Russians Are Just Trolling the U.S. Deep State Now
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From the New York Times:

American Spies Gave $100,000 to Russian Who Wanted to Sell Material on Trump


BERLIN — After months of secret negotiations, a shadowy Russian bilked American spies out of $100,000 last year, promising to deliver stolen National Security Agency cyberweapons in a deal that he insisted would also include compromising material on President Trump, according to American and European intelligence officials.

The cash, delivered in a suitcase to a Berlin hotel room in September, was intended as the first installment of a $1 million payout, according to American officials, the Russian and communications reviewed by The New York Times. The theft of the secret hacking tools had been devastating to the N.S.A., and the agency was struggling to get a full inventory of what was missing.

Several American intelligence officials said they made clear that they did not want the Trump material from the Russian — who was suspected of having murky ties to Russian intelligence and to Eastern European cybercriminals. He claimed the information would link the president and his associates to Russia. But instead of providing the hacking tools, the Russian produced unverified and possibly fabricated information involving Mr. Trump and others, including bank records, emails and purported Russian intelligence data. …

The N.S.A. even used its official Twitter account nearly a dozen times to send coded messages to the Russian.

That’s pretty interesting. The BBC did stuff like that during WWII, or am I getting this confused with a Sherlock Holmes story where secret messages are publicly sent in the classified ads that used to run on the front page of The Times of London?

The Soviets used to communicate with their New York City spymaster Rudolf Abel using a hollow nickel, which an alert adolescent paperboy discovered.

The episode ended earlier this year with American spies chasing the Russian out of Western Europe, warning him not to return if he valued his freedom, the American businessman said. The alleged Trump material was left with the American, who has secured it in Europe. …

No audio could be heard on the video, and there was no way to verify if the man was Mr. Trump, as the Russian claimed. But the choice of venue for showing the clip heightened American suspicions of a Russian operation: The viewing took place at the Russian embassy in Berlin, the businessman said.

At the same time, there were questions about the Russian’s reliability. He had a history of money laundering and a laughably thin legitimate cover business — a nearly bankrupt company that sold portable grills for streetside sausage salesmen, according to British incorporation papers.

“The distinction between an organized criminal and a Russian intelligence officer and a Russian who knows some Russian intel guys — it all blurs together,” said Steven L. Hall, the former chief of Russia operations at the C.I.A. “This is the difficulty of trying to understand how Russia and Russians operate from the Western viewpoint.” …

I know a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy …

American intelligence agencies believe that Russia’s spy services see the deep political divisions in the United States as a fresh opportunity to inflame partisan tensions. …

Part of that effort, the officials said, appears to be trying to spread information that hews closely to unsubstantiated reports about Mr. Trump’s dealings in Russia, including the purported video, whose existence Mr. Trump has repeatedly dismissed.

Rumors that Russian intelligence possesses the video surfaced more than a year ago in an explosive and unverified dossier compiled by a former British spy, and paid for by Democrats. Since then, at least four Russians with espionage and underworld connections have appeared in Central and Eastern Europe, offering to sell kompromat that would corroborate the dossier to American political operatives, private investigators and spies, American and European intelligence officials said.

American officials suspect that at least some of the sellers are working for Russia’s spy services.

The Times obtained four of the documents that the Russian in Germany tried to pass to American intelligence …

Yet all four appear to be drawn almost entirely from news reports, not secret intelligence. …

It’s almost as if this whole thing is kind of circular or something …

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