Christopher Steele, MI6, and the Trump Dossier


Did Brit spooks, working from this building in London, help Christopher Steele assemble his dossier on Donald Trump?

It’s the headquarters for Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), also known as MI6. Its mission is to collect foreign intelligence.

Despite what was portrayed in the James Bond movie “Skyfall,” the building remains undamaged, and, to date, un-entangled in the media drama surrounding the Trump-Russia Collusion investigation.

Philby spied for the USSR’s NKVD and KGB for decades as a double agent

Today, one prominent former denizen of its halls is Christopher Steele.

Steele is a former Cambridge student and ex-MI6 Moscow field agent, who became head of MI6’s Russia Desk.  He directed British intelligence gathering aimed at Russia.  He wasn’t the first to hold that job.

The 2011 motion picture “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” is a lose adaptation of the exploits of an earlier Russia Desk holder named Kim Philby. The actor Colin Firth played a character loosely pattered after the real life story of Kim Philby.

Like Steele, Harold Adrian Russell “Kim” Philby (1911-1988) graduated from Cambridge, was recruited by MI6, and rose to become head of MI6’s Russia Desk. At different times, Philby and Steele led intelligence gathering efforts aimed at the USSR (Philby) and, later, the Russian Federation (Steele).

In January 1963, Philby disappeared from Beirut.  In July 1963, he surfaced in Moscow where he was granted political asylum and citizenship.  In 1965, the Kremlin awarded Philby the Order of Lenin.  In 1988, he died in Moscow – a hero of the Soviet Union.

Philby spied for the USSR’s NKVD and KGB for decades as a double agent.  He was, perhaps, the most successful double-agent in the modern history of espionage.

There is no public evidence that any later occupant of the Russia Desk has replicated Philby’s historic duplicity.  But, since Philby, no occupant of the Russia Desk has attracted more media attention than Steele.

Today, the public narrative of Christopher Steele’s association with the Trump Dossier reads like this:

A U.S.-based organization, desirous of gathering opposition research on U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump, hires a retired MI6 employee, Christopher Steele.  He is known to have extensive knowledge of, and experience with, persons inside the Russian Federation who have direct knowledge of, and/or indirect access to, unflattering information concerning Trump.

Steele’s Russian contacts provide him information, perhaps in consideration for some financial remuneration or in-kind reward. Steele takes that information, applies his intelligence-gathering, –analysis, and –synthesizing expertise, and compiles the Trump Dossier.

As Steele is creating the dossier, persons associated with the British Secret Intelligence Service are unaware of, and uninvolved in, his efforts.

Now, on its face, is that narrative credulous, or incredulous? Let’s ask Umberto.

“Not that the incredulous person doesn’t believe in anything. It’s just that he doesn’t believe in everything. Or he believes in one thing at a time. He believes a second thing only if it somehow follows from the first thing. He is nearsighted and methodical, avoiding wide horizons. If two things don’t fit, but you believe both of them, thinking that somewhere, hidden, there must be a third thing that connects them, that’s credulity.” (Umberto Eco, 20th Century Italian writer and professor of semiotics at the University of Bologna, d. 2016)

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