CNN’s Phil Mudd on Monday explained just how intelligence officials collect information on subjects, reacting to a story published last week that revealed the CIA paid $100,000—through an intermediary—to a Russian operative offering stolen National Security Agency data and dirt on Donald Trump.
The New York Times’ Matthew Rosenberg explained his stunning Feb. 9 report about a $100,000 payout to “a shadowy Russian” who promised National Security Agency cyberweapons and Trump material.
“You have these National Security Agency hacking tools that went missing,” Rosenberg said. “And, early last year, they’re desperate to try and figure out what’s gone missing? This Russian appears and says, ‘I can tell you everything we got.’ There was an American, an intermediary, this private businessman who was kind of handling negotiations. The CIA actually seemed reluctant throughout the entire process.”
According to Rosenberg, the American intelligence community “said, ‘No thank you, we want no part of this.’”
“So that information is sitting in Europe,” Rosenberg said. “It has never been assessed, it has never been looked at. The American intermediary has it.”
Reacting to that report, Mudd, a former deputy director at the CIA, laid out the half of Roseberg’s report “that isn’t weird.”
“If you want information on devils, you don’t deal with angels, you deal with dirtbags,” Mudd said. “We dealt, in my counter-terrorism work, every day with people you call in the intelligence business, ‘walk-ins’—someone who comes in to an official U.S. government facility and says, ‘I have really interesting information.’ Ninety-nine percent are people are nuts or people who want money.”
“So in this case, you have somebody who walks in and may have a weird story, you’re going to talk to them,” Mudd continued. “The question I would have is, who paid the money? I do not believe the CIA paid this guy $100,000—maybe the intermediary did—for one simple reason: You can cut a paycheck for $100,000 but you have to go through a validation and corroboration process beforehand. Intelligence means I’ve got to validate that he is who he says he is. And on the corroboration part, even if he is who he says he is, I have to determine whether the information he’s providing is accurate. You can give him $100,000 but not before you figure out if as he liar.”
Rosenberg said the money “didn’t come straight from the CIA” but was “routed in indirectly, that there was a payment that was reimbursed.”
“There was some kind of bona fides,” Rosenberg said. “And that throughout the spring and summer, he had provided information to give then confidence, and this was meant as a down payment.”
“Sounds like a John le Carré novel,” CNN’s Wolf Blitzer joked.