Russia Dossier

This page is intended to keep track of the intelligence found in the Cristopher Steele dossier on Trump and his Russian connections.

Each week we will break down a page of the Dossier, review the veracity of every claim, and chart out the grand totals.

What we’ve learned so far is that the Dossier is mostly filled with unverified information, but many parts of the Dossier has been proven correct, despite Fox News and Republican media’s false statements to the contrary.

Click on a link to get a detailed description of every claim made in that report.

  1. Kompromat
  2. Indications of Extensive Conspiracy
  3. Carter Page
  4. Political Fallout From DNC Hack
  5. Growing Backlash in Kremlin
  6. Evolving Russian Tactics
  7. Reaction in Trump Camp
  8. Cohen’s Secret Liaison With The Kremlin

Totals

         5         10         15
Verified  10
Probable  8
Unknown 14
Unlikely 1
Debunked

About the Dossier

The “Russian Dossier” was compiled by former MI6 agent Cristopher Steele on behalf of Fusion GPS. The project was originally started and paid for by the conservative website Free Beacon as opposition research, then later picked up by Marc E. Elias, a lawyer representing both the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

After the hacks of Democratic National Committee, Fusion GPS hired the British private intelligence firm Orbis Business Intelligence, with co-founder Cristopher Steele leading the investigation and producing memos from June 2016 to December 2016.

The Washington Post reported that Elias’ firm did not inform Clinton’s campaign or the DNC of the research firm’s role, and noted it is “standard practice” for political campaigns to hire researchers using law firms in order to guarantee the protection of “attorney-client and work product privileges.

As some point, Steele took the dossier to the FBI, who took it serious enough they reached an agreement to pay Mr. Steele to continue his research, though that plan was scrapped after the dossier was published.

We first learned of the existence of the dossier just before the 2016 election from a Mother Jones article, and then in January 2017 CNN reported that both Trump and then-President Barack Obama were shown a document during an intelligence briefing that it exists, with a summary of the details, including Russia may have compromising information on Trump.

Shortly after Buzzfeed threw journalistic ethics aside and released the entire dossier, changing the narrative and allowed most of the news media to be consumed with the more salacious details, such as the infamous pee tape.

The dossier can be read in full here.

One thing we have to remember is that this is raw data, this means that it is an accurate reporting of what the source reported, not that the information is accurate. This is only an early step in the process and the information still needs to be vetted and investigated. Some of it will be false, some of it will be true, and some we may never know. So keep this in mind when reviewing the dossier.

About Russian Cyber Crime

Speaking in June 2016, a number of Russian figures with a detailed knowledge of national cyber crime, both state-sponsored and otherwise, outlined the current situation in this area.

A former senior intelligence officer divided Russian state-sponsored offensive cyber operations into four categories (in order of priority):

  1. Targeting foreign, especially western governments
  2. Penetrating leading foreign business corporations, especially banks
  3. Domestic monitoring of the elite
  4. Attacking political opponents both at home and abroad.

The former intelligence officer reported that the Federal Security Service (FSB) was the lead organization within the Russian state apparatus for cyber operations.

In terms of the success of Russian offensive cyber operations to date, a senior government figure reported that there had been only limited success in penetrating the ‘first tier’ foreign targets. These comprised western (especially G7 and NATO) governments, security and intelligence services and central banks, and the IFIs. To compensate for this shortfall, massive effort had been invested, with much greater success, in attacking the “secondary targets”, particularly western private banks and the governments of smaller states allied to the West. S/he mentioned Latvia in this regard. Hundreds of agents, either consciously cooperating with the FSB or whose personal and professional IT systems had been unwittingly compromised, were recruited. Many were people who had ethnic and family ties to Russia and/or had been incentivized financially to cooperate. Such people often would receive monetary inducements or contractual favours from the Russian state or its agents in return. This had created difficulties for parts of the Russian state apparatus in obliging/indulging them e.g. the Central Bank of Russia knowingly having to cover up for such agents’ money laundering operations through the Russian financial system.

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.

In a more advanced and successful FSB operation, an IT operator inside a leading Russian SOE, who previously had been employed on conventional (defensive) IT work there, had been under instruction for the last year to conduct an offensive cyber operation against a foreign director of the company. Although the latter was apparently an infrequent visitor to Russia, the FSB now successfully had penetrated his personal IT and through this had managed to access various important institutions in the West through the back door.

In terms of other technical IT platforms, an FSB cyber operative flagged up the ‘Telegram’ enciphered commercial system as having been of especial concern and therefore heavily targeted by the FSB, not least because it was used frequently by Russian internal political activists and oppositionists. His/her understanding was that the FSB now successfully had cracked this communications software and therefore it was no longer secure to use.

The senior Russian government figure cited above also reported that non-state sponsored cyber crime was becoming an increasing problem inside Russia for the government and authorities there. The Central Bank of Russia claimed that in 2015 alone there had been more than 20 attempts at serious cyber embezzlement of money from corresponding accounts held there, comprising several billions Roubles. More generally, s/he understood there were circa 15 major organised crime groups in the country involved in cyber crime, all of which continued to operate largely outside state and FSB control. These included the so-called ‘Anunak’, ‘Buktrap’ and ‘Metel’ organisations.

About the Sources

The Dossier lists five sources of the information, listed alphabetically A through E.

  • Source A: Senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure, identity unknown.
  • Source B: Former top level Russian intelligence officer still active inside the Kremlin, identity unknown.
  • Source C: Senior Russian financial official, identity unknown.
  • Source D: Sergei Millian, a Belarusan American businessman with close ties to Trump.
  • Source E: Sergei Millian, a Belarusan American businessman with close ties to Trump.

About the Scoring

We will give each detail in the dossier a score from accurate to inaccurate: verified, probable, unknown, unlikely, debunked.

  • Verified: There is sufficient evidence beyond a reasonable doubt the information is correct.
  • Probable: There is no direct evidence, but enough data has been compiled to make a reasonable inference the information is correct, which should still be met with skepticism.
  • Unknown: There is not enough evidence at this time to indicate a conclusion and should be met with skepticism.
  • Unlikely: There is no direct evidence, but enough data has been compiled to make a reasonable inference the information is incorrect, which should still be met with skepticism.
  • Debunked: There is sufficient evidence beyond a reasonable doubt the information is incorrect.