Nunes Memo

Reuters: Explosive memo released as Trump escalates fight over Russia probe. PDF download here.

The press seems disinclined to lay a finger on the heart of the controversy, so here it is. This is nonpolitical analysis. If you’re interested in a break from politics, read on. Quoting,

a) Steele was suspended and then terminated as an FBI source for what the FBI defines as the most serious of violations –an unauthorized disclosure to the media of his relationship with the FBI in an October 30, 2016 Mother Jones article by David Corn…

In this case,  Steele as a source simply means that he was under contract to the FBI to collect from, curate, and pay informants for information.  But why does unauthorized disclosure constitute such a serious violation? There is a specific reason. If the Russians know he is a source with a formal relationship with the FBI, it’s worth their trouble to

  • Contaminate the pool of sources by insertion of false information, which, it appears, they did. Very early on, a fan-fiction group recognized some of their authorship in Steele’s submissions. Neither that group, nor Steele, were necessarily aware of it. 
  • Discover Steele’s legitimate sources, particularly inside Russia, and sanction or liquidate them.

The Russians would be an easy guess for the fan-fiction, because insertion of blatantly false information discredits the whole pile. But Steele himself, with strong negativity about Trump, cannot be completely excluded.

Espionage is a highly intellectual game, a hall of mirrors, in which every lie turns back on itself to contradict the truth. Almost all raw information, save that of a few Cold War super spies, is of low quality. Steele’s information is just typical of the game. If you want to understand this better, take a break from politics and read John le Carrés Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, or Body of Lies by David Ignatius.

When Steele was professionally employed, he was an “intelligence officer”, which means  that he developed sources, and collected from them.  In retirement, Steele became a middleman with his former sources.  But he made two mistakes:

  • Abandonment of the key  stricture of his former profession: silence.
  • Expressed negativity about a Trump presidency, which may have influenced  his collections.

These failings do not imply that all of the sources he collected from are worthless. Steele was the conduit to  numerous, unnamed people, with independent reputations, whose identities must forever remain top secret.  Only meticulous correlation, curation, and judgement can decide the value, what Mike Pompeo calls “exquisite truth”. This is the province of the analyst.

The challenge for the Democrats is that the greater truth of the matter lies not in Steele himself, but in his sources. (Daily Beast) Fusion GPS claims that Kremlin tried to purge their sources. The lives of sources who are still healthy, and would be crucial to a Dem rebuttal, would be put at unacceptable risk by the declassification process.

Of Christopher Steele’s clandestine world, only Steele himself, already a public figure, is immune to added risk from the Nunes memo, which is why Steele’s name alone appears in it.

Very clever, Representative Nunes.

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