution of a man or woman who willingly placed their lives in your hands. It better be damned well worth it and the take better be given the care and respect it deserves.



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44 Responses to “US extracted top spy from inside Russia in 2017” – TTG

  1. b says:

    TTG – you seem to believe the nonsense claim that the fear that Trump might out the source caused the extradition.
    Why then did the intelligence folks do this?
    “The President was informed in advance of the extraction, along with a small number of senior officials.”
    CNN also says:
    “The decision to carry out the extraction occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak.”
    But that “highly classified intelligence” about potential laptop bombs on flights from certain countries had already been broadcasted by CNN before the Trump-Kislyak meeting.

  2. David Solomon says:

    Wonderful. Another Reason To Trust Our Government, Our Economy And Our Lives To The Man With A Huge Brain.

  3. Fred says:

    “CNN’s reporting is not only incorrect, it has the potential to put lives in danger”
    So said the Whitehouse press secretary. Of course that named Trump administration source isn’t one CNN wants us to believe. On to impeachment! Or is CNN just trying to recover some ratings given the disaster that was the Mueller investigation.

  4. Lyttennburgh says:

    “…multiple Trump administration officials with direct knowledge told CNN”.
    “A person directly involved in the discussions…”
    “…according to the source directly involved in the matter”
    “A US official said…”
    *“This official did not identify any public reporting to that effect at the time of this decision and CNN could not find any related reference in media reports”*
    “…according to an intelligence source with knowledge of the intelligence community’s response to the Trump-Putin meeting”
    “According to one source…”
    “…a former senior intelligence official told CNN”
    A-ha. A-a-a-a-a-a-ha. Ho-hum.
    How convincing… for people, with particular, let’s call it, “mindframe”.
    Now, how does the modern Democrat auto-da-fe for the pernicious unbelievers looks like? I’d, probably, seen one myself soon-ish, but, still – just to be prepared for it, when the Holy Officio (and mobs of faithful members of the “Church of the CNN of Latter Days Democratic Saints” comes for me.
    Because the article is inconsistent. It’s ludicrously easy (as it is a matter of the public knowledge) to track down every RuGov top official and their staff. Anyone with the Net access and working knowledge of the Russian language could do that. So, we should expect any day (nay – any hour!) now for these intrepid journalists to do their duty to the Humanity and the Truth, and to announce to the Urbi et Orbi the “Highly Likely” (c) identity of this without all too real and very valuable asset. It’s like “Investigative Journalism 101”. Compare facts, dates, records, stuff like that.
    Mind you – the facts better be not made up, checkable, verifiable, otherwise one might assume that you are just spewing BS here and refuse to believe you. Like, you know, what should do, probably, anyone after reading this CNN article.
    Oh, wait… The Democratic Inquisition threatening all the doubters and faithless!.. Dang, forgot about it…
    *“CNN is withholding several details about the spy to reduce the risk of the person’s identification.”*
    Ho-hum. Yeah… You did it, guys!
    Thankfully, recent update offers some nice fig leaf for covering this half-arse article:
    “Asked for comment, Brittany Bramell, the CIA director of public affairs, told CNN: “CNN’s narrative that the Central Intelligence Agency makes life-or-death decisions based on anything other than objective analysis and sound collection is simply false. Misguided speculation that the President’s handling of our nation’s most sensitive intelligence—which he has access to each and every day—drove an alleged exfiltration operation is inaccurate.””
    “White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said, “CNN’s reporting is not only incorrect, it has the potential to put lives in danger.””
    Ho-hum! Yeah…
    Still, I’m hopeful for exactly this kind of article to grace the boundless shores of the Global Datasphere! Any day now. Any hour. Juuuust wait for it.
    P.S. The same CNN recently, in light of prisoner swap between Russia and the Ukraine, referenced Mark Zacharovich Feygin as their source (which is befitting them), going as far as calling him “Evgeny Suschenko’s lawyer”. Feygin is not Suschenko’s lawyer – because he’s no longer a lawyer. At all. He had an “illustrious” career up till his recent annulment of the lawyer’s license by Moscow Collegium of Advocates, by “defending” Pussy Riot and Nadya Savchanko – with predictable results.
    P.P.S. Where’s the tag “humor” under this blogpost?

  5. walrus says:

    I’m afraid I don’t believe a word of this story. Firstly, the intelligence community management has already been caught colluding with the Democrats. They hate Trump.
    Secondly, my readings of at least the British intelligence histories go to some length on the trouble that is taken to protect sources from just such accidental exposure by politicians in the course of discussions. I therefore find it bizarre the idea that the U.S. wouldn’t take similar precautions.
    Thirdly and most importantly, intelligence work seems to me to contain a very large component of historical studies.. If this “source” was indeed extracted in 2017, then leaking such information now, a mere two years later is a felony if not treason. Once identified, if such person existed, the Russians will immediately start investigations of the history of associations of this person to find out the full scope of the damage done, where the security failures were and who might also be associates. Such investigations could run for years.
    By way of example, there are still plenty of classified files from WW2 because they segue into operations still going today.

  6. fredw says:

    Some good points. I have no trouble finding the story plausible, but why is it coming out now? You are attributing motives and actions to intelligence community management. Possible, but I don’t understand the timing. Maybe to provide material to justify a House investigation? It seems as though the nature of the information would make it really hard to get details or evidence into the public discourse.
    As for historical analysis, the Russians presumably know who suddenly disappeared. A fake heart attack and death? Perhaps, but I haven’t heard of that for previous extractions. I have assumed that revealing such details was part of the cost of the extraction.

  7. b, the IC doesn’t consider Trump to be a Russian asset, just lacking in discipline about intelligence matters. Why not tell him about it? He is the President. More recently he released imagery of a failed Iranian rocket launch. It gave away a lot about our imagery capabilities with no real gain, just a chance to troll tweet the Iranians. It is the President’s preroggative to do such things, but it shows a lack of discipline.

  8. walrus, I’m sure the Russians were suspicious as soon as the source was extracted. Normally such extractions involve pulling the source out in the dead of the night, not elaborate efforts to fake the sources death and disappearance. Sure the IC goes to great lengths to reduce the risk of sources being inadvertently exposed by politicians, but Trump is uniquely undisciplined in this aspect. Mike Rodgers corroborated this story on national television. If it’s a felony, we’ll see what happens to him.

  9. Ken says:

    After over two years of the Russiagate hoax pushed by the intelligence agencies, it’s surprising you now uncritically swallow this new story.

  10. Ken, I bet you believe the world is flat. What you consider a hoax is something I directly witnessed Russians within Putin’s circles set up and do years before the 2016 election.

  11. Eric Newhill says:

    Crappily assembled Steele dossier/crossfire hurricane coup d’etat fails. Democrats are floating only craven extremist nutjobs that most Americans can’t handle and whose policies can’t possibly work in the real world. So they will certainly lose in 2020. All manner of hyper aggressive negative media BS has failed. What’s a power crazed global elitist to do? 🙁
    On to deep state plan F!!! Trump is a national security risk because he’s CRAZY! and irresponsible! This one will stick. Sure. Bring out the liars! Spin the story! That’s the ticket. And we can still shout “Racist!” all day every day.

  12. Ken, sorry about the flat world comment. That was a little snippy of me. If you’re referring to the idea pushed by some that Trump was a witting participant in these Russian activities, you have a reasonable argument that it was a hoax or at least a wild exaggeration. I don’t believe he’s a Russian asset, either. His personality makes him unsuitable as a controlled asset.

  13. FkDahl says:

    Regarding the spy satellite picture: note that it was a cell phone photo so it does not show the image background information that is typically embedded within the image, nor was it revealing of the actual pixel size in the image. It shows that the resolution is comparable to Hubble, which is not very surprising (and any competent adversary should assume Hubble in itself is not always pointing at the Andromeda galaxy), after all moving these spy satellites was the main reason for the space shuttle program.
    The trajectories of the Keyhole satellites are tracked by amateur astronomers and publicly available.
    Net: the US Keyhole satellites are comparable to Hubble in resolution. As reasonably assumed in other words. Still it gave confirmation to the assumptions which is of value for an adversary.

  14. Mathias Alexander says:

    ” I directly witnessed Russians within Putin’s circles set up and do years before the 2016 election. ”
    Could you give us some detail on this?

  15. Lars says:

    I would agree with the main point TTG is making, which is that Trump cannot be trusted with state secrets. There is ample evidence supporting that view. If any of you have a bright grandchild with a scholarly aptitude, gently steer them to become historians. It will be a very rewarding career another generation or two.
    I am a little suspicious about some of this, since so much detail is provided. But I am sure that as we go along, the truths of the matters will be revealed. As the old saying goes, if three people want to keep something secret, two of them need to be dead.

  16. Lyttennburgh says:

    Ok, TTG. What’s your proof? How can you believe, religiously, everything claimed without any proof?
    The CNN article provided enough rope to hang itself with it. Literally anyone can try to verify it in a few easy steps:
    1) Make a list of RusGov ranking officials by, say, May 2016.
    2) See, who’s absent in the current composition of the RusGov
    3) Find out, who amongst those absent is no longer in Russia.
    4) Of them, find out who had any kind of plausible potential to be the CIA asset, by having the access to all sorts of data and “insight into Putin’s head” as per this CNN article.
    Go ahead! Hey, anyone – care to join?

  17. Lyttennburgh says:

    In late 2016 a self-described “coven of witches” gathered in an occult bookstore in Brooklyn (NY) to place a hex on the supreme court justice Brett Kavanaugh. They even have the grace to invite the outrsiders, with the tickets to the event costing $10. They have previously held ceremonies to hex Donald Trump as well as a “hex your ex” ceremony on Valentine’s Day.
    So I have a very important question to The Twisted Genius – do you believe that both Donald Trump and the supreme court justice Brett Kavanaugh are “hexed” as per the claim of these fine, ah, “professionals”?

  18. Lyttennburgh says:

    And Lo and behold – some people (think) they’ve found the mole! Meet Oleg Smolenkov.
    If (if!) true, it means:
    a) CIA didn’t bother to provide a new identity to this “high value asset”, whose home is ludicruously easy to google
    b) The guy in question was neither member of the RusGov (the Cabinet of the Ministers), neither was he a member of the Security Council, nor he was a “silovik”. He was a secretary in Russia’s embassy in D.C. In 2010 he became referent in the department of the Presidential Administration (https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%A0%D0%B5%D1%84%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%B5%D0%BD%D1%82_%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%B5%D0%B7%D0%B8%D0%B4%D0%B5%D0%BD%D1%82%D0%B0_%D0%A0%D0%BE%D1%81%D1%81%D0%B8%D0%B9%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B9_%D0%A4%D0%B5%D0%B4%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%B0%D1%86%D0%B8%D0%B8). This shows that either CNN is dumb, and can’t distinguish between the RusGov and the Administration of the President, or they were lying, or… that’s another guy.

  19. b says:

    According to the NYT the guy was asked to exfiltrate in 2016, way be fore Trump, but at first rejected.
    “when intelligence officials revealed the severity of Russia’s election interference with unusual detail later that year, the news media picked up on details about the C.I.A.’s Kremlin sources.
    C.I.A. officials worried about safety made the arduous decision in late 2016 to offer to extract the source from Russia. The situation grew more tense when the informant at first refused, citing family concerns — prompting consternation at C.I.A. headquarters and sowing doubts among some American counterintelligence officials about the informant’s trustworthiness. But the C.I.A. pressed again months later after more media inquiries. This time, the informant agreed.”
    This has nothing to do with Trump but with leaks from Brennan and Co who outed the spy. He worked in the Kremlin administration and had good but not top access.
    Kommersant reports that the guy’s name is Oleg Smolenko.
    He and his wife bought a house in Stafford Virginia, LOT 28 HUNTERS POND, under their own name.
    Maybe Pat or someone else in the area can visit them and find out how much of their information is true and how much is bonkers. I’d bet on 50:50.

  20. confusedponderer says:

    re “I don’t believe he’s a Russian asset, either. His personality makes him unsuitable as a controlled asset.
    I think the key word here is indeed controlled. I have doubts that anyone can control him, and that excludes himself.
    Should it ever come to the D’s going for impeachment (which would IMO be understandable if unwise and pricely) and succeed – what would the US get instead?
    The difference that that dude is white & white and not orange & yellow. That’s about it. Pence likely would immediately pardon Trump for whatever he was found to have done.
    He is probably just as far right as Trump, only more discrete and self controlled – and of course evangelical. The evangelical part can be somewhat problematic as seen in Brazil under also evangelical Bolsonaro.
    One of Bolsonaro’s “underling politicos”, formerly an evangelical bishop (or something like that) demanded to confiscate US marvel comics since in these comics some superheros, ghasp, were gay – and that that is utterly unacceptable since it undermines Brazil’s … immensely high moral principles.
    Also, since Boslonaro took office the destruction of Amazonas, compared to the last year, has reportedly already doubled – and we’re only in early september by now.

  21. b says:

    The Trump release of the picture of the Iran missile gave away nothing.
    It was long known from procurement documents that the Keyhole satellites use the same 2.4 meter mirror as the Hubble space telescope. Physics says that gives them a optical resolution of some 10cm.
    The picture only confirmed that.

  22. CK says:

    “His personality makes him unsuitable as a controlled asset.”
    and yet the IC keeps trying to do just that.

  23. Seamus Padraig says:

    It’s comments like this one that make me wish we had a LOL button!

  24. turcopolier says:

    TTG can respond to you.

  25. anon says:

    Most of trump and the 7 Russians is fake news.The fact is that the USA has sought Russian assistance in pressuring Israel.The rest is a smoke screen.The whole scenario is being carefully managed so as to not set off a middle east war.The outcome of this project coming at the tail end of the Arab spring will become clear after the election.

  26. turcopolier says:

    And then there is the possibility that CIA extracted a minor source to divert attention from someone or someones who remain(s) in place. The open purchase of a house in the outer suburbs of Washington by the extracted would seem to support the possibility that this is all a diversion. The narrative continues that “a former senior intelligence official” told Sciutto, an Obama man, at CNN of all this. Clapper is “a former senior intelligence official” and a CNN “contributor” (employee) is he not? He is dumb enough to have had this story planted on him.

  27. b, if true this Oleg Smolenko lives in a nice small neighborhood with 4 acre lots and half million dollar homes. We’re practically neighbors. Maybe we’ll meet at our local brewery. Or this Oleg Smolenko is unfortunate enough to have the same name as an allegedly exfiltrated spy and will be the subject of a lot of unwanted attention for a few days. It’s like Michael Bolton in “Office Space.”

  28. Peter VE says:

    I’m sure Mr. Smolenko has been following the story of Sergei Skripal and wondering if perhaps he would have been better off going to prison in Russia….

  29. Rhondda says:

    Info-seeding operation: plausible ‘Kremlin source’ needed for bare-naked Steele dossier…?

  30. turcopolier says:

    You could belong to the Rotary club together under the category of retired spooks/spook handlers. For the unenlightened, a town Rotary Club chapter can only have two members from any given occupation. I wonder where they would meet for their chapter luncheons down there.

  31. “The picture only confirmed that.”
    Exactly. Prior to this satellite imagery of less than 25cm resolution was illegal to release by commercial imagery companies. Now we all know that USA 224, one of our Keyhole satellites, has an optical resolution of at least 10cm. I agree this confirmation is not catastrophic given the theoretical resolution was already known.

  32. Rhondda says:

    LOL Sorry. Too terse? It strikes me that this CNN assertion is useful — to provide a fig-leaf, albeit lacy, for the wretched Steele dossier’s ‘Kremlin source’.
    I’m always amazed how little it takes and how little there is there. I’m probably wrong, but that’s what came to my mind.

  33. JP Billen says:

    A recent one was the Russian inspired conspiracy that US officials ordered rat poison in tap water. Or that the fire in Notre Dame Cathedral was arson done by Ukrainian nationals.
    Earlier ones prior to Putin before the fall of the CCCP was that the US invented Aids. That both Presidents Reagan and Papa Bush endorsed Apartheid. That the US arranged and inspired the Ikhwan in their 1979 takeover of Mecca’s Grand Mosque.
    Those are just a few examples. It goes on ad infinitum, both currently and back in the old days.
    It is no secret that we do the same, just not as effectively.

  34. We have an inexpensive Italian eatery down here that sometimes has an old Jewish gentleman playing his accordion. One evening he played “Moscow Nights” at my request. I should have looked around to see if anyone had a soulful tear in their eye. I could have played “Spot the Spy.”

  35. Rhondda says:

    Ah no. Not quite right. Not the Steele dossier — but rather John Brennan’s foundational ‘source’ that set in motion the spying and unmasking and entrapment, etc.
    This reads to me like preparing the info-battle space for a contention to come.
    [..] The [New York] Times said the source was “the American government’s best insight into the thinking of and orders” from Putin, and was key to the CIA’s assessment that Putin favored Donald Trump’s candidacy and personally ordered the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.
    The Times previously reported that the source was considered so sensitive that then-CIA Director John Brennan had declined to refer to the person in the top secret Presidential Daily Brief during the final months of the Obama administration. Brennan sent reports from the source to the president and a small group of top national security aides in a separate, white envelope to assure its security, the Times reported.

  36. jjc says:

    John Brennan authored a piece in the NY Times two years ago which claimed an extremely high-level sensitive Kremlin source was supplying real-time information throughout the election campaign of the late-summer/autumn of 2016. This information, Brennan suggested, was directly concerned with the alleged Kremlin plot to place Trump in the White House, and was so sensitive that each report was not included in the daily presidential briefing, but presented to Obama in a separate white envelope with the contents known only to a select few.
    Earlier this year, in an admonishment, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov made a brief reference to some high-level information sharing program between the Kremlin and the White House. This leads to the suspicion that Brennan, and now CNN through anonymous sources, is and was peddling half-truths, and completely mis-representing an official back-door channel to provide a limited hangout or even seeking to conflate this with the dodgy Steele info. Either/or, the first public reference to an alleged high-level Kremlin spy was made by Brennan two years ago in NY Times.

  37. I’m jealous. I checked out the Smolenko homestead on Google maps and am mightily impressed. A nice looking 6 bedroom house with an expansive green front lawn valued at close to a million. I wonder if he rides his own zero turn mower.
    There’s a short path from the back of the local high school to his cul-de-sac. I wouldn’t get too nosy for a while. Seems an NBC reporter was met by two “”friends” of Gospodin Smolenko when he rang the doorbell earlier today. The CIA will probably be keeping the paparazzi and others away until the excitement dies down. The most my former spooks could afford on what I paid them was a modest walk up flat in Gdansk and a nice, but modest, flat in Moscow. The CIA was always a lot looser with the money.
    I’ve learned it’s normal for resettled spies and defectors to insist on using their true names after resettlement. Think of Skirpal and Litvinenko as two rather famous examples, although I would think their fate would give Oleg pause. This is not the Witness Protection Program.

  38. Jim S says:

    I don’t follow Twitter but I ran across a thread by Brian Cates (who writes for The Epoch Times) which follows the same lines you are developing:
    You may be more correct here, as the names Trebnikov and Surkov are well known by now and they don’t fit this story.
    “Battlefield prep” seems like the correct call.

  39. Procopius says:

    “When the IC assessment about Russian activities during the 2016 election came out, I was astonished with the specificity in the key findings about Putin’s plans and intentions.’ I didn’t save links, but my memory is that the “assessment” came out in January, 2017. So did Brennan’s public announcement (in January 2017) that he had “evidence” that Putin was personally involved in directing the “attack.” I thought at the time that statement from him burned the most important asset since the State Department broke the Japanese Purple (diplomatic) Code. I still do not understand why there was no outcry at the time, but of course that would have distracted from his story that RussiaRussiaRussia. It certainly was not treason (we are not at war with the Russian Federation), but surely he should have been prosecuted under the Espionage Act. Unless he was lying, of course, which is quite likely.

  40. Procopius says:

    If you take the Skripal story at face value, you should go through Craig Murray’s archives. He’s written a couple of critiques of the really absurd story the British government has put out. The chief nurse of the British Army, who could recognize the symptoms of Novichok poisoning just happened to pass by, with her daughter, and see the Skripals passed out on the park bench. Right. The poison was on the door handle, but they had to remove and destroy the roof of the house because it was contaminated. Right. Another, perhaps even better source is The Blogmire. He has dozens of lengthy posts describing the contradictions and implausibilities. There were a couple of kids in the park, and the Skripals gave them some pieces of bread to feed the ducks. The ducks died, but the kids were not affected. Right. And on and on.

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