© Copyright 2018 Yaacov Apelbaum, All Rights Reserved
Much has been said and written about Christopher Steele’s authorship of the notorious document that alleges Russia-Trump collusion. According to Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS (who plead the Fifth and only spoke through his lawyers), Steele was hired by them in June 2016 to gather information about “links between Russia and [then-presidential candidate] Donald Trump.” Pursuant to that business arrangement, Steele prepared a series of reports styled as intelligence briefings, some of which were later compiled into a collection of documents and published by a number of media outlets and later become known as the “Trump dossier.”
On the face of the dossier, it appears that Steele gathered his data from multiple sources in Russia, former Soviet union (FSU) countries, and the US. He then edited the raw intelligence—which seems to be a combination of conversations and notes—organized it in a summarized brief format, and published/leaked it in parts or in its entirety on a spiraling schedule.
Image 1: The Dossier events and publication schedule
My initial impression reading the dossier was that the writing was sloppy and that it did not resemble an intelligence report. It exhibited multiple writing styles and writers, both English and non-English speakers, and it was assembled in haste. I also thought that in many ways, it paralleled the plot line of the Dreyfus Affair. As in the case of the “dossier” and the Bordereau from the Dreyfus case, the Trump dossier was presented as undeniable proof of collusion. Yet, it’s uncertain who composed it, how it was collected, or even if the document is genuine.
Just like its nineteen century French predecessor, the Trump dossier too had a powerful social and political impact in the US. Its content has dominated the news and has raised substantial questions about the rule of law, the political impartiality of senior federal career bureaucrats, and the true extent of the separation of powers in government.
Russia vs. Non-Russia issues on MSNBC’s news coverage
Considering all of the dossier’s unusual aspects, I decided to take a little time and do a deeper dive into its structure and content. In this post, I’ll demonstrate how by using readily available OSINT tools and techniques, video analytics, and writing style analysis, we can pinpoint the likely sources, methods, and the individuals involved in the creation and distribution of this document.
I would like to apologize for the lengthy and somewhat overwhelming amount of detail in this write-up. Contrary to common belief, the truth is rarely concise, pure, and never simple. As Proverbs 1:2-7 implies, the acquisition of knowledge and understanding does require an investment of time and effort. in the spirit of full disclosure, I was not paid to produce this research and I am not affiliated with democratic or republican circles. My objective in writing this posting was to provide the layman reader not otherwise versed in intelligence gathering and analysis techniques with basic facts and insight so that they can form their own educated opinions on the matter.
The Dossier Team
Even after several testimonies and investigative reports, the composition of the dossier team is still shrouded in secrecy. When Glenn Simpson testified on November 8th and 14th in front of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, he was vague and evasive about the names of the people that worked on the document and just said that he hired Steele, who then:
“Use[d] his old contacts and farmed out other research to native Russian speakers who made phone calls on his behalf“.
Two of these “native Russian speakers” were subsequently identified as Nellie Ohr and Edward Baumgartner. But even after this revelation, there are still many unanswered questions about this team. For example, what was the organizational structure of their network? How and where was the raw intelligence collected, stored, and transmitted? Or, how was Steele, a private British national living in England able to so quickly and effectively reach top US politicians like McCain and Pelosi, publish through and get full backing from media outlets like Yahoo, NYT and WaPo, and gain access to senior officials at the State Department, the DOJ, and FBI?
Before we jump-in, let’s first review our dramatis personæ.
||Title and Role
||Co-founder Fusion GPS and husband of Mary Jacoby
||Executive at Fusion GPS and wife of Glenn Simpson
||Co-founder Fusion GPS
||Neil King Jr.
||Principal at Fusion GPS and husband of Shailagh Murray
||Wife of Neil King Jr. and Obama’s senior policy adviser
||Co-founder Fusion GPS, husband of Begona Cortina Segurola
||Reporter and wife of Tom Catan
||Co-founder Orbis Business Intelligence
||Co-founder Orbis Business Intelligence
||Sir Andrew Wood
||Former British Ambassador to Russia and an Orbis contractor
||A Guardian reporter and a Hakluyt and Orbis contractor
||Sir Richard Dearlove
||Former head of MI6, Steele’s boss, and advisor to Hakluyt
||Australian politician diplomat and board member at Hakluyt
||Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and advisor to Hakluyt
||Former UK diplomat to US and the US representative of Hakluyt
||Co-founder of Edward Austin. Contractor at Orbis and Hakluyt
||Nellie Hauke Ohr
||Russia intelligence specialist and wife of Bruce Ohr
||Bruce Genesoke Ohr
||Associate Deputy Attorney General at the DOJ
||State Department special diplomatic envoy
||State Department leading Russia intelligence officer
||Assistant Secretary of State. Director at the McCain Institute
||Former Deputy Secretary of State
||Clinton executive and author of ‘second’ Trump dossier
||Clinton Campaign executive and a political coordinator
||Intelligence adviser & Russia expert DOJ Organized Crime Unit
||Assistant Secretary of State, FBI-Steele meetings coordinator
||Co-founder The Democratic Coalition, Biden’s media adviser
||Democratic National Committee ethnic coordinator (for Ukraine)
||President the Free Russia Foundation
||President U.S Ukraine Foundation. US deputy legislative affairs
||Director Georgetown Institute, former Obama Ambassador
||Program Director of Ukrainian Federation of America
|| Ilya Zaslavskiy
||Head of Research at the Free Russia Foundation
|| Rinat Akhmetshin
|| Contractor of Fusion GPS present during Trump Tower meeting
|| Edward Lieberman
||Rinat’s Attorney, employee of the Albright Stonebridge Group
||Wife of Edward Lieberman, deputy chief of staff of the Clintons
||US Law firm representing Clinton/DNC and funding Fusion GPS
Glenn Simpson and Fusion GPS
Simpson is the public face of Fusion GPS. He was the prime contact for Perkins-Coie, the US law firm that paid for the dossier on behalf of the DNC, the Clinton presidential campaign, and several other financers. Simpson controlled and managed dossier contractors like Nellie Ohr, Edward Baumgartner, Chris Steele, and Chris Burrows. From his own testimony we know that he was the “architect of the research” and the first contributor to it. He graduated from George Washington University in 1986 with a degree in journalism. From 1989-1994 he worked as a reporter for Roll Call, where he met his wife Mary Jacoby, and then later at The Wall Street Journal 1995-2009.
Glenn Simpson and Mary Jacoby on Roll Call in 1994.
Simpson also held a number of consulting and freelance investigative positions including one in 2004 with the International Assessment and Strategy Center (IASC).
The 2004 IASC website and Glenn Simpson’s profile
In 2010 Simpson, his wife Mary Jacoby, Peter Fritsch, and Benjamin Schmidt formed Bean LLC, and gave it the trade name Fusion GPS. Shortly afterwards, Neil King Jr. and Tom Catan joined the team.
(from left to right) Glenn Simpson, Mary Jacoby, Peter Fritsch, Neil King, Tom Catan
According to the original Fusion GPS website (before its content was purged and replaced with a single generic paragraph):
“Fusion GPS brings to your project years of experience in collecting and sifting open source and proprietary intelligence”. They also claimed to have a “global network of contacts and a proven record for accuracy and professionalism and having a “high-level relationships in government and the media, legal, and policy communities”.
The statement about having a “global network” of resources and “high-level relationships in government” is interesting because Chris Steele makes this identical claim about his own company Orbis. Fusion GPS also prided itself on its team of experts that had special depth in matters of financial fraud and complex due diligence. Their value proposition was described as:
“Our work begins where routine surveys of public information leave off: we explore sources others overlook, as well as the complex human and cultural relationships crucial to investment decisions and performance”.
Image 2: Fusion GPS Website circa January 2011
Fusion GPS original founder biographies
The Fusion GPS mission statement was:
Based in Washington, DC, Fusion also stands at the crossroads of the regulatory, policymaking and enforcement communities increasingly important to the sound allocation of capital. We know the people on the front lines of issues related to trade, technology, natural resources and security. Our specialists can provide support in matters of regulatory compliance, asset recovery and market intelligence.
We have the ability to present information in powerful products written by a team of specialists trained in producing material for some of the most discerning readers in the world, including the President of the United States and the readers of The Wall Street Journal.
It is clear from Fusion GPS’s own materials that in 2011 and onwards that the company was already producing “products” in the form of commercial, financial, and political reports that were reaching the Oval Office and were being read by the president himself.
The stripped down version of the Fusion GPS website in 2018
By 2015, Fusion GPS had offices in Washington D.C., LA, and London with a headcount in excess of 22 individuals that included:
- Glenn Simpson
- Mary Jacoby
- Peter Fritsch
- Tom Catan
- Jason Felch
- Neil King Jr.
- David Michaels
- Taylor Sears
- Patrick Corcoran
- Laura Sego
- Jay Bagwell
- Erica Castro
- Jason Raymond
- Benjamin Schmidt
- Joshua Levy
- Jackie Flores
- David Ford
- Jason Schwartz
The political makeup of the team was exclusively democratic with many of the employees and interns having a strong political connection to the Clinton or Obama administrations. Jason Raymond, the Research Director, came from John Kerry’s press office and was affiliated with USAID; Laura Seago, a senior analyst, came from the Brennan Center for Justice and was also affiliated with USAID. It’s also noteworthy that the senior management had a documented history of misconduct and ethical-related issues. Glenn Simpson has a Profane Cursing and Public Intoxication conviction; Jason Felch, a former reporter and the managing partner of the LA office, was fired from the LA Times for deceitful reporting. He was also cheating on his wife on multiple occasions with his Occidental College investigative source. Tom Catan, his wife Begoña Segurola, and Peter Fritch were involved in vicious attacks and a character assassination campaign against a fellow reporter.
Jason Felch, the Fusion GPS LA office Managing Partner and his routing data to one of his Occidental College escapades with the School’s sexual misconduct administrator
Christopher David Steele and Orbis Business Intelligence
Steele is ‘officially’ the primary author of the dossier and a second contributor after Simpson. He graduated from Cambridge University in 1986 with a degree in Social and Political Sciences. While at college, he wrote for the student newspaper Varsity. Steele was recruited by MI6 directly following his graduation. From 1987 to 1989, he worked in London at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), then from 1990 to 1993 at the UK Embassy in Moscow. Steele returned to London in 1993 and was posted to Paris in 1998. In 1999, his cover was blown when a media leak disclosed the identity of 116 MI6 agents.
In 2009, Steele and his fellow MI6-retiree Chris Burrows and Nicholas Butcher founded the private intelligence agency HL3299 Limited, later renamed Orbis Business Intelligence. In 2014, Steele and Burrows registered Walsingham Training, with Orbis being the majority controller.
In 2017, Steele and Burrows formed the holding company Chawton Holdings Limited and renamed “Walsingham Training” to “Walsingham Training Limited”, then renamed it again to “Walsingham Partners Limited”. The majority control of the company was then switched to Chawton Holdings.
Image 3: Christopher Steele and Chris Burrows LinkedIn profiles
According to the Orbis website, the company draws on extensive experience at the boardroom level, in government, multilateral diplomacy, and international business to develop bespoke solutions for clients. In 2011 before the dossier affair blow up, they were also promoting their surveillance, psychological warfare expertise, and influence operations capabilities which included services such as:
- Creating public opinion groundswells
- Delivering targeted political media campaigns
Just like in the case of Fusion GPS, Orbis also claims to have a “global network of senior associates which is made up of regional, industry and academic experts, as well as prominent government and business figures, their expertise and a closed network of contacts worldwide”.
Orbis Business Intelligence Website in 2011
Image 4: Orbis Business Intelligence Website 2018
The Orbis mission statement is:
“Our core strength is our ability to meld a high–level source network with a sophisticated investigative capability. We provide strategic advice, mount intelligence–gathering operations and conduct complex, often cross–border investigations.”
Unlike Orbis’ business pitch, Walsingham Training professed to deliver full logistic and tactical intelligence agency services.
“It’s a hostile world out there. Whether ‘out there’ is in the back streets of Kinshasa or negotiating around a table in New York, we understand this all too well. The same skills apply whether you are penetrating terrorist networks, winning over African warlords, or making nuanced corporate decisions in London or in frontier markets: you have to build a team you can trust, equip and then motivate to deliver. Fortunately, these skills can be learnt and honed so that they become second nature.
Walsingham Training delivers bespoke training programs for our clients based off our proprietary modules:
- Targeting and crafting approaches to investors or potential clients using intelligence to spot opportunities, vulnerabilities and access points.
- Instrumentality persuading people using a diplomatic and psychological skill set is an essential part of manipulating personal encounters to your own advantage.
- Deployment High pressure, high stakes decision-making in complex environments like Russia and China as demonstrated by former senior diplomats.
- Tradecraft Understanding and mitigating the cyber and physical risk posed by hostile states, criminals and companies.
- Taking risks Identifying, quantifying and managing risks in developed and frontier markets to stay ahead of the competition compliantly.
Walsingham Training Website 2015
Orbis and Walsingham have an interesting association with a number of companies such as: PS21, the SETA Foundation, and Grace Electronics Limited. Grace Electronics for example, is a 40 year old PC and laptop distributer. The now hidden Orbis/Walsingham ICANN registry lists one Alex Buckland, an employee of Grace Electronics, as the website technical and administrative contact since 2009.
Registrant: Orbis Business Intelligence Limited
Domain name: ORBISBI.COM
Administrative Contact: Alex Buckland
Technical Contact: Alex Buckland
Address: Crowthorne Enterprise Centre Old Wokingham Road Crowthorne,
Berkshire RG12 6AW GB
But according to Grace Electronics, they don’t provide any website support, development, nor management. Sounds like the IT equivalent of the Monty Python sketch about the cheese store that doesn’t sell any cheese.
Nellie Hauke Ohr
Ohr was the third contributor to the dossier. She earned a degree in history and Russian literature from Harvard-Radcliff 1982–1983 and MA and PhD in history from Stanford 1986-1990.
Image 5: Nellie Ohr
After graduation she worked for:
She spent some time in Russia during the 1990s and according to at least one source, had powerful political connections there. In her book Adventures in Russian Historical Research, Cathy Frierson writes: “Nellie encouraged me to call the Smolensk archive [the home of Russia’s historical state secrets] director, assuring me that he would welcome me.”
Edward Emil Baumgartner
Baumgartner was the forth contributor to the dossier. He is a British/French national. He earned his BA in history from Vassar College in 1995 and an MA in Russian, Eastern European, and Central Asian Studies from Harvard in 2000.
Image 6: Edward Baumgartner
Baumgartner’s university track (source LinkedIn profile)
Baumgartner specializes in the Former Soviet Union (FSU). He started as an independent consultant in the FSU focusing on research and business intelligence. From 2002 to 2005, he was a Russia consultant at a London-based public relations company. His clients included Russian and Ukrainian government-owned and private organizations.
In 2008, Baumgartner founded the UK based political consultancy Baumgartner Limited. In 2010, together with Peat Austin Alexander, he co-founded the UK-based intelligence consulting firm Edward Austin.
The firm’s mission statement:
“With an established network spanning the FSU and beyond, Edward Austin serves clients in the private and public sectors worldwide. We are pan-FSU. Alongside extensive work in Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine – the region’s three main economies – we have completed numerous projects on the ground in the wider Central Asia region (Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan), the Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia), the Baltics (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), Belarus and Moldova. Reinforcing this is a global network of trusted partners, enabling us to undertake work across jurisdictions worldwide.”
Image 7: Edward Austin Business Intelligence website
The Analysis: Methods and Tools
The data collection and analysis environment was based primarily on open source tools. I’ve also utilized several commercial packages to fill-in the gaps in the framework. The following are the solution components:
- OS – Windows Server 2016
- Big Data Stack – Hadoop, Zeppelin, Kafka, Storm, and Spark frameworks
- Scripting – VisualBasic.Net and Python
- Speech to Text – Google Cloud Speech-to-Text API
- OSINT and Forensic Tools– Buscador, FOCA, Maltego, and Metagoofil
- Orchestration – Metasploit Framework with custom payloads
- Web Crawler and Scraper – RCrawler with an R package
- Network link analysis and Graph – Open Sementic Search with a Neo4J plugin
- Writing style analysis – JStylo-Anonymouth, stylo R package, and JGAAP
- Reporting – Microsoft Access 2016
- EXIF data viewer – Opanda PowerExif and Photoshop CS6 SDK
- IP Address and Port Verification – ViewDNS.Info (API edition)
- Face recognition, facial Indexing, image reconstruction, and object detection – XRVision Sentinel AI Platform
- Network device scanner – Shodan
- Network Mapper – Nmap
The Analysis: System Architecture
The Analysis: Data Sources
To identify the entities and build the dossier network I’ve used the following publically available sources (see above architecture diagram for more details):
- Server and computer logs
- Network scans and maps
- Federal, state, media, and news archives
- Email, forum, websites, blog, and message archives and backups
- Publically accessible IoT devices and cams
- On-line image and file depositaries
- Social media postings by friends, neighbors, and family
- LinkedIn profiles
- Twitter profiles
- FB profiles
- Corporate and court filings
- Commercial BR sources
The Analysis: Data Processing
The total data storage was about 7TB, the loading time for the data was about 6 hours, and the processing time (entity creation, enrichment, linkage, and anomaly detection) was about 36 hours. I also spent about 2 hours writing scripts to FR, LPR, and OCR some of the PDFs and images before they could be loaded into the database. The operation was executed on a Dell PowerEdge R630 server with a 4 x 4TB array of SSD Intel P4500 series drives, a quad Intel Xeon E5-4669 2.1GHz processor, and 64GB of RAM.
The following is a summary of the objects in the inventory database:
||Used for Person of Interest (POI) searches
||Used for on-line searches
||Total number of individuals in the network
||Used for on-line ecommerce activity
||Images used in lieu of photos
||Icons used in SM and other platforms
||Used to general entity searches
|Classified graphic objects
||Conference tags, name tags, business cards, etc.
||License plate, made, and model
||General photographs containing geo tagged data
||Recordings of speeches and interviews
||Video of interviews and presentations
||Assays, dissertations, articles, book reviews, etc.
For the image processing I’ve used an ML based object classifier to detect and track items such as social media avatars, gravatars, icons, and logos.
An example of a Facebook avatar, company logos, and patterns used in image object searches
An example of pattern match search results for a Grace Electronics Limited logo
In order to conduct face recognition (FR) on persons of interest (POI), I’ve digitized and reconstructed the portraits of all key dossier team members. These digital portraits where then used to perform recursive on-line searches to discover and catalog the identity of additional individual in the proximity of the POI.
A sampling of digitized and indexed faces from a 72,284 POI database used for face recognition, image searches, and linkage analysis. Each POI has a number of composite images with aging and weight gain/loss variation.
In addition to the automated linkage and entity identification generated by the system, I’ve also used manual searches utilizing FR, keywords (both literal and keyword Insight based), and object searches. This was done to review anomalies (e.g. same individual that is using two completely different names) and help seed the system with quality entry data. The following are a few illustrations of various search methods and their results.
FR matches for keyword searches “Nellie+Bruce Ohr” and “Martha Ohr+EKM” and example of one 2 degree network linkage to the ABC News anchor Jeremy Hubbard and his reporter wife Taunia Hottman and their SM Russia collusion and anti-Trump activity
||Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress
by Steven Pinker
||The Tunnels: Escapes Under the Berlin Wall and the Historic Films the JFK White House Tried to Kill
by Greg Mitchell
||Court and Cosmos: The Great Age of the Seljuqs
by Sheila Canby, Deniz Beyazit
||The Worlds of Russian Village Women: Tradition, Transgression, Compromise
by Laura J. Olson, Svetlana Adonyeva
||Midnight at the Pera Palace: The Birth of Modern Istanbul
by Charles King
||Dans Les Forets De Siberie (French Edition)
by Sylvain Tesson
||ZeroZeroZero: Look at Cocaine and All You See Is Powder. Look Through Cocaine and You See the World.
by Roberto Saviano, Virginia Jewiss
||How the French Think: An Affectionate Portrait of an Intellectual People
by Sudhir Hazareesingh
||Boris Mikhailov: Tea Coffee Capuccino
by Boris Mikhailov
||Gulag Voices: Oral Histories of Soviet Incarceration and Exile
by Jehanne M Gheith, Katherine R. Jolluck
||The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain
by Peter Sís
Sampling of Nellie and Bruce Ohr’s reading list recovered from the alias “The Jester”, one of several aliases used by the Ohrs for on-line purchases
An example of search results using FR + the shirt pattern “HF” and the resulting 2 degree linkage for the search “NHO+BGH+MPO” (Nellie Hauke Ohr, Bruce Genesoke Ohr, Michael P Ohr)
An example of a 3 degree FR and pattern match linkage results for “MarthaPoliwag” (Martha Ohr’s FB avatar)
An example of search results using “MarthaPoliwag” (Martha Ohr’s FB avatar) and the linkage to over 40 news outlets, dossier content creators, and reporters
An example of collusion and dossier related content created and distributed through Martha Ohr’s social network. Metadata on many of the images indicates that they were produced in a commercial studio environment during business hours
An example of FR matches for Mary Jacoby in on-line image and media searches
An example of FR matches for Glenn Simpson and Mary Jacoby in on-line media searches
An example of image object classifier used for entity enrichment (address verification) for Mary Jacoby
An example of image object classifier used for entity enrichment (address verification) for Grace Electronics Limited
An example of image object classifier used to detect “car make and model” and fusion of DMV data for the enrichment (address and name verification) of an Open Source Works entity
An example of search results using FR + Walsingham Training logo + some keyword insights for the validation and enrichment of Kieran Porter, an analyst with Walsingham Training
An example of multi-element identification using FR + University of Southampton Logo + the keyword “Orbis Business Intelligence” for the enrichment of Sam Stainer, an analyst with Orbis Business Intelligence Limited. The enrichment yielded the following:
- Retrieval of his image and the facial indexing of his entire social network
- Geospatial data for his network including: residence, travel patterns, family events, and vacation locations
- Social network linkage
- Professional network linkage
- Anomalies such as association with drug use, firearms, deviance, etc.
An example of search using FR + the string search “Ohr+Murray” and the resulting Jim Goldgeier linkage to the Ohrs, Shailagh Murray, and Neil King Jr.
In the pre-data processing operation, I’ve used a number of scrubbing algorithms like cleansing, parsing, name standardization, and shingling in order to account for variation in name spelling, different home addresses, and multiple phone numbers. This insured that we would get the most accurate entity linkage, match, rate, and entity details. The process flow below illustrates how a company name and address are processed to insure that any permutation and variation in the name would be accounted for in the on-line searches.
Cleansing, parsing, standardization, and permutation generation process flow for phrase linkage processing
Also, the identification of the strongest relationships between entity names was based on several proximity calculations. In the example below, the relationship between “Mary Jacoby” and “Glenn Simpson” is determined by a number of known linkage points.
||Glenn R Simpson
|Glenn Richard Simpson
||Mary Barston Jacoby
||Mary B Jacoby Simpson
||Mary J Simpson
||Mary G Simpson
||Mary Jacoby Simpson
All entities were crossed correlated with multiple public registries and databases such as sex offender, criminal, and civil records, DMV, and real-estate registries. As can be seen from the example below Glenn Simpson matched in multiple categories and jurisdictions.
||Glenn Simpson’s Criminal Record
||Public Cursing & Drunkenness
||Date of offense
||Driver License Match
||Date of Offense
||License Plate Match
||Fine and points
||License Plate Match
||License Plate Match
I’ve also taken into account the possibility that some of the entities did not want to be identified and were utilizing countermeasures like false portrait images, names, addresses, and fictitious registration in order to disguise their location and relationships (a technique used by almost every dossier affiliated team member). Any such linkage anomaly mismatch was flagged and verified manually. For example, Mary Jacoby who according to her professional profile is typically associated with…
Organization: Fusion GPS, IASC, GIR, WSJ, Roll Call, Main Justice
Job category: Journalism, Investigative Reporting, and Media Production
…generated an anomaly when her affiliation changed to:
Organization: Spring Hill College
Job category: Benefits Specialist Human Resources
An example of linkage anomaly detection (items marked in red) showing that Glenn Simpson or other individual is creating fictitious personas on social media and via bogus professional registrations to evade detection in on-line searches, (i.e. his new vocation is computer HW professional, mental health worker, admin at a bank, and an RV travel blogger).
||Yateley United Kingdom
||Grace Electronics Limited
||distributes PCs, components, peripherals, and computer software to business customers. Its distribution portfolio includes cables, card readers, cases, coolers and fans, CPUs, enclosures and caddies, genius [sic] products, graphics cards, hard drives, keyboards, laptops and accessories, media products, desktop/flash/laptop memory products, mice, monitors, motherboards, wired/wireless networking equipment, optical products, PCs, peripherals, printers, PSUs, software products, and tablets, as well as sound cards, speakers, and headsets. The company sells products through its online store.
An example of linkage anomaly detection (in red) showing profile and keyword mismatches between what Grace Electronics Limited claims to do and what its employees are actually doing.
An example of face digitization of Evan Perez used in image searches and linkage
Examples of FR matches for Evan Perez in on-line and media searches and his network linkage including his cousin Joseph Aguilar, a British, Belize, and a naturalized US national who is working for the Federal government and posting veiled references to political assassination
An example of identity confirmation using FR and OCR for Stefan Halper’s 2016 US Government payment record of $282K for “Special Studies/Analysis” services
An example of entity extraction using face recognition + OCR to build the Halper family and business networks. Of note is that in addition to Stefan Halper’s multi-million dollar Pentagon contracts, both, Dr. Elisabeth Halper and Dr. Lezlee Brown (daughter) also maintained similar engagements
To determine the network graph of people, companies, and content (Image 8), I’ve used these seven entity relationships rules:
- Place and time affiliation
- Share the same professional, educational, family, or recreational circles
- Have a marital, teacher-student, parent-child, or employee-employer relationship
- Demonstrate a known public association (i.e. belong to the same social network)
- Communicate with each other via email, phone, text, blog comments, etc.
- Work for the same company or organization
- Confirm a relationship via a statement or testimony
I’ve limited the input/output to two degrees of separation between entities and organizations. However, I did use a three degrees of separation linkage several times in order to trace indirect relations between what on the surface appeared to be random groupings of individuals (e.g. the five person party listed with the same UID U99520 accompanying Mary Jacoby during her April 19 White House visit).
Image 8: Examples of two user linkage profiles using phone numbers and personal history
The Dossier Network
The network graph analysis indicates that the fellowship of the dossier is a close-knit group; everyone knew each other long before embarking on the quest to find the alleged Russian collusion. All of the project key players are related through marriage, family relations, or work affiliations. As can be seen in images 9-10, this team collaborated in various member configurations on many other ‘dossier projects’ and utilized the same collection methods, materials, resources, political network, and publication channels. Some of these relationships go back more than 30 years.
Image 9: The Dossier Network, the actors, entities, and their roles
These relationships between the team members transcended their changing places of employment and job titles. The following is a short sampling of the dossier network linkage results:
Christopher Steele knew Sir Andrew Wood from his days at the UK Diplomatic Service since 1986. In 2013, Wood had a paid consulting gig with Orbis. Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6 who promoted the Dossier in UK, Australian, Canadian, and US government circles was Steele’s boss in MI6. Steele knew and worked with Paoblo Miller in MI6 since 1994 and Luke Harding from The Guardian since 1996; Harding and Miller were also Orbis and Hakluyt contractors since 2009.
Steele and Chris Burrows worked with Stefan Halper as early as 2005. Steele knew Jonathan Clarke from his days in MI6 and communicated and met him in the US. Burrows knew and communicated with Joseph Mifsud since 2010. Edward Baumgartner had been contracting with Orbis and Hakluyt since 2011. Steele and Burrows knew and worked with Nigel Inkster from MI6 for over twenty years. They continued to work with him when he joined IISS and PS21. Inkster was also Sir Richard Dearlove’s deputy in SIS.
Orbis hired US nationals that previously held US government positions. For example, Tatianna (Tatyana) Duran, an Orbis Senior Intelligence Analyst, previously worked for the US State Department and had a US government “Secret” security clearance. On October 11, 2016, Duran accompanied Steele to a senior State department ‘urgent’ dossier meeting with Deputy Assistant Secretary Kathleen Kavalec. Duran and Nigal Inkster worked together at PS21 and with Ilya Zaslavskiy at the Chatham House.
An example of Tatianna (Tatyana) Duran, one of the Orbis employees, and her linkages using FR and keyword searches such as: “Orbis”, “PS21”, and “Chatham House”
Chris Burrows exchanged dossier related emails with Nicholas Fishwick, the former director of PGI and an MI6 officer, and with Stefan Halper who consulted for Hakluyt, a private UK intelligence firm similar to Fusion GPS and Orbis Business Intelligence.
||Stef Halper <firstname.lastname@example.org>
||Fri, 27 October 2017 17:14:43 -0400
||Chris Burrows <email@example.com>
Steele and Burrows had a long term working relationship with several other semi-active British foreign office individuals like, Charles Crawford, a former UK ambassador to South Africa, who was stationed with Steele in Moscow in 1993 and Raymond Asquith, a former British diplomat to Russia in 2009.
Steele’s and Burrows’s professional network and email communications also include multiple active and retired British intelligence officers like Claire Smith, a member of the UK Joint Intelligence Committee who Steele knew from their joint work in Afghanistan. Steele met with Sir Richard Dearlove in person and communicated with him via email and text messaging in March 2016 and onwards regarding the dossier.
Halper, Clarke, Downer, Smith, Dearlove, Crawford, Lobban, MI6, LAD, and Hakluyt Linkage
Steele worked with the FBI as early as 2010 on the FIFA investigation. In 2016, he met them several times including at two meetings with agent Michael Gaeta, a leading FBI ‘Russia corruption expert’, in Rome and in London to discuss the dossier. Gaeta coordinated and got clearance for these meetings from Victoria Nuland at the State Department. Gaeta was the FBI case officer in Europe and communicated and was one of the “handlers” of Orbis, Stefan Halper, and the Hakluyt dossier assets.
Michael Gaeta Linkage to US embassy in Rome and dossier related activity
Agent Michael Gaeta’s Biography
Michael Gaeta began his FBI career in 1996 in the New York Field Office where he investigated and supervised La Cosa Nostra organized crime cases for thirteen years. In 2009, Mr. Gaeta became the supervisory special agent for the Eurasian Organized Crime squad. Under his direction, the Eurasian Organized Crime squad aggressively addressed the Eurasian Organized Crime threat and engaged with domestic and international law enforcement partners to advance cases and develop and share intelligence. The squad had scores of successful indictments in high profile cases that indicted fraud amounts over $400 million (USD) and indicted laundered amounts over $200 million (USD) during his tenure. Mr. Gaeta joined the FBI’s Legal Attaché Office in Rome as the Assistant Legal Attaché in May 2014. Prior to working for the FBI, Mr. Gaeta practiced law in New York City.
Baumgartner, Nellie Ohr, Bruce Ohr, and David Kramer are all Harvard alumni. Nellie Ohr knew Stefan Halper since at least 2000. Nellie Ohr also worked in the MITRE Corporation with Halper’s son Marin Halper for six years from 2002-2008.
Example of Linkage based on MITRE company name and logo, address, and phone number for Stefan Halper, Marin Halper, and Nellie Ohr
Peter Fritsch, Nellie Ohr, and Baumgartner all attended Vassar College. Nellie Ohr and Baumgartner were together at the History department at Vassar between 1991-1995, where Baumgartner was her student.
Between 2008-2014, Ohr worked for Open Source Works and Plessas Experts Network, a company specializing in OSINT. The company had a contract to provide OSINT development and training for the US Intelligence community (IC). Both, Nellie and Kirby Plessas, the owner of the company knew each other since at least 2008. Both also communicated with each other and with Dale Walter, the director of Open Source Works using email accounts on @open-source-works.org email system.
Nellie Ohr, Kirby Plessas, Plessas Experts Network, and Open Source Works linkages
Tom Catan, knew and worked with Steele, Harding, Burrows, and Baumgartner since 2011. Catan’s wife Begoña Segurola and Fritch’s former wife Beatriz “Bea” Hidalgo are from Spain/Mexico and the two families have known each other for over 30 years.
Glenn Simpson and his wife Mary Jacoby knew Bruce and Nellie Ohr from their days at the International Assessment and Strategy Center as early as 2004. Simpson and Jacoby knew and worked with Stefan Halper at the WSJ since 1996. They also knew Steele from their days at the WSJ going back to 2009.
Glenn Simpson’s wife, Mary Jacoby, founded Main Justice in 2009, a company specializing in paid corruption research and reporting. She has been the Chief Executive at Fusion GPS since 2010. Jacoby also worked as a reporter for organizations such as GIR, and Law Business Research (which purchased Main Justice in 2015). While at Main Justice, she worked with Bruce Ohr and in fact nominated his FIFA investigation for the GIR Anti-Corruption award.
As can be gleaned from Main Justice’s mission statement below, Mary and her merry band of for rent corruption fighters were assembling and selling opposition research and dossiers as early as 2009.
“Main Justice and our subscription-only site, Just Anti-Corruption, services top law firms and corporate counsel, business leaders of Fortune 500 companies, U.S. Department of Justice, Securities and Exchange Commission, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund. It offers on-demand research tools, published analysis from leading practitioners, access to a preparatory searchable FCPA (The Foreign Corrupt Practice) database with links to public documents and associated news stories. We also provide profile guides, high powered VIP networking events, and the highest insight and intelligence reports.”
While working in Main Justice, GIR, Law Business Research, and the WSJ, Jacoby cultivated a large network of key Federal (FBI, SEC, and DOJ) executives that included notables such as Adam Hickey, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the DOJ who was familiar with the dossier and the FISA application and Andrew Weissmann, the Chief of the DOJ’s criminal fraud section, who is now working for Robert Mueller the Special Counsel investigating the alleged Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election and leading the Manafort prosecution.
Adam Hickey and Andrew Weissmann presenting in one of several GIR events
Jacoby also facilitated special recognition awards for ‘strategically’ placed attorneys such as Leila Babaeva, a Russian speaking attorney who is now working at the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act unit at the DOJ and Kathryn Cameron Atkinson, the wife of Michael Atkinson, the next likely candidate for the position of the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community.
Mary Jacoby, Leila Babaeva, and Kathryn Cameron Atkinson at the 2015 GIR Awards
Jacoby knew and worked with Christopher Steele, Nellie Ohr, Peter Strzok and his wife Melissa Hodgman—the Associate Director in SEC Enforcement Division, Peter Fritsch, Neil King Jr. and his wife Shailagh Murray, David Kramer, Jonathan Winer, and Sidney Blumenthal who worked with her at Salon in 2004.
Sidney Blumenthal’s network is noteworthy because his email address book contains many of the dossier characters including Jacoby, Simpson, Winer, and others. It also contains most of the journalist involved in the ‘favorable’ dossier coverage. For example his friendly reporter count includes:
||Number of reporters Blumenthal communicated with
||New York Times
A sampling of Blumenthal’s first 20 contacts (out of over 4000) shows an over 96% linkage to anti-Trump publications, most of these are from leading mainstream media sources.
On April 19, 2016, two months before the content of the dossier was leaked to the media, Jacoby spent a few hours in the White House in the company of the following five seemingly unrelated individuals:
||Scott C. Auerbach
||Wife – Former Miami New Times Editor
||Ian G. Bregg
||Wife – An Attorney
||Amy L. Bower
||Husband – An Attorney
||Mary C. Jacoby
||Husband – Co founder of Fusion GPS
||Laura K. Kwedar (Minch)
||Husband – An Attorney with Koch Institute
||Eileen T. Zamkov
A second degree linkage analysis revealed that despite what appears to be a random group of tourists, these six individuals were in fact related to the dossier team through:
- Involvement in the Clinton Campaign
- Direct contact with the core and auxiliary Fusion GPS team via email communications
- Work at the State Department
- Participation in news production and reporting
- Had HLS and government legal services positions
It is interesting that all of the six members of this group’s home and office address are clustered within 4 miles of each other, (see below), and that most attempted to scrub (not always successfully) their online presence and 2016 SM activity. Another interesting observation is that in two cases, it is the spouse of the individual on the list that was the link to the dossier team.
In 2007, Simpson and his wife, Jacoby, authored an article entitled: “How Lobbyists Help Ex-Soviets Woo Washington”. This mercenary form of journalism promoted the specific political interests of one Ukrainian faction and alleged that prominent Republican politicians provided US business access to Kremlin-affiliated oligarchs and other friends of Putin. One such friend was Viktor Yanukovich who become president of Ukraine in 2010. According to the article, Yanukovich’s facilitator in the US was Paul Manafort. Manafort figures prominently throughout the article and later in the dossier.
Keeping in mind Simpson’s and Jacoby’s paid interest in Manafort and Yanukovich, it is important to note that Rinat Akhmetshin, the facilitator of the 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya, plays house with one Lyudmila Vereshchagina—a Ukrainian national with ties to FISU who has been living in the US since 2008. Both Akhmetshin and Vereshchagina knew and communicated with Simpson, Jacoby, and Alexandra Chalupa (the junkyard dog of the DNC) and were involved in the organization of anti-Putin/Yanukovich/Trump activity across the US.
Akhmetshin is a former Russian GRU counter intelligence officer who in 1994 arrived penniless in the US. Then, over a period of twenty years, he amassed a fortune working for a number of US federal agencies as a Eurasian ‘source’ and a setup artist.
Rinat Akhmetshin in the Russian army circa 1985
Rinat Akhmetshin’s lawyer/partner was Edward Lieberman, who concurrently worked for the Albright Stonebridge Group and used the Liebermane@xxx.coudert.com email account. Both, Akhmetshin and Lieberman traveled together on Amtrak to New York on June 9, 2016, the day of the Trump Tower meeting. Afterwards, Akhmetshin, Lieberman, and Vereshchagina spent the evening together in the theater watching Akhmetshin’s niece perform.
Of note is Lieberman’s employment with the The Albright Stonebridge Group, which is a “Commercial Diplomacy” firm in Washington D.C. that is heavily involved with Ukrainian politics and lobbying activity in the US. Even more noteworthy linkage, is Edward Lieberman’s wife, Evelyn Lieberman’s senior affiliation with the Clintons, Madeleine Albright and Joseph Biden. The following short bio illustrates her political R&R from 1988-2015.
Evelyn Lieberman’s Political Bio
2002–2015: Director of communications and external affairs, Smithsonian Institution
1999–2001: Under secretary for public diplomacy and public affairs, for Madeleine Albright
1997–1999: Director of Voice of America
1996–1997: White House deputy chief of staff and assistant Bill Clinton
1994–1996: White House deputy press secretary for operations Bill Clinton
1993–1994: Assistant to the chief of staff in the Office of Hillary Clinton
1988–1993: (5 years) Press secretary for Senator Joseph Biden
Edward Lieberman Rinat Akhmetshin’s attorney, his wife Evelyn Lieberman Simonowitz political network, his linkage to the Albright Stonebridge Group and Madeleine Albright.
Rinat Akhmetshin’s spouse, Vereshchagina, was part of Natalie Budaeva Arno’s and Alexandra Chalupa’s social and professional network (Natalia Budaeva Arno ‘surveilled’ Veselnitskaya while she was in the US in June 2016). All three were also posting a large volume of anti-Trump and Russia collusion content as early as July 2016.
Rinat Akhmetshin and his wife Lyudmila Vereshchagina’s linkage and examples of their Ukrainian anti-Putin, anti-Yanukvich, and anti-Trump network activity
Alexandra Chalupa’s and Iryna Mazur’s linkage and examples of their anti-Trump network activity as early as March 2016
Natalia Budaeva Arno’s (Alexandra Chalupa’s associate) surveillance of Natalia Veselnitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin. Budaeva’s linkage and examples of her anti-Trump network activity
Natalia Budaeva Arno’s flight of the Red Sparrow and her “Lieu-tellen, you sexy man” husband Michael Arno, of Arno Political Consultants
Natalia Budaeva Arno’s and Ilya Zaslavskiy’s pro-Ukraine ‘Free Russia Foundation’ political network in the US, their UK Chatham House linkage, and examples of their pre/post election anti-Trump activity. Ilya Zaslavskiy’s girlfriend, Victoria Korovatykh, works for the Hudson Institute as a graphic designer and is the source of some of the content.
Ilya Zaslavskiy’s pro-Ukraine ‘Free Russia Foundation’ and Iryna Mazur’s ‘US Ukraine Business Council’ close collaboration with the Atlantic Council, John Herbst, David Kramer from the McCain Institute, and ambassador William Taylor
Alexandra Chalupa’s, Iryna Mazur’s, and Nancy Pelosi’s 2 degree linkage to the Sheikh Mansure Chechen Battalion fighting in Ukraine. Some of the rifles, scopes in the images are ITAR controlled.
Second degree linkage showing Niyara Mamutova and the profile of one of several Ukrainian jihadi NGOs which are a front for the Turkish intelligence
Ivanna Voronovych and Roman Woronowycz Ukraine and US political network linkage and Ivanna’s Cinderella transformation from a Kiev party girl to Nancy Peloci’s legislative aide intern
Yaroslav Brisiuck’s Influence Network 2015-2016
An example of Ukrainian Intelligence sharing with Robert Otto, the State Department’s foremost intelligence expert on Russia and a Victoria Nuland’s subordinate
||firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
||Robert Otto <firstname.lastname@example.org>
||Mon, 1 Aug 2016 03:19:38 -0400
||St Princess Olga: Novaya on Sechin, His New Wife and the Luxurious Yacht (and we only just had a hit on his alleged palace…….)
||Robert Otto <OttoRC@state.gov>
||1.0 (Mac OS X Mail 8.2 \(2104\))
||Apple Mail (2.2104)
An example of Robert Otto forwarding emails from his personal Gmail account to his State Department email account regarding Igor Suchin’s wife and house
||by 10.28.88.206 with SMTP id m197mr1139613wmb.43.1465328300804; Tue, 07 Jun 2016 12:38:20 -0700 (PDT)
||neutral (google.com: 184.108.40.206 is neither permitted nor denied by best guess record for domain of email@example.com) client-ip=220.127.116.11;
||mx.google.com; spf=neutral (google.com: 18.104.22.168 is neither permitted nor denied by best guess record for domain of firstname.lastname@example.org) email@example.com
||Tue, 7 Jun 2016 09:05:18 -0400
||Fwd: FW: veselnitskaya house
||Kyle Parker <firstname.lastname@example.org>
||Robert Otto email@example.com
An example of Robert Otto getting and circulating intelligence via his private email accounts on Igor Sechin’s former wife Olga Rozhkova and imagery of Natalia Veselnitskaya home, which was collected three days (June 6, 2016) before she arrived to the US for the Trump Tower meeting on June 9th, 2016. Yelena Patyutko, another red sparrow who is a western intelligence asset is seen babysitting Olga Rozhkova.
Additionally, Robert Otto was sending and receiving updates from multiple sources such as, Nellie Ohr, David Kramer, Kyle Wilson, Andrew Wood, Richard Dearlove, and Michael Weiss, a CNN Investigative reporter for International Affairs, who was tracking and updating him on Veselnitskaya social media activity.
Alexandra Chalupa, Melanne Verveer, and Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur’s Ukraine linkages
Alexandra Chalupa, Iryna Mazur, Natalia Budaeva, Ilya Zaslavskiy, Melanne Verveer, Nadia McConnell, and Lyudmila Vereshchagina US political linkage to the following organizations:
Jonathan Winer from the State Department knew Steele from mid-2000s. Winer also knew and worked with Glenn Simpson and Douglas Farah, his partner at IASC in 2004. Winer and Farah even cross endorsed each other on their LinkedIn profiles.
Jonathan Winer and Glenn Simpson and Douglas Farah linkage
Nellie Ohr, Peter Fritsch, and Jonathan Clarke knew each other from the Wilson Center.
Neil King Jr. from Fusion GPS is married to Shailagh Murray who was President Obama’s Senior Policy Advisor. She was also Joe Biden’s Deputy-Chief-of-Staff. King and Murray knew Steele, Kramer, Winer, and the Ohrs going back to the mid-2000s.
In 2010, several of the members of the future dossier team participated in a workshop dedicated to “Racketeering in Russia”. The event was hosted by the National Institute of Justice and featured among others:
Glenn Simpson – Senior Fellow International Assessment and Strategy Center
Nellie Ohr – Researcher Open Source Works
Bruce Ohr – Chief Organized Crime and Racketeering Section Criminal Division DOJ
Lisa Holtyn – Intelligence Advisor Organized Crime and Racketeering (who hosted Bruce Ohr multiple times at the White House)
In 2012, Steele did some work for the US state Department and was in communication with Winer and the Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland. This was done directly and through Sir Andrew Wood, who was the former British Ambassador to Russia and an employee of Orbis. Steele’s communications included over 100 reports on the Ukraine-Russia conflict. These reports were based on information from UK and Ukrainian government sources and contained political and financial data about Russian companies that was shared with Bruce Ohr at the DOJ.
When questioned about Steele’s relationship with Jonathan Winer, Victoria Nuland said:
“During the Ukraine crisis in 2014-15, Chris Steele had a number of commercial clients who were asking him for reports on what was going on in Russia, what was going on in Ukraine, what was going on between them. Chris had a friend [Jonathan Winer] at the State Department and he offered us that reporting free so that we could also benefit from it.”
Nuland also confirmed that Steele was invited to the State Department on October 2016 (just two weeks before the elections) to give a dossier briefing. The meeting lasted over 3 hours, and included a presentation, handouts, a Q&A, and representatives form several federal agencies.
Steele’s information didn’t only flow in one direction. In January 2016, before the Fusion GPS dossier project kicked-into-gear, Johantan Winer and Strobe Talbott were sharing with Steele via Orbis’s Canada hosted servers and email system documents authored by Cody Shearer, who produced a ‘second Trump-Russia dossier’. This document consisted of two four-page reports, one titled “Donald Trump—Background Notes—The Compromised Candidate,” the second titled, the “FSB Interview”.
The reports are almost identical in terms of content and layout to the Steele dossier but reference unnamed Turkish businessman with “excellent contacts within the FSB” as the source. The reports echo the same salacious claims and alleged corruption and collusion. Cody Shearer’s mysterious ‘one-eyed man from Istanbul’ source claims that Trump was “filmed in Moscow in November 2013, during the Miss Universe pageant in the presidential suite of the Ritz Carlton Hotel”. He also said that there was a copy of the video somewhere in Israel and Bulgaria but that he couldn’t get it.
Strobe Talbott is Cody Shearer’s brother in law and was Cody’s brother Derek’s roommate in Yale. Talbott is a State Department Russian expert who served as Deputy Secretary of State in the Clinton Administration. Talbott’s wife Brooke Shearer was Hillary Clinton’s personal aide/fixer and the lead investigator (nicknamed “The Dumpster Diver”) responsible for digging-up dirt on Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct accusers. Strobe Talbott and his wife Brooke Shearer knew and worked with Mary Jacoby, Glenn Simpson, Peter Fritsch, Neil King, and Shailagh Murray since the mid 1990s. Talbott knew Steele since at least 2006.
Nellie Ohr’s relationship with Steele goes back to the early-2000s or even earlier. Bruce Ohr’s relationship with Steele began long before Trump’s presidential bid. It goes back to Steele’s 2009 FIFA corruption investigation. Bruce was then chief of the Organized Crime and Racketeering section in the DOJ which had a keen interest in the early stages of the case.
Nellie Ohr’s maintained active communications channels with a number of diplomatic, State Department, and IC members prior, during, and after the dossier publication. This included the likes of Robert Otto, Chris Brot, Nathaniel Reynolds, and Donald Jensen.
L-R, Robert Otto, Chris Brot, Nathaniel Reynolds, and Donald Jensen
Robert Otto, who worked for Victoria Nuland’s at the State Department (resigned in December 31, 2016) frequently communicated via a number of private aliased emails dossier and Russia collusion and anti-Trump content with his “Russian Workgroup” that among others included David Kramer, Andrew Wood, and a long list of current and former US, British, and Australian Intelligence professionals such as:
An example of content transmitted in July 26, 2016 via Robert Otto’s “Russia Workgroup”
Many of the correspondences are addressed to and from State Department and UK government emails and indicate that the content was written and read during business hours.
One example of these emails dates to April 29, 2016 (written 6 weeks before Steele was hired by Fusion GPS) and is titled, “Why Is Donald Trump a Patsy for Vladimir Putin?” In this communication to David Kramer, the former Assistant Secretary of State and the Director at the McCain Institute, he wrote:
“To the degree they have attacked him on foreign policy, Trump’s critics in both parties have mostly confined themselves to the themes that are digestible extensions of his personal style — he is ignorant, inconsistent, temperamentally unfit to lead, and a danger to blunder the country into war. All of those charges are true, yet they manage to deny something that, in a candidate without such flamboyant drawbacks, would itself be a campaign-threatening scandal: Trump is Vladimir Putin’s stooge.”
Several of Otto’s email correspondences also included Bruce Ohr and Nellie Ohr. From these emails, it’s evident that Bruce was co-sharing his wife’s AOL account. as the responses that Otto is getting back are tagged as both, “Bruce Ohr firstname.lastname@example.org”, and “Nellie Ohr email@example.com”.
Image 10: The Dossier Graph
So is it reasonable to assume that all of these incestuous relationships are coincidental? Ian Fleming, a naval intelligence officer and the creator of James Bond, contemplated the problem of coincidental relationships in intelligence operations and came up with the answer in his maxim:
”Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action.”
Computer and Communication Network
In 2016, Fusion GPS and Orbis had a pretty sophisticated computer and a communications networks, far beyond what one would expect to find in large law firm or even a bank. They spent a lot of time and money setting up a DoD 8570 and NIST SP 800-37, 39, 53, 53A grade environment, which included among other things:
- High-end security equipment like Cisco FirePOWER ASA appliances
- High-end networking equipment like Cisco Catalyst managed switches
- Multi-layered security and authentication using tokens and VPN
- Multiple subnetted segments
- Central configuration and patch management
- Policy based user ACL
- Development, test, and production environments
- An IDS
- An air-gapped file storage
The complexity of this network (see table below) and some of the artifacts found on it (such as the NISPOM manual) suggests that this was due to some external mandate rather than by choice. Considering the fact that Fusion GPS was not a regulated service provider, it begs the question of who was responsible for such a directive.
||22, 80, 443, 25
||22, 25, 4564
||22, 80, 25
||22, 25, 53, 80, 990
|OS CPE: Linux_kernel 3.14
|OpenSSH: 5.9p1 Debian 5 Ubuntu 1.1 (Ubuntu Linux; protocol 2.0)
|http-server-header: Apache 2.2.22 (Ubuntu)
|The Fusion GPS network in 2016
The Great Dossier Authorship Debate
The House Intelligence Committee’s hearings on November 2017 attempted among other things to answer the dossier authorship question. Simpson testified that Steele used his old contacts and farmed out other research to native Russian speakers who made phone calls on his behalf. In the hearing transcripts, Simpson comes through as being evasive and ambiguous; he hemmed and hawed a lot and had problems remembering and recalling details. Despite his fogginess, however, he was crystal clear about Steele being the author of the documents.
From Simpson’s testimony, we also know that while contracting for Fusion GPS in mid-2016 Edward Baumgartner was working on these two projects:
- Magnisky Act – Russian government lobbying effort to overturn the Magnisky Act. This case revolved around one Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian tax accountant working for Hermitage Capital who allegedly outed some Russian officials for fraud. He was arrested and detained and died in prison in 2009. The Russian on the other hand, claim that he was targeted because of a $230 million dollar embezzlement/tax evasion involving Hermitage Capital and its CEO William Browder. The details of the case are unclear, but Interestingly, Robert Otto and a few of his “Russia Workgroup” colleagues believed that the story was William Browder’s PR stunt. Some of the evidence and testimonies in the case subsequently turned out to be substantially inaccurate.In one example William Browder, the CEO of Hermitage Capital and the brain behind the Magnitsky act, stated in an interview on MSNBC on February 5, 2015 that “Eight riot guards with rubber batons beat him [Magnitsky] for an hour and 18 minutes until he died.” But the post mortem examination didn’t show any evidence of beating beyond rough handcuff bruising.Browder also suspiciously communicated and coordinated his story with several officials at the State Department and House Foreign Affairs Committee including with one Kyle Parker who was using both, his “firstname.lastname@example.org” and “Kyle.Parker@xxxx.house.gov” email addresses in these correspondences.
The Magnitsky Act team at the Hudson Institute. L-R, Congressman Jim McGovern, Bill Browder, Kyle Parker, and Charles Davidson
Official 2009 autopsy images of Sergei Magnitsky
- Prevezon Money Laundering – Russian government lobbying effort to help Prevezon–a Russian government owned company Prevezon defend itself against a US government charge alleging a 230 million dollar money laundering scheme.
During the Prevezon and Magniseky contracts which ran through October 2016, Baumgartner was the lead writer and researcher working closely in Russia and Ukraine. In his testimony, Simpson identified Baumgartner as a contributor to the dossier:
Foster: And what type of work did Mr. Baumgartner undertake for Fusion?
Simpson: Discovery mostly, helping locate witnesses. He speaks Russian. So he would work with the lawyers on gathering Russian language documents, gathering Russian language media reports, talking to witnesses who speak Russian, that sort of thing. He may have dealt with the press. I just don’t remember.
Foster: So was Mr. Baumgartner also working on opposition research for Candidate Trump?
Simpson: At some point, I think probably after the end of the Prevezon case we asked him to help with I think — my specific recollection is he worked on specific issues involving Paul Manafort and Ukraine.
Somewhat surprising is Baumgartner’s denial of Simpson’s statement that he did work on the dossier. Specifically:
“I was helping them [Fusion GPS] on this other project, which was unrelated, and they mentioned it to me in July 2016, I was never made aware of Chris Steele’s work or the dossier, and it was kept that way deliberately. I would have had nothing to add, anyway. I produce memos based on information that is in the public record that can be given to the feds or shared with journalists.“
But then in a contradictory statement, Baumgartner said that he produced memos that could be given to the feds. We now know that the only memos given to the feds (DOJ and FBI) by Steele and Fusion GPS were the dossier documents.
The third contributor, Nellie Ohr, was another Russia intelligence analyst working for Fusion GPS and Steele. She has not been deposed nor has voluntarily offered any insight into her role in the writing process so it’s difficult to ascertain the exact part she played. Not surprisingly, when questioned, Simpson didn’t mention her. However, from a recent House Intelligence Committee memo, it’s clear that Nellie Ohr was in fact “employed by Fusion GPS to assist in the cultivation of opposition research on Trump”. The memo adds that Bruce Ohr “later provided the FBI with all of his wife’s opposition research”.
Asked by intelligence panel staff if he verified Steele’s “sources in Russia” or corroborated their information, Simpson said he’d never been to Russia himself and couldn’t “evaluate the credibility of someone on the other side of the [Atlantic]”, nor could he confirm that Steele actually spoke directly with any of his Russian sources.
Private companies like Orbis or Hakluyt (unless they are a front for SIS) lack the means to properly vet foreign intelligence sources let alone vet the source’s information. But that didn’t create any doubt in Simpson’s and Jacoby’s minds—both former investigative reporters for the WSJ. Simpsons said that he completely deferred to Steele’s expertise and did not question his findings because of his “sterling reputation”.
The sterling reputation that the FBI was referring to was Steele’s work on the FIFA corruption case. According to Steele, he provided investigative services and intelligence to the Interpol, DOJ, and FBI which resulted in the arrest and prosecution of a number of FIFA officials. The problem with this case’s sources and methods is the same as with the dossier initiative.
The whole FIFA case revolved around England’s hope to host either the 2018 or 2022 World Cup, but FIFA awarded those tournaments to Russia and Qatar. Steele was then ‘hired’ in 2009 by England’s Football Association to investigate allegations of corruption by FIFA. In 2015, the DOJ indicted a number FIFA affiliated individuals. Interestingly, the DOJ did not charge anyone at FIFA with bribery because US Federal bribery laws cover only payments to government officials. Bruce Ohr’s team, instead alleged racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracies.
Steele didn’t perform any hands-on investigative work on the FIFA case himself. From the documentary evidence, a few of his contacts in MI5/MI6 shared with him some of the SIGINT, HUMINT, and FININT intercepts. He then repackaged the data and passed the file to the DOJ and FBI, all the while collecting a lot in service fees and building his credibility with them. The dossier initiative was also no altruistic act. Steele received over $270K for his report.
Steele’s payment for his services can be confirmed from pages 15-16 of the Carter Page FISA warrant bellow. Steele is identified as “Source #1 has been compensated”.
The Carter Page FISA application referencing Steele as “Source 1”, his compensation by the FBI, and the identification of Glenn Simpson as “U.S. person”
It is also interesting to note that the DOJ statement about Glenn Simpson “Never advising source #1 as to the motivation behind the research” is untrue. In his testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on August 22, 2017, Simpson was very clear about having previous discussions and actively working with Steele to discredit Trump as early as 2009. On pages 77-86 of his testimony he states:
“…we’re friends [referring to Steele] and share interest in Russian kleptocracy and organized crime issues. I would say that’s broadly why I asked him to see what he could find out about Donald Trump’s business activities in Russia.
…it was opaque what Donald Trump had been doing on these business trips to Russia. We didn’t know what he was doing there. So, I gave Chris — we gave Chris a sort of assignment that would be typical for us which was pretty open ended. We said see if you can find out what Donald Trump’s been doing on these trips to Russia. Since Chris and I worked together over the years there’s a lot that didn’t need to be said. That would include who is he [Trump] doing business with, which hotels does he like to stay at, you know, did anyone ever offer him anything, you know, the standard sort of things you would look at.”
The Dossier Structure
The dossier is 35 pages long and has the following layout and structure (see the sample from page 13 below):
Section 1 – Company intelligence report number date/running total
Section 2 – Report subheading “Russia/USA Growing Backlash in Kremlin…”
Section 3 – Summary of report usually in bullet point format (the ‘raw intelligence’)
Section 4 – Detailed discussion of summary points with a citation of sources
Image 11: Dossier sample report
The dossier reports contain multiple PDF page image sizes, and exhibit post production processing such as hand written page numbers and highlighted text. They are not sequential and are spaced unevenly. It is unclear if the report numbering applies just to the dossier or if it’s a running total of all the reports produced by Orbis for multiple customers in that time frame. These gaps strongly suggest that some of the reports have been removed from the final distribution. Its clear form the visual evidence that some of the reports have formatting problems and that they were scanned multiple times. As can be seen from the table below some reports contain data entry errors (e.g. report 86 is dated 20-Jul-2015) which suggests some haste and carelessness in their preparation and poor review prior to publication.
||US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE DONALD TRUMP’S ACTIVITIES IN RUSSIA AND COMPROMISING RELATIONSHIP WITH THE KREMLIN
||USSIA/CYBER CRIME: A SYNOPSIS OF RUSSIAN STATE SPONSORED AND OTHER CYBER OFFENSIVE (CRIMINAL) OPERATIONS
||RUSSIA/US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: FURTHER INDICATIONS OF EXTENSIVE CONSPIRACY BETWEEN TRUMP’S CAMPAIGN TEAM AND THE KREMLIN
||RUSSIA: SECRET KREMLIN MEETINGS ATTENDED BY TRUMP ADVISOR, CARTER PAGE IN MOSCOW (JULY 2016)
||USSIA-US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: KREMLIN CONCERN THAT POLITICAL FALLOUT FROM DNC E-MAIL HACKING AFFAIR SPIRALLING OUT OF CONTROL
||USSIA/USA: GROWING BACKLASH IN KREMLIN TO DNC HACKING AND RUMP SUPPORT OPERATIONS
||RUSSIA/US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: SENIOR KREMLIN FIGURE OUTLINES PRO-TRUMP, ANTI-CLINTON OPERATIONEVOLVING RUSSIAN TACTICS IN
||RUSSIA/US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: REACTION IN TRUMP CAMP TO RECENT NEGATIVE PUBLICITY ABOUT RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE AND LIKELY RESULTING TACTICS GOING FORWARD
||RUSSIA/UKRAINE: THE DEMISE OF TRUMP’S CAMPAIGN MANAGER PAUL MANAFORT
||RUSSIA/US: KREMLIN FALLOUT FROM MEDIA EXPOSURE OF MOSCOW’S INTERFERENCE IN THE US PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
||RUSSIA/US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: KREMLIN-ALPHA GROUP CO-OPERATION
||RUSSIA/US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION-REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE TRUMP’S PRIOR ACTIVITIES IN ST PETERSBURG
||RUSSIA: KREMUN ASSESSMENT OF TRUMP AND RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE. IN US PRESIDENTLAL ELECTION
||RUSSIA/US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: FURTHER DETAILS OF KREMLIN LIAISON WITH TRUMP CAMPAIGN
||RUSSIA/US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: THE IMPORTANT ROLE OF TRUMP LAWYER, COHEN IN CAMPAIGN’S SECRET LIAISON WITH THE KREMLIN
||RUSSIA/US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: FURTHER DETAILS OF TRUMP LAWYER COHEN’S SECRET LIAISON WITH THE KREMLIN
||US/RUSSIA: FURTHER DETAILS OF SECRET DIALOGUE BETWEEN TRUMP CAMPAIGN TEAM, KREMLIN AND ASSOCIATED HACKERS IN PRAGUE
The reports production schedule and volume are also problematic. As can gleaned from the above frequency graph, the report numbers between Oct-20th to Dec-13th spike from 136 to 166.
|| Report #
|| Count Increase
The “Count Increase” is an anomaly because the report number and dates (see above table) do not follow his average production rates and could indicate that Steele is gaming the numbers by creating fictitious report numbers, deleting ‘problematic’ reports, or altering their composition dates.
A Vast Shadow Legion of Sources
Simpson pimped Steele as a real-life James Bond with deep connections inside the Kremlin and because of this, he didn’t have to corroborate any of his reports. But Steele—his previous contacts in Russia now long gone—had to rely on others like Ohr, Baumgartner, and Ukrainian sources to generate his so-called ‘raw intelligence’.
When Simpson was asked how Steele procured the intelligence he said:
I don’t know. I think there’s been a little bit of confusion I would like to clear up. Some people were saying that he was paying people for information. I don’t know whether he does or not, but that’s not basically how I understand field operations to work. You commission people to gather information for you rather than sort of paying someone for a document or to sit for an interview or something like that. That’s not how I understand it works.
Considering the fact the Simpson paid Steele about $160K (according to Orbis’s income statement it was over $270K) for the information, it is a somewhat puzzling that he didn’t’ bother getting the specifics. But luckily for us, Steele was kind enough to share his methods with The New Yorker. It consisted of the following process:
Orbis employs dozens of confidential “collectors” around the world whom it pays as contractors. Some of these collectors are private investigators; others are investigative reporters or highly placed experts in strategic positions. Depending on the task and the length of project, the fee for a collector can be as high as two thousand dollars per day. The collectors harvest intelligence from a larger network of unpaid sources, some of whom don’t even realize they are being treated as informants. These sources occasionally receive favors—such as help in getting their children into Western schools—but money doesn’t change hands because it could violate laws against bribing government officials or insider trading.
So in other words, Orbis has a “large network” of highly placed government informants in Russia, that don’t know that they are informants—and none of them gets paid for the classified information because that would violate European union bribery laws. So what is the incentive of all for these FSB, Kremlin, and Russian Foreign Ministry personnel to share state secrets with Steele?
This business model also raises some serious questions. Assuming that by “Western schools” Steele means Ivy League and not your average local community college and that his secret compensation formula is:
‘High value intelligence’ = ‘Getting the source’s child into a Western school’
Than how is Steele able to perform this magic with the university admissions office? Is it plausible that Orbis is bribing admission committee members in Cambridge University? And who pays for these students’ tuition, room, and board? The cost of attending a school like Cambridge university for an international student is over $60k per year. How can an FSB source who draws a $10K per year salary possibly afford it? And what about the FSB’s counter intelligence team? Wouldn’t they have a few questions for their fellow employees regarding their children’s attendance at western Ivy League schools?
And if this is the model, is this how Ivanna Voronovych, Pelosi’s legislative aide intern got into a top US university?
Ivanna Voronovych’s admission confirmation to the U-M
According to the dossier, it is sourced from about 34 valuable, trusted, and highly placed assets such as:
- A senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure
- A former top Russian intelligence officer
- Several knowledgeable FSB sources
- A trusted compatriot (there are references to at least 5 of these)
- A former top level Russian intelligence officer who is still active inside the Kremlin
- A senior Russian financial official
- A close associate of Trump
- Source E (redacted)
- A female staffer at the Ritz Carlton hotel
- An ethnic Russian operative connected to the Ritz Carlton hotel
- A senior Kremlin official
- A Russian IT specialist with direct knowledge of FSB operations
- A senior Russian government figure
- An ethnic Russian who is a close associate of Trump
- A separate source with direct knowledge of Trump’s investment in Russia
- A Russian source close to Rosneft President
- An official close to Presidential Administration Head Sergei Ivanov
- A Kremlin official close to Sergei IVANOV
- A trusted associate of a Russian émigré
- Two well-placed and established Kremlin sources
- A source close to premier Dmitriy Medvedev
- A close colleague (of Steele)
- A Kremlin official involved in US relations
- A Kremlin insider
- A Kremlin advisor
- A well-placed Russian figure
- An American political figure associated with TRUMP
- A senior member of the Russian Presidential Administration (PA)
- A senior Russian MFA official
- Top level Russian official
- Two knowledgeable St Petersburg sources
- A senior Russian leadership figure
- A Russian Foreign Ministry official
- Igor Sechin’s close associate
If this list of assets is genuine and so is the chain of acquisition, then Steele somehow succeeded in building a collection network in Russia that rivals any national intelligence agency. This is a pretty impressive feat for someone who left Russia in 1993 and had his cover blown in 1999.
Finding one highly placed and reliable Russian source with access to such explosive materials would be considered the equivalent of winning a multi-million dollar lottery. To have thirty four such sources is virtually impossible.
Steele’s claims of access to top political and security resources in Russia also makes one wonder why would MI5 and MI6 tolerate a private firm like Orbis actively engaging in espionage against Russia from British soil. Is it plausible that the British security services just didn’t know that smack dab in the middle of London and just a skip and a jump 300 feet from Buckingham Palace, Dr. Evil and his mini-me’s were in a castle at Grosvenor Gardens and were remotely controlling legions of deep Russian assets and aggressively plotting against a US presidential candidate?
Image 12: Orbis Business Intelligence building location in London
Simpson, Steele’s handler, was asked by Congressman Trey Gowdy during the House Intelligence Committee’s November 14 Hearing, (see excerpt below), if Steele had gone “to Russia as part of this project,” to which Simpson replied: “No, sir” at the time he compiled the dossier, Steele hadn’t been back to Russia in 17 years. Gowdy then asked him:
Gowdy: “How was he able to accumulate information in Russia if he didn’t go?”
Simpson: “… and generally, you have a network of sources who live in or came from the place that you’re interested in. So, you know, generally speaking, you would have –you would run a network of sub-sources or subcontractors who travel around and gather information for you. And so without getting into who his sources are, I can say generally, he hires people who can travel and talk to people and find out what’s going on”.
On the possibility that he was just fed a steady diet of dezinformatsiya, according to Steele’s own words that was unlikely because:
“Disinformation is an issue in my profession, it is a central concern, and we are trained to spot disinformation, and if I believed this [the dossier] was disinformation, or I had concerns about that, I would tell you [Fusion GPS] that. And I’m not telling you that. I’m telling you that I don’t believe this [the dossier] is disinformation.”
So what Steele is saying here is essentially: ‘I am a wise old British gentleman spy, I was trained at the Hogwarts School of spy Wizardry, and you can trust everything I’m telling you. Now, BEGONE!’
This is laughable! Vetting sources is a critical part of the evaluation and reliability of intelligence. It’s such an essential part of the craft that no decisions about the information can be made without it. Given the poor quality of his raw intelligence, Steele’s lack of concern for the possibility that he was being fed disinformation is alarming.
The Media Blitz and the Tradecraft
While still in the early stages of his clandestine dossier project, Steele and Fusion GPS launched a coordinated media blitz to publish the briefs. Steele was sharing the details with a handful of DOJ, FBI, State Department, and other political figures such as Kramer and his friend Winer, who even endorsed him on LinkedIn.
Steele and Simpson were also regularly briefing reporters from The New York Times, The Washington Post, Yahoo! News, MSNBC, The New Yorker, and CNN.
Assuming for a second that these alleged reports are genuine, many of them completely betray sources and collection methods. For example:
“Speaking in July 2016, a Russian source close to Rosneft President confided the details of a recent secret meeting between him and…Carter PAGE”.
In March 2017, after Steele started getting negative media coverage, Orbis came out with the following media release:
Orbis Business Intelligence has an established track record of providing strategic intelligence, forensic investigation and risk consulting services to a broad client base. The nature of our business, and our high standards of professionalism dictate that we would not disclose to the public information on any specific aspects of our work.
This is an almost identical copy of Hakluyt’s statement: We don’t ever talk about anything we do…
Reading this statement, it’s difficult to reconcile Steele’s professed discretion and the vow to “not disclose to the public information on any specific aspects of our work” with the fact that he is a serial leaker.
Even if we assume that Steele didn’t intentionally plan to burn his sources, leaking such details to the media shows total lack of craft.
In December 2016, when the story about the mysterious death of Oleg Erovinkin came out, Simpson attempted to leverage it to shut down questions about Steele’s sources and methods. He was hinting that Erovinkin, a former general in the FSB, was one of Steele’s deep sources. A number of other individuals within Steele’s and Fusion GPS’s circles were also aggressively promoting this narrative. In one example, Scott Dworkin, the head of DNC’s opposition research group the ‘Democratic Coalition’ tweeted:
In another example, Luke Harding, who worked for Orbis and was one of Steele’s collectors in Russia until he was expelled from there in 2011, in his book, Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win wrote:
“A person close to Steele admitted that in the wake of the dossier the Kremlin did appear to be wiping out some kind of American or Western espionage network.”
So in the unlikely case that the Russians were now eliminating Steele’s assets, then the death of these people can be blamed squarely on his ongoing whirlwind dossier media tour and his criminal negligence.
Typos and Errors
The report contains a number of errors and inaccuracies that should have been caught and corrected at the final copyedit before publication; after all, Simpson, Jacoby, Steele, Ohr, and Baumgartner earn their living writing. You would certainly expect that one of them would read and clean up the document before it was distributed.
The errors in the briefs include the consistent misspelling of names like the “Alfa Group” with “Alpha Group” which betrays the fact that the writer is not versed in the material he is writing about. This could alternatively be written off as gangsta Ali-G style spelling, but it’s odd that someone like Steele who was raised on the Queens’s English is going to adopt this style of writing in an official intelligence report. It may also be of some relevance that Dworkin uses the same Alpha/Alfa alternate spelling in his publications.
What Language was the Report Written in?
It’s clear from the grammar, punctuation, spelling, idioms, and sentence structure that the report is suffering from some serious English language deficiencies. It is filled with sentences like:
“Russians meanwhile keen to cool situation”, or “Educated US youth to be targeted as protest…”
Many dossier apologists point out that this is because the raw intelligence came from some ‘Vlad’ who ‘don’t speaka de English’. This is also one of the leading arguments in favor of the authenticity of the intelligence. After all, would you expect perfectly written British English prose from an FSB source? It’s hard to buy this argument. It has the hallmarks of a false flag operation written all over it. Steele doesn’t speak fluent Russian nor for that matter does he even read or write Russian. So, these notes could not have been the transcribed recordings or the transcripts of his conversations/communications with his sources.
According to Simpson, Steele: “… farmed out other research to native Russian speakers who made phone calls on his behalf“. So Steele wasn’t personally conducting the debriefings of his assets; some other Russian speaker conducted the interviews and/or translated the written intel into English. The only other plausible members of the dossier team to be able to do this were, Chris Utechin (Orbis’s in-house Russia SME), Nellie Ohr, and Edward Baumgartner. Simpson confirmed that Baumgartner’s job for Fusion GPS was the translation of Russian language documents, writing reports, and interviewing assets who speak Russian. He said:
“So we retained Ed to—originally in the Prevezon case—to do some interviews in Moscow, I think, and retrieve some records from Russia. And other Russian language-related tasks.”
Baumgartner and Ohr are native English speakers with advanced degrees from Ivy League schools. So if they wrote down the bulk of the raw intelligence, then why did they dumb down their writing style and forget how to form proper English sentences? After all, Baumgartner prides himself on his flawless spoken Russian and touts his firm’s translation services:
“Several blue-chip corporate names in the region retain Edward Austin to write, translate and edit their press releases, presentations and other corporate material.”
Ohr also practically lived in the Lenin Library and the Smolensk archive for almost a year reading and translating documents in Russian. She also made a name for herself as a book reviewer writing in perfect English.
Finally, assuming that the ‘raw intelligence’ came from some FSU sources, was it received in Ukrainian or Russian? We can’t determine this with certainty because the translation into English destroyed the fine nuances of these two similar languages. Or perhaps, it was written in British English in the first place and then rewritten in a ‘Russian style’ to make it look more authentic?
VC Funding and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion
It is interesting that the dossier contains a significant amount of non-political and business-related activity. There is also a generous amount of emphasis on cyber warfare and cyber crime. Neither of these subjects has much to do with the stated objectives of the original research of gathering information about “links between Russia and [then-presidential candidate] Donald Trump”.
Russian involvement in cyber-related crime is also old news. Russian, Ukrainian, and other FSU based botnets that distribute malware have been operating at full capacity since the mid-2000s. With some of the more significant players having quasi-government affiliations. Why then the sudden increase in Russian cyber warfare related chatter in the dossier? The reason could be that someone asked Steele to include this material in order to ride the wave of the DNC internal email leak which was published in June-July 2016.
An illustration for this somewhat irrelevant cyber related material can be found in report 86 dated 26 July 2016. Under item 3 we find the following paragraph:
In terms of the FSB’s recruitment of capable cyber operatives to carry out its, ideally deniable, offensive cyber operations, a Russian IT specialist with direct knowledge reported in June 2016 that this was often done using coercion and blackmail. In terms of ‘foreign’ agents, the FSB was approaching US citizens of Russian (Jewish) origin on business trips to Russia. In one case a US citizen of Russian ethnicity had been visiting Moscow to attract investors in his new information technology program. The FSB clearly knew this and had offered to provide seed capital to this person in return for them being able to access and modify his IP, with a view to targeting priority foreign targets by planting a Trojan virus in the software. The US visitor was told this was common practice. The FSB also had implied significant operational success as a result of installing cheap Russian IT games containing their own malware unwittingly by targets on their PCs and other platforms.
I don’t know what terms like “IT Specialist” means in Steele’s world of rent-a-spy, but for most of us in the field it describes individuals who use their technical expertise to implement, monitor, or maintain IT systems. Even if this IT Specialist was working for the FSB, IT staff in any intelligence organization is usually not privy to case files and sources and methods used to recruit agents. It doesn’t take much imagination to cross-reference Steele’s fictitious “IT Specialist” to Snowden and his fantastic exploits. In fact, Snowden describes an almost identical story where allegedly coercion and blackmail were used to turn a Swiss banker into an informant.
As for the term “with direct knowledge”, does he mean that this IT Specialist claimed to have participated in one of these offensive cyber operations and willingly shared this information with one of Steele interviewers?
The same goes for the proposition that an “IT Specialist” would have firsthand knowledge of the FSB’s playbook for recruitment of US citizens of (Jewish) Russian origin. The whole premise that the FSB is targeting US Jews because they are greedy and would flip for a price sounds like it was taken from Borat in the nest of the Jews or the protocols. It reeks of institutionalized anti-Semitism which could have been planted in the report deliberately to generate reader outrage.
Further more, even from the point of view of original research, its obvious that this allegation didn’t come from one of Steele’s FSB sources. It can be traced directly to Glenn Simpson through his testimony during the House Intelligence Committee hearing, where he stated:
[Simpson] “The Mossad, was my source for the belief that Russian intelligence has been operating through the Jewish Orthodox Chabad movement, and the Russian Orthodox Church. The Orthodox church is also an arm of the Russian State now… the Mossad guys used to tell me about how the Russians were laundering money through the Orthodox church in Israel, and that it was intelligence operations.”
This begs the obvious question of how did the subject of Simpson’s alleged conversations with the “Mossad guys” made it into Steele’s independent intelligence reports?
Steele also seems to be conflating multiple Russian intelligence services under the FSB. The FSB is the Russian equivalent of the FBI and is responsible for domestic security, they typically don’t recruit and mange foreign agents. The actual Russian intelligence agencies responsible for conducting wide scale foreign surveillance and cyber operations are the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU).
Another noteworthy observation is the general vagueness of the cyber section and the writer’s poor understanding of computer and software terminology in frequently confusing terms like IP (intellectual property) with a code base and Trojans with Viruses. Besides, whoever wrote this section needs to make up his/her mind about which attack vector is it. A Trojan? A virus? an altering operation (whatever that means), or cheap Russian IT games (probably meant to say ‘IT Utilities’ like rogue anti-virus) infected with malware.
To illustrate the FSB’s ’recruitment’ method, Steele tells us about a US citizen who travels to Russia hoping to attract investors in his “information technology program”. What does that even mean? Is he talking about an executive of a US startup that is looking for seed money in Russia? If so, the proposition is ridiculous; anyone that has ever tried to raise capital in a startup knows that because of IP and regulatory constraints, the funding source is always country specific. Also, the idea that a US executive running a US-based software company would willingly allow the FSB to plant a virus in his software is laughable and shows a childish understanding of cyber warfare practices. You don’t have to be a genius to know that when that executive is caught—the question is when, not if—the company would be destroyed and he would be looking at massive civil penalties and a very long jail sentence…not to mention the likelihood that as part of his plea bargain he would sing like a canary implicating the FSB in a crime.
In 2013, Bruce Ohr acting as the Assistant Deputy Director at DOJ participated in the third St. Petersburg International Legal Forum. He was a speaker at a session titled “Criminal Matters and Allegations of Crimes in International Arbitration”, a topic connected to the Magnitsky Act. It’s interesting that his lecture included many of the components of the yet-to-be dossier’s: “money laundering operations”, “payment of large bribes and kickbacks”, “forged documents”, and “collusive schemes”.
Image 13: Bruce Ohr presenting at the 2013 St. Petersburg International Legal forum
In 2016, after her position with Fusion GPS ended, Nellie Ohr landed a new gig with VeriSign iDefense as threat analyst in cybersecurity. In February 2017, VeriSign sold their iDefense business to Accenture. Ohr’s new title became Principal at Accenture Security. In this capacity, she delivered a presentation during the ISO-ISAC Fall 2017 session entitled: “Ties Between Government Intelligence Services and Cyber Criminals – Closer Than You Think?”
Nellie Ohr, Principal Accenture Security
Ohr’s presentation focused on enforcement activity in 2016-2017 and provided examples of how cyber threat actors were arrested, indicted, or identified in intelligence reports by US and European governments. She pointed out connections and ties between government intelligence services (such as the FSB) and cybercrime actors. She discussed the drivers and mechanisms between state and criminal cooperation and offered a case study that explored how seemingly ordinary cybercrime was combined with strategic espionage.
It may also be of interest that many of the dossier’s cybersecurity allegations such as the ties between the Russian government intelligence services and cybercrime actors and the drivers and mechanisms between state and criminal cooperation are repeated almost verbatim in Nellie Ohr’s Accenture Security presentation that she delivered almost a year after the dossier came out in the FS-ISAC 2017 Summit.
for example, the case study in her 2017 presentation explored how seemingly for profit Romanian and Bulgarian hackers combined with strategic Russian espionage initiatives. This case study mirrors dossier report #166.
Image 14: Nallie Ohr’s presentation to the FS-ISAC 2017 Fall Summit
Nellie’s 2017 presentation was itself recycled almost verbatim from the 2010 symposium hosted by the National Institute of Justice. The subject of that event was: Legal Racketeering in Russia and National Security Issues. The talk raised these questions:
How are international criminal organizations attempting to co-opt the state to suit its interests? How are states attempting to use international criminal organizations to advance their interests? How does international organized crime present itself as a national security threat to different types of countries? How do links to other malevolent actors, like terrorist or insurgent groups, manifest themselves and factor into the previous questions?
So it seems that the Ohrs have been cannibalizing and presenting this “raw intelligence” for several years from DOJ, FBI, and other agency sources long before it made it into the dossier.
Source Credibility and Verifiability
The context of a source is an important part of all intelligence reports. It describes in greater detail the circumstances under which the source acquired the intelligence, the source’s reporting history, and other pertinent details such as source’s credibility (i.e. his past success and failure). None of Steele’s briefs contain this information. It seems that all of his sources have the same monolithic credibility and the method of obtaining the intelligence is always shrouded in obscurity.
Every source can have a credibility ranging from ‘Pathological Liar’ to the ‘Word of G-d’. All intelligence and law enforcement organizations have grading systems for their sources. Credibility is also a subtle thing that depends on many constantly changing factors. The key tradecraft for any case officer is the ability to constantly evaluate and determine the credibility of his sources. One of the glaring problems with Steele’s reports is that his source credibility indicator uses vague fluffy terms like “well-placed”, “trusted”, “knowledgeable, etc. Steele is not assigning sufficient granularity of trust to his sources.
None of the briefs show any doubts about the sources. The general impression is that Steele’s assets are all wheat and no chaff, one hundred percent reliable and are the cream of the crop of Russian politics, security services, and the Kremlin. They read like a cast of characters from a corny John le Carré novel.
What is ostensibly missing from his stellar list of informants are common everyday sources like:
- Low level bureaucrats
- Western intelligence and five eyes sources (who independently picked up this intelligence)
- Political opposition figures
- Other anti-Russian FSU sources like Ukrainian and Polish intelligence
- Business figures
- Black-hat hackers (working as contractors for Steele)
- Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
- The legions of the disgruntled and the axe-grinders
Steele also seems to be enamored with the titles of his sources and doesn’t provide any indication that he used them to cross-verify the intelligence. For example, in the instance of the alleged sexual acts in the Ritz-Carlton Moscow, he cites the following triple-source:
- A senior staff employee at the hotel
- An active FSB officer
- A senior security officer at the hotel (who would likely be a former FSB or GRU officer)
With assets like this he could have easily confirmed the story by checking out the hotel’s video surveillance footage from the hallway in question. The Ritz-Carlton Moscow has been using CCTV cameras from the mid-2000’s and have switched to a VMS based system in 2012. Steele could have asked his “active FSB officer” for the specific day and time of the alleged November 2013 incident and then used his “senior security officer” at the hotel to use a phone to take a screenshot of the video frame showing the individuals in the hallway entering and leaving the room. There was no need to retrieve the whole video, one screenshot would have been sufficient.
In a recent court testimony Steele has acknowledged that his final December 2016 report (# 166), contained information he never vetted. He stated that:
“The contents of the report did not represent (and did not purport to represent) verified facts, but were raw intelligence which had identified a range of allegations that warranted investigation given their potential national security implications”.
It’s easy to get lost in all of these weasel words but the common term for “raw intelligence” that does not represent nor purport to represent credible or verified facts is called a rumor.
On the question of chain of transmission, we have the same problem as with the verifiability. When asked about his collection methods, Steele said:
“Such intelligence was not actively sought; it was merely received.”
This is a dream come true for every collection officer—a gift of priceless information with no strings attached, no risk, no clandestine work, it’s high-value actionable intelligence just tossed over the transom.
In late 2016, the FBI finally homed-in on the problem that they had when they used the dossier for the FISA applications and Steele’s lack of source credibility and verifiability. They allegedly offered him about $50K to corroborate the dossier. For reasons unknown, he didn’t, couldn’t, or wouldn’t do it.
The House of Cards
In intelligence analysis, there is a concept of a runaway feedback loop that occurs when information becomes re-iterated and rewarded in perpetual cycles. For example, “Analyst A” releases a bit of dubious intel. “Analyst B” reads the claim and puts it in his report. “Analyst A” reads the intel in Analyst B’s report and decides that his intel may actually be true. “Analyst C” picks up “Analyst A’s” and “Analyst B’s” reports and expands on it creatively. “Analyst A” and “Analyst B” now are certain that their original piece was accurate. Actually, none of it is accurate. The same applies to many of Steele’s briefs; they progressively build upon previous dubious intel using terms like “Continuing on this theme”.
Information or Disinformation
The general impression of the reports is that they contain threads of truth, but also spurious content. For example, report #080 describes the Miss Universe 2013 event but then it provides a dubious account of sexual activity that even the author claims can’t be verified (“all direct witnesses to this recently had been “silenced”). Almost all of the ‘valuable’ intelligence in the reports exhibits the hallmarks of professional disinformation such as:
- Fabricated content−Creating content that is completely false
- Imposter content−Impersonating a genuine source with some made-up details
- Misleading content−Misattributing valid information to a wrong topic or a person
- Manipulated content−Doctoring genuine information
Syntax and Formulation
The briefs are inconsistent with Trump’s name. In some, they use the moniker “TRUMP”, in others, they uses lengthy titles like: “Republican US presidential candidate Donald TRUMP”. Clearly, the target audience of the reports knows who Trump is, so why is it necessary to use a 4-5 word qualifier to identify him? One possible explanation is that the information came from some FSU intelligence repository where the details on each target were stored in a structured format like:
[First Name] & [Last name]
The briefs also contain many poorly formed sentences. For example, the subheading of Company Intelligence Report 2016/080 title is: “Republican candidate Donald Trump’s activities in Russia and compromising relationship with the Kremlin.” The phrase is missing the word ‘his’ and should read: “Republican candidate Donald Trump’s activities in Russia and his compromising relationship with the Kremlin.”
One “Summary” phrase says: “…So far TRUMP has declined various sweetener real estate business deals…” The word that the author is looking for here is sweetheart.
Another sentence begins with “Speaking to a trusted compatriot.” After trying to make sense of the sentence, it’s clear that the writer meant “according to a trusted compatriot.” The “speaking to” jumbles the meaning.
It is difficult to explain how Steele actually wrote this. “Chris Steele,” known in his early days as a reporter for the Versity Cambridge University student publication, also served as president of the Cambridge Union Society, a debating club. So the riddle is: how could a Cambridge University journalist and master English debater form such phrases and confuse a common figure of speech like sweetener with sweetheart?
Run-on Sentences and Poor Punctuation
Paragraphs like the following need no further discussion:
“Alpha [Alfa] held ‘kompromat’ on Putin and his corrupt business activities from the 1990s whilst although not personally overly bothered by Alpha’s failure to reinvest the proceeds of its TNK oil company sale into the Russian economy since, the Russian president was able to use pressure on this count from senior Kremlin colleagues as a lever on Fridman and AVEN to make them do his political bidding.”
Gilded and Sensational Language
There are many gilded passages that have no other purpose beyond creating indignation and outrage. For example, one paragraph states:
“Trump’s previous efforts had included exploring the real estate sector in St. Petersburg as well as Moscow but in the end Trump had had to settle for the use of extensive sexual services there from local prostitutes rather than business success.”
The writer could have simply noted that while in St. Petersburg on business, Trump allegedly engaged the services of prostitutes.
Besides the obvious contextual problem with this paragraph, it is difficult to logically balance “sexual services” and “business success”. So in lieu of business success, Trump settled for extensive sex? What is the significance of qualifier “extensive”? Does the writer mean to say ‘frequent’? And what is the significance of the term “local” in the context of prostitutes? Does the source know these prostitutes personally and is vouching for the fact that they are from St. Petersburg or Moscow?
It also appears that some of the report headers were written in the style of sensational newspaper headlines like in: “Further evidence of extensive conspiracy between TRUMP’s campaign team and Kremlin”. This style doesn’t fit the succinct and factual standards expected in an intelligence report.
Finally, from literary point of view, this whole episode seems to be a revival of the 2009 story about Silvio Berlusconi spending the night with a prostitute in a hotel room in Rome ‘defiling’ Putin’s bed.
In writing about sex, the author is particularly byzantine. He says that Russian authorities had compromised Trump by catching him in his “personal obsessions and sexual perversion.“
In another instance, Trump was alleged to have gotten revenge on the Obamas by: “defiling the bed where they had stayed on one of their official trips to Russia by employing a number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ urination show.“
The use of archaic terms like “sexual perversion“ and “defiling” hints that the writer had some classical training because it sounds like he/she is using phraseology from Suetonius’s The Twelve Caesars (see reference to Tiberius and his ‘licentious indulgences and sexual perversion’ and Nero’s ‘defiling’ acts).
The usage of “a number” with the plural form “prostitutes” seems forced and is designed to emphasize the ‘largeness’ of the event. As far as showers go, the phrase is “golden shower” singular. And what is the purpose of the explanatory ‘AKA’ term “urination show”? It’s redundant and suggests that the writer himself didn’t understand the original term or is concerned that his readers may not.
One expects to find definite and indefinite articles that are often omitted. For example, the phrase “to encourage splits and divisions in western alliance” is missing “the” before “western alliance.” The phrase “anchored upon countries’ interest” should read: “anchored upon the country’s interest“. The author frequently misuses the possessive form as well.
Sentences that begin with the word “however” without a comma as in: “However it has not as yet been distributed abroad.” In other instances, “however” is followed by a comma: “However, there were other aspects …“. There is no consistency in the use of serial commas before or after conjunctions like ‘and’ and ‘but”.
The briefs suggest that there were multiple authors, one perhaps Russian/Ukrainian and one British\American. At one point, the reader is told that the Trump campaign leaked the DNC documents to WikiLeaks “to swing supporters of Bernie SANDERS away from Hillary CLINTON and across to TRUMP.” The “Summary” section cleans up the language. Now the goal is to switch voters “away from CLINTON and over to TRUMP.” This stenographic sleight of hand is forced and artificial. Whoever was conducting the original interview or data collection would/should have corrected this at the moment of transcription.
Russian Speaker and British Spelling
Steele is a Brit educated in British English. The document contains distinctly British spellings such as “programme,” “defence,” “authorised,” and “manoeuvre.” So, are we to assume that Steele’s deep intelligence assets in the FSB and Kremlin also attended Cambridge? Or perhaps these intelligence sources did attend Cambridge and like Steele were either current of former employees of the British foreign service.
There are other little details that bog the mind like when the author writes: “Things had become even ‘hotter’ since August on the TRUMP-RUSSIA track.” What does the term “hotter” mean? Does he mean busier? More complex? And what is the significance of the quotes?
Talking Points vs. Raw Intelligence
One point that repeats itself toward the end of the document is the notion of “Moscow’s interference in the US Presidential election campaign.” Another is Trump’s perceived “unfitness” for office. These statements read less like raw intelligence and more like some talking points for a political speech.
The dossier’s content and network graphs are interesting, but what about the writing style? Can we find the author’s fingerprints? To perform this analysis, I needed writing samples of a few hundred words from each potential author.
I’ve managed to get writing samples for all three dossier musketeers. Nellie Ohr has a significant amount of book reviews and articles online. Baumgartner was little more challenging. Most of his writings are not on-line—which is quite an achievement for a person who claims to have been a reporter for several years. I found a depository with some of his commercial work and his Thesis. Steele’s was by far the most difficult to locate. Despite his working as a reporter for the Cambridge Varsity student newspaper, all of the digitized copies of his prose have disappeared without a trace from the Cambridge library. I was fortunate enough to be able to pull a few copies of his articles from another source (see sample below).
Heseltine heckled – STOP PRESS with Varsity 14th February 1986 – Chris Steele
An excited atmosphere prevailed at Michael Heseltine’s address to the C.U.C.A. last Friday. Speaking to a packed Union chamber, the ex-cabinet minister broached a wide range of defence issues whilst having to overcome some vociferous heckling.
This being his first public meeting since the Bristow knighthood allegations, Heseltine raised the question of unethical trading practices in the City of Westland share sales. The member for Henley declared his belief in the substance of Bristow’s account and quoted an uncharacteristic ally, when he used a ‘Guardian” story to allege that directors of Westlands have been encouraging premium share sales on the stock market for political reasons.
The television cameras then beat a hasty retreat from the meeting. A newfounded sense of humour was evident from Heseltine’s quip to the generally sympathetic C.U.C.A. audience, “I have never got rid of the press so easily”. The substance of the speech which followed developed familiar themes of the problems resulting from American technological dominance of N.A.T.O. and contained a veiled critique of Mrs. Thatcher’s brand of ideological Conservatism.
On the subject of the Tory Party, the ex-minister advocated a return to “pragmatic policies”. Heseltine state that he had never believed this party to be on of “monolithic intellectual commitment”, clearly a criticism of Mrs. Thatcher’s ideological stridency. Historically the Tory Party has proved “a remarkable achievement of political art”. The Henley M.P. claimed that aristocratic Conservative leaders had shown a commitment to political issue and possessed a laudable social conscience. According to Heseltine, the great challenge facing the party today is whether those wielding power in modern centres of influence, such as the City, would prove worthy heirs to their landed gentry forbears.
Despite Heseltine’s self-relegation to the backbenches his mythical power lives on. During the speech abuse and barracking was launched at him from the balcony. At one point this dyslexic M.P. was forced to curtail his address whiulst stewards evicted several protestors. Questions afterwards revealed Heseltine’s cynical attitude to arms negotiations. His speech also studiously avoided the thorny question of the danger of defence policy being dominated by the interests of what Eisenhower termed ‘the military-industrial complex’.
Image 15: Christopher Steele’s writing sample
Writer Baseline Profile
As can be seen from the analysis below, Steele, Ohr, and Baumgartner demonstrate a distinct writing style (images 16-18).
Image 16: Christopher Steele’s profile
Image 17: Nellie Ohr’s profile
Image 18: Edward Baumgartner’s profile
The textual analysis of the reports comprising the dossier shows some interesting results. First, I created a ground truth baseline for each of the dossier team members. The ground truth seen in images 19-21 was based on writings they published prior to 2016.
Image 19: Steele’s writing style
Image 20: Ohr’s writing style
Image 21: Baumgartner writing style
Once I had a good baseline and a stylistic fingerprint, I proceeded to analyze the individual reports. From the sample below, we can see that despite Steele’s claim that he wrote the document, (images 22-25), it is almost certain that it was written by another person(s), likely a foreign source, possibly Baumgartner, or Ohr. The writing style fits their writer profile in multiple categories.
There are however, a few anomalies in the data (image 26) that indicate that some of the content—especially the latter reports that are written in an American English and have ‘talking point’ style—have been written by another unidentified author(s).
Image 22: Dossier report sample 1
Image 23: Dossier report sample 2
Image 24: Dossier report sample 3
Image 25: Dossier report sample 4
Image 26: Anomalous dossier report
Baumgartner and Social Media
In addition to the writing style analyses, I’ve also correlated the content of the dossier briefs with various social media sources like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. The results reinforce the conclusion of the writing style results. As you can see below, Baumgartner’s tweets touch on many of the topics and phrases in the dossier such as: Mikhail (Misha) Fridman, The Alfa group, rigging the elections, divisive campaigning, US citizens of Russian (Jewish) origin, Kremlin buyer’s remorse, and others. They also closely match the dossier composition dates.
Image 27: Baumgartner’s tweets with key dossier keywords
Baumgartner social media posting history is also noteworthy because it correlates directly with his work in Fusion GPS. For example, he is re-posting information about the dossier utilizing pre-public leaked information. He’s essentially betraying prior knowledge of the dossier by including these specific buzzwords in his tweets.
On October 31, 2016, Baumgartner was already retweeting the “dossier”. Of interest are the dates. According to the date stamp on the last dossier, report # 186, it was written on 13 December 2016. So, if we to accept this chronology, then we must conclude that individual reports were leaked out as soon as they were written, indicating that the dossier was not released in a single final batch form.
Image 28: Baumgartner’s tweets of the dossier publication
After his initial retweet of the dossier, he embarks on a regular publication schedule further discussing some of the core talking points in the document. This includes topic like “Trump is a Russian agent”. He also makes a sheepish reference to “Christopher Steele, ex-British Intelligence officer, said to have repared [sic] dossier on Trump…”, and the rationale for why a private security firm (i.e. Fusion GPS and Orbis) had to do Clapper’s job.
Image 29: Baumgartner’s on-going dossier postings
As time goes on and the dossier story fails to create a groundswell, Baumgartner starts exhibiting signs of outrage. In addition to a lot of profanity, his posts also include calls for a coup against the “scumbag” elected president.
Image 30: Comrade Baumgartner and the call to arms
Fusion GPS’s Role
We know that Simpson and Jacoby played a significant role in the dossier’s ‘architectural’, ‘editorial’, and ‘creative’ writing processes. In his testimony, Simpson confirmed sharing his investigative research with Steele. Obviously, he also directly supervised Ohr, Baumgartner, and several other resources. Fusion GPS’s involvement certainly went beyond just coordinating SMEs and acting as the general contractor for the law firm Perkins Coie who had commissioned the report and paid them over $1.2 million for it.
Simpson and Jacoby also acted as the sources (using their original research) and intakes for some of the US political material found in the dossier that shows up in phrases like “an American political figure” and “TRUMP’s associate”. This included communications with: Shailagh Murray, Lisa Holtyn, Cody Shearer (who was working on a ‘second Trump-Russia dossier’), and direct emails to and from Sidney Blumenthal, Jonathan Winer, and Scott Dworkin who managed the Democratic Coalition’s opposition research and publication (see samples below).
Image 31: Scott Dworkin’s links and dossier Tweets
Jonathan Winer himself sheds light on this information pipeline. According to his own account, he and Steele met and became friends in 2009 when both were in the business of selling intelligence about Russia. Winer went back to work at the State Department in 2013 but stayed in touch with Steele. He regularly shared Steele’s work with the State Department’s Russia desk.
“Over the next two years, I shared more than 100 of Steele’s reports with the Russia experts at the State Department, who continued to find them useful.”
Contrary to Simpson’s claim that Steele leaked the dossier content on his own initiative, Fusion GPS took a leading role in the publication process. In addition to coordinating a regular stream of social media postings, they also worked the ‘friendly’ commercial media outlets like CNN, MSNBC, NYT, WaPo, New Yorker, and Yahoo News, and published op-eds and expert reviews that supported the dossier’s credibility.
One thing worth noting is that just like in the case of the core dossier network, many of these ‘receptive’ reporters such, David Corn, Joe Palazzolo, David Cay Johnston, Scott Dworkin and Evan Perez (images 33) had long incestuous relationships with Fusion GPS and it’s team members.
Image 32: Dworkin on multiple MSNBC News investigative interviews defending the dossier and promoting Russian collusion
Joe Palazzolo, Aruna Viswanatha, Steve LeVine, and David Johnston form the New York Times worked for Jacoby as early as 2010 producing Russia and corruption related reports. Between 2016-2018, Palazzolo and Viswanatha, now working for the WSJ wrote dozens of anti-trump articles. Their publications rate sometime reached one article a week.
Steve LeVine, who now works for Axios delivering “trustworthy news”, wrote a lengthy apologetic article about Fusion GPS and its team, vouching for their credibility and professionalism. LeVine is just one of a dozen of ‘objective’ reporters that have been promoting the dossier and collusion narratives and shielding Fusion GPS, but never disclosing that they had a previous and/or a current business affiliation with Mary Jacoby, Glenn Simpson, and other Fusion GPS actors.
Steve LeVine shielding Fusion GPS in the Derwick Associates Venezuela corruption investigation
Joe Palazzolo’s, David Johnston’s, and Jacoby’s Russia articles on the now deleted “Just Anti-Corruption” website
David Johnston, and Aruna Viswanatha working for Mary Jacoby in 2010
David Cay Johnston, a NYT and a Al-Jazeera reporter and an acquaintance of Glenn Simpson is one of the leading paid anti-Trump authors and is also the reporter who published Trump’s stolen digital tax returns.
An example of David Cay Johnston’s anti-Trump and pro-HRC Twitter activity and a sampling of his vicious character attacks on Ivanka Trump and her family
Johnston has written several anti-Trump books, multiple articles, and participated in dozens of TV interviews that promote some of the dossier related allegations. He and his social and professional network also produce and distribute a large volume of Russian collusion related materials.
Image 33: Evan Perez pitching the dossier and Russian collusion on CNN News. Perez at a Fusion GPS family event
The CNN Trump Dossier and Collusion team: Jake Tapper, Evan Perez, Jim Sciutto, and Carl Bernstein receiving the Merriman Award from Jonathan Karl from ABC. Martha Ohr, was Karl’s news producer at ABC Television. Karl was also at Vassar College with Peter Fritsch and Martha Ohr’s sister-in-law Nellie Ohr.
A good illustration of how effective this ‘rent a journalist’ process is can be gleaned from the activity of William Browder the CEO of Hermitage Capital and the brain behind the Magnitsky act. In April 2016, When the European parliament was about to screen Andrei Nekrasov’s “The Magnitsky Act-Behind the Scenes” movie. Browder sent an email to Matthew Kaminski, the executive editor of Politico and a WSJ reporter (and a close friend of Kramer, Simpson, Jacoby, and Fritsch) asking him to ‘cover’ the upcoming event. In the email dated 4/24/16 Browder writes:
From: William Browder <William.email@example.com>
Date: April 24, 2016 at 08:56:04 EDT
To: “firstname.lastname@example.org” <email@example.com>
Subject: Upcoming scandal at the EU parliament involving the Magnitsky case
Hi Matt, I hope you’re doing well. I wanted to alert you to an upcoming scandal in the EU Parliament involving the Magnitsky case. On Wednesday this week a Russian filmmaker will be airing a new documentary which basically takes the KGB position on the Magnitsky case. The film claims that Magnitsky wasn’t killed (he died of natural causes), he never blew the whistle on a crime, he was a criminal himself, and that I’ve gone around the world tricking all foreign governments and parliaments into going against Russia based on this “big lie”. The filmmaker is the boyfriend of the Vice Chair of the Green Party, Heidi Hautula, who is hosting the film. We have a bunch of things planned to make this a real scandal and I’d love for Politico to report on what we’re doing. Do you have time for a chat today? My mobile is +447785904192. Can you send me yours or a good time to talk? Thanks and best regards, Bill
On 4/27/16, three days after Browder ordered the hit, Politico published an article titled “MEPs dragged into Russia film row”. It goes without saying that the coverage was derogatory towards the movie and director and used the same unverified Intel that Browder provided Kaminsky.
This is by no means a single isolated incident, Matthew Kaminski, just like Evan Perez, David Cay Johnston, and other anti-Trump reporters dedicate significant amount of their commercial publications as well as their own private Twitter activity to the Russia collusion narrative.
In a similar fashion to Kaminski’s and Baumgartner’s Twitter posts, Perez’s, Tapper’s, Sciutto’s, and Bernstein’s tweets (see below) strongly suggest that they also had early and direct access to the dossier team and were actively distributing its content as it was being written.
As far as the journalist’s motivation to publish content favorable to the dossier, it’s clear from the congressional records that this was certainly not due to concerns about the integrity of our republic. In at least 3 cases, Fusion GPS/other sources paid reporters five digit figures for these publications. This can be deduced from image 34, where the length of redacted payment fields for transactions 198 and 205 are the same length as a visible $91K payment in transaction 171.
Image 34: Sample Fusion GPS payment records
What’s with the Ham?
There is a lot of buzz on-line about Nellie Ohr’s Ham radio license and her possible uses for it. On May 23rd, 2016, just as the dossier project was kicking into gear, (Steele was only hired in June), Nellie Ohr, at the ripe old age of give-or-take 55, got a Technician radio license.
Her registration information was:
Nellie H. Ohr,
Call sign: KM4UDZ
XXXX Tucker Ave
License Class: Technician
License Issue Date: May 23 2016
License Expiration Date: May 23 2026
FCC Last Transaction: LIISS
FCC Licensee ID: L02028239
FCC FRN Number: 0025607250
Latitude: 38.XX, 38d 56m XXs N
Longitude: -77.19, 77d 11m 24s W
There are a number of curious things about Ohr getting an amateur radio license so late in her career.
- Her professional profile doesn’t show her to be the techie type. She doesn’t possess any hacker, computer, or engineering skills (which is what typically motivates people to get an Amateur Radio license).
- She doesn’t belong to any ARRL radio club in the Fairfax area
- The radio clubs in her registration area have no records of administering the exam (Ham Radio exams are typically administered by the local ARRL club).
- Her call sign, KM4UDZ, shows no public activity which is odd, because new Hams are typically very chatty and can’t stay off the air when they first get their license.
As can be seen in Image 35, her technician rating is the lowest class of amateur radio license and has limited privileges with regard to the available frequencies and transmitter power output.
Image 35: Technician Class Frequency Privileges in Ham Radio
So for all of the conspiracy theorists out there that believe that Ohr was engaged in OSS style night transmissions from a secret compartment in the barn to her controller in Moscow: she wasn’t. The radio class limits would only give her a line of sight range of 5-10 miles. In a repeater mode, she could push the range to 20-200 miles. If you don’t think that a 10-mile range is sufficient, think again. It is likely that Ohr’s rationale for using a Ham radio was a substitution for a cell and landline phones in order to communicate with person(s) nearby. As you can see from the map below, even with a 7.5 radius she was well within the range of the entire downtown Washington D.C. area.
Image 36: Nellie Ohr’s Ham radio broadcast range map
We know that Nellie Ohr was the dossier’s liaison to some other agencies. It’s not unlikely that someone versed in SIGINT told her that she had to use a Ham radio because if the project went south, the first line of investigation would have been to subpoena all of her cell and phone records and analyze them to completely re-construct her operational network.
We know that Nellie Ohr’s husband, Bruce Ohr, was the Department of Justice’s contact for Steele and Fusion GPS and in fact held meetings with both about the dossier. We also know that Ohr headed a task force code named Cassandra and Operation Fast and Furious that among other things utilized cell phone tracking technology to identify money laundering, drugs, and weapon smuggling. So, it makes sense that he was aware of the need for electronic surveillance countermeasures.
But what about tracing her Ham call sign during transmission, wouldn’t that eliminate her radio anonymity?
In theory, yes, but in practice, it can be circumvented. This problem could have been solved with devices like the Harris XG-75P/100P. Encrypted radio transmissions can be used to obscure the identity of the sender/receiver of the message. For example, unencrypted HSMM uses a ping packet containing the station call sign to identify the station, similar to how a 2-meter repeater periodically announces its call sign. But if HSMM is operated using WEP encryption (available as a plug-in), those packets would be obscured and the call sign of the station licensee could not be received by anyone without the keys. So, in addition to the encrypted voice the identity of the sender call signs would also be hidden.
The Modus Operandi
The dossier does not stand out as a unique document. Hakluyt seems to have used the same technique before. In 2002, they were contracted by Medusa Oil and Gas Limited to do some opposition research and dig-up dirt on a rival Czech company. Hakluyt, used UK government back channels to deliver a dossier style brief to the UK Ambassador in Prague and to the First Commercial Secretary at the British Embassy in Prague who was also a principal representative in the Czech Republic of British Trade International. The purpose of the document was to pressure the Czech government to prosecute the Czech targeted company. The letter made some defamatory claims about the company’s principals and its structure closely resembled Steele’s dossier. It had a bulleted layout with an intro section and a detailed discussion. Contextually, It made the same type of unverified allegation that included corruption and other crimes.
Brennan and Hayden at Hakluyt sponsored events in the US
The Fusion GPS work style on the dossier is also well-documented and is based on a long track record of political and media influence operations world-wide. Alek Boyd, an investigative reporter who managed to run into the Fusion GPS buzzsaw, is a good illustration of how they function. Boyd was reporting on Derwick Associates, a Venezuelan company that allegedly skimmed billions of dollars from rigged contracts with Hugo Chavez’s regime and partnered with Gazprom, a Russian state owned oil conglomerate. Fearing US criminal charges and regulatory sanctions, Derwick Associates contracted Fusion GPS to help them spike a potential investigation and negative US media coverage.
On Monday July 21, 2014, Peter Fritsch and Adam Kaufmann, the former New York district attorney chief prosecutor, boarded a Falcon 2000 private jet at the Ft. Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport with the destination of Caracas Venezuela. The plane was piloted by Gilbert Enrique Deleaud, an employee of Derwick Associates. The flight reservation was done through Massiel Hernandez, the pilot’s domestic partner who was also an employee of Derwick Associates. The purpose of Fritsch’s three day visit to Caracas was to do some damage control by meeting with Wall Street Journal reporter José de Córdoba who was writing an investigative article about Derwick Associates. Fritsch previously worked with José de Córdoba at the WSJ.
Derwick Associates linkage to aircraft, pilot, airport, and US based offices
After the meeting, Boyd emailed Tom Catan, a partner at Fusion GPS who he knew personally and asked him about Peter Fritsch’s visit to Venezuela and the meeting with the WSJ reporter. Catan denied they were working on any Venezuela related project, Boyd then sent Catan a proof of Fritsch’s visit to Caracas. Catan’s email response was:
From: Thomas Catan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Peter Fritsch
Date: 26 August 2014 at 14:30:31 BST
To: alek boyd email@example.com
This is really creepy, Alek. You conducting surveillance these days or wtf?
||1.0 (Mac OS X Mail 7.3 \(1878.6\))
||Apple Mail (2.1878.6)
||v=1; a=rsa-sha256; c=relaxed/relaxed; d=1e100.net; s=20130820; h=x-gm-message-state:content-type:mime-version:subject:from :in-reply-to:date:message-id:references:to; bh=v9OyeXbl4PvLmnpAr9Ar7SVxcDpniwMg1aRlbgVdnWs=; b=f7buAp9KcE16Y7xeBGX95cE87Ucc5MG1DYFey70TDuGscxQGKPIsZMk8d784Z7ind3 fbe1gFKWjj+k8TRwsW8mDLUWqzzPobhH5s9oX5UUxGGEIo6zVGIKBqjmMTTFcafY8Mx1 QJOcT3Ocw+8f+1bxkCXHFPDsXi+LtxsWcFBeNvqEg7d+naXb0KcaxDFkhisO6yaSh+OG OJTIRwd8VRbo2Q8bkdobSYvFYLmXszCGfmsrRVAiJiuzhQEKiKAfvQuejCFLc9L5+ms+ kOvyDstn/1fhOHukgUGYTZi7ZcccPkNBN0PdW0ayfltvLy2ctAzUXnVNAxH6NVeSJlRx KiNg==
||by 10.42.26.9 with SMTP id d9mr482182icc.93.1409059834336; Tue, 26 Aug 2014 06:30:34 -0700 (PDT)
||none (google.com: firstname.lastname@example.org does not designate permitted sender hosts) client-ip=22.214.171.124;
||mx.google.com; spf=neutral (google.com: email@example.com does not designate permitted sender hosts) firstname.lastname@example.org
A reservation record for Peter Fritsch at the Lido Hotel in Caracas. The reservation was booked by Kim Norwood of the MacNair travel agency in Alexandria VA through the Miami based Diamond Stay, a travel agency specializing in South American destinations.
Shortly after the publication, Boyd had his London apartment broken into and his two laptops stolen. A vicious social media smear campaign followed and included social media posting labeling him as a pedophile, drug addict, and thief. Someone even created blogger site with a fake Spanish police arrest warrant and Twitter account under his name with postings of photos of him walking around London with his young daughters.
So who researched and wrote the core parts of the dossier? It looks like it was a team effort. Most of the textual evidence points to Glenn Simpson and his wife Mary Jacoby as the architects of the dossier framework. This can also be gleaned from Jacoby’s June 24, 2017 Facebook posting (which was deleted promptly with most of her SM activity after the project derailed) where she brags about her husband’s leading role in its composition and vents her frustration about Steele monopolizing the limelight.
Image 37: Mary Jacoby’s FB Post regarding the dossier
When it comes to the research, promotion, and distribution work, the linkage shows that a fair amount of ‘staging’ activity took place in both the US (in the pre dossier stages) and the UK and involved individuals such as, Stefan Halper, Jonathan Clarke, Richard Dearlove, Charles Crawford, Iain Lobban, and Alexander Downer. It is also interesting that many of Robert Otto’s “Russia Workgroup” pen pals include the same Australian and UK diplomatic and IC actors that by July 2016 aggressively promote the dossier and vouch for its authenticity.
The same type of staging and delivery took place in the US through the State department sources like Robert Otto and the political and PR work of Alexandra Chalupa, Natalie Budaeva, and Ilya Zaslavskiy and their pro-Ukraine ‘Free Russia Foundation’ NGOs. It is notable that a lot of this activity dates to first week of April-May 2016, almost 8 weeks before Steele’s official June 2016 contract with Fusion GPS. This strongly suggests that there was a proto-dossier in place and that there was a wider coordinated effort between the US and UK teams with Orbis Business Intelligence likely acting as a front for Hakluyt & Co.
The existence of a proto-dossier that predates Steele’s work is further supported by an email written by Robert Otto to John Williams, the director of the Office of Analysis for Russia and Eurasia in the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research. In this email titled “the fried document” and dated May 1, 2016, Otto comments on some of the building blocks of the future dossier including how effective or damaging various claims would be. For example, on the subject of “Fridman” and “Alfa” (see Dossier page 25 report 112) he writes:
… It’s not clear that Aven/Fridman’s investments in Ukraine are in line with Kremlin policy. Alfa is a bank; banks issue loans. So what’s the big deal with its loans to UVZ? It’s a loss making enterprise and Alfa has threatened bankruptcy proceedings over non-payment. I fail t see how that’s at the Kremlin request.
…I know nothing about Karimova’s ties to Alfa. She has them to Usmanov. And it’s Usmanov and Shvidler (Abramovich) who allegedly bribed Shuvalov, not Alfa…
…A search in Integrum on “magnitskiy” and “al’fa” gets five hits. Not a one is about Alfa laundering Magnitskiy money, let alone a central role. Why repeat something so easily checkable. Was it some sort of Alfa subsidiary? If so, name it. See above on Shuvalov – some of the money may have went through Alfa, but that’s not what went public. (tidbit: one of the folks exposing Shuvalov is Natalya Pelevin that same who shared Kasyanov’s bed and chatted about an anti-Navalnyy front)
…A very serious allegation that requires investigation…We have former Alfa fellows working in the building.
Otto’s comment that “We have former Alfa fellows working in the building” also suggests that other active State Department Intelligence resources were privy to these conversations.
||Robert Otto <email@example.com>
||the fried document
||Sun, 1 May 2016 12:44:48 -0400
||John Williams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
||1.0 (Mac OS X Mail 8.2 \(2104\))
||Apple Mail (2.2104)
Ilya Zaslavskiy’s early 2016 activity in the UK also shows some of the Trump dossier themes such as the business relationship with the “Alfa-Bank” (see award below) in several of his anti-Russian Oligarch campaigns.
Ilya Zaslavskiy’s June 10, 2016 certificate of corruption award
Ohr’s and Baumgartner’s roles were likely to research specific Russian content and re-write the narrative in ‘Russian style’ in order to make it appear authentic. The ‘hard’ intelligence probably came from British and Ukrainian sources who may have also provided some of the juicy gossip. Nellie Ohr utilized DOJ and State Department documents that pertained to Russian organized crime, cybersecurity, corruption, and opportunistically incorporated them into the dossier briefs.
This careful mixture of partial truth and fiction explains all of the tidbits of information in the report that are marginally plausible and give the dossier a first-person witness quality and a thin veneer of creditability. Simpson alludes to this when he said in the testimony:
We –you know, they [Steeles network of resources] identified -one memo identified a Russian guy who worked for an NGO called Rossotrudnichestvo, which is –you know, I didn’t know it at the time, but I was able to learn from looking at it that the FBI considers that to be a front for the SVR. So, you know, either the people were extremely knowledgeable about a lot of obscure intelligence stuff or, you know, they –what they’re saying had some credibility.
When it comes to the bulk of the literary work, Simpson, Jacoby, Baumgartner and Ohr likely authored it and Steele—if he did any actual writing—just formatted the reports in order to tag them with his scent and make them look spyish by using terms like “Source X” and redacting some phrases.
Nellie Ohr’s, Shailagh Murray, and Mary Jacoby also played a secondary organizational role and acted as the liaisons between the Fusion GPS team, State Department, DOJ, and the White House, and possibly as a cut-outs to other agencies.
Image 38: The Steele Dossier Timeline
Anyone who has ever worked in intelligence knows that a good brief should answer the who, what, when, where, how, and why questions. Almost none of the allegations in the dossier offer hard corroboration. It is mostly based on generalizations, truisms, and a lot of materials that were circulating on the internet and Ukrainian circles since the mid 2000s. The writers of the dossier anticipated this criticism and countered it by building-in plausible deniability for most of the allegations through statements like:
“but key witnesses silenced and evidence hard to obtain” or “all direct witnesses to this recently had been “silenced”…”
It seems that the real dossier story is not the scandalous insinuations that it makes, but rather it’s the funding sources, the teams that worked on it, and its compilation and distribution channels. At peak capacity, the dossier team must have consisted of at least 25 individuals who worked on it for over 6-12 months. Assuming a modest $200 per hour rate per person, some first/business class travel and accommodations, media, consulting, IT, and legal services, this project must have cost an upwards of 5-10 million dollars. According to Simpson’s testimony and documents, Fusion GPS was only paid about a million dollars by the DNC and Clinton campaign, which begs the questions of what was Hakluyt’s cut and where did the rest of the money go?
Simpson and Steele did far more than simply conduct sordid opposition research for the Clinton campaign. By various machinations, they successfully reached the most influential people in UK and US politics, the media, and federal government agencies and shaped/influenced the narrative of the 2016 presidential elections. There is little doubt that Simpson/Jacoby and their US political/media network and Steele with his enablers in Hakluyt, the British media, and the Foreign Office successfully waged a full-scale influence operation against the US and are continuing to do so even now.
In the end, this modern version of the “Black Hand Society” failed to deliver the goods and as the Elections of 2016 came to an end, Baumgartner posted this tweet:
It is just this sort of Machiavellian statement that you might expect from a sleazy literary hitman. In response, I must point out that after you, Monsieur Edward Emil Baumgartner—indeed—did come the flood!
© Copyright 2018 Yaacov Apelbaum, All Rights Reserved