전 백악관 안보 보좌관 마이클 플린이 2016 트럼프 선거 캠페인에 참여한 직후, 누군가 플린 보좌관이 러시아 여성 스파이와 접촉하고 있다는 소문을 기자들에게 흘리고 다녔다. 러시아 스파이로 지목된 인물은 구소련 정보기관 연구로 알려진 케임브리지 대학 강사 겸 작가인 스베틀라나 로코바. 그리고 익명의 제보자는 같은 대학 동료였던 스테판 할퍼 교수였다.
할퍼에 따르면 2014년 런던에서 열린 정보 회의(intelligence conference) 이후 비공개 저녁 만찬에서 플린과 로코바의 사이가 심상치 않았다고 한다. 그러나 할퍼는 이 만찬에 참석하지 않았음이 밝혀지면서 그의 발언 역시 모두 허위로 판명됐다.
정보요원이 아니었던 스테판 할퍼 교수가 러시아 스파이에 대한 정보를 퍼뜨려 플린 스캔들을 일으킨 이유는 무엇일까. 실력 있는 정보요원이라면 자신의 정체를 노출하며 중요정보를 발설하는 어리석은 일을 하지 않을 것이라고 브라이언 케이트는 주장한다. – 편집부
Shortly after Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn joined the presidential campaign of Donald Trump in February 2016, someone began contacting reporters to spin a tale about having seen Flynn being courted by a female Russian spy.
This person alleged to several media reporters that he suspected Flynn had been successfully compromised by the Putin government.
Svetlana Lokhova, a lecturer and author at Cambridge who specializes in Soviet intelligence studies, ended up being dragged against her will into one of the biggest political scandals of all time.
The person responsible for dragging Lokhova into the middle of this scandal is professor Stefan Halper, once a fellow academic at Cambridge, now retired.
Unlike with professor Joseph Mifsud, where strident denials are made that he was working for the FBI to entrap Trump campaign personnel, there’s no question that Halper is a Western intelligence asset.
In fact, Halper was so much of a Western intelligence asset that a whistleblower was subjected to retaliation for questioning his seemingly over-generous contracts with the U.S. government.
According to multiple news reports—for which we now know Halper was an anonymous source— Flynn attended an intelligence conference in London in 2014 where Lokhova and Halper were also present. That conference was followed by a private dinner, which—and this is going to be important to remember—Flynn (then-director of the Defense Intelligence Agency), Lokhova, Sir Richard Dearlove (former head of MI6) and Dan O’Brien (Defense Intelligence Agency UK liaison) all attended, but Halper didn’t. It’s important to stress that Halper wasn’t at this dinner.
Halper’s story is that he suspected his fellow Cambridge academic was a Russian agent and was “alarmed” at hearing from others about her supposed interactions with Flynn at this private dinner.
So disturbed was Halper by what he was told about how chummy that Lokhova got with Flynn, that he waited for two years, until Flynn had joined the Trump campaign, to begin calling up reporters to anonymously spread his story.
The real fact of the matter is that Lokhova met Flynn exactly once–at this aforementioned private dinner.
Also, many of these slanderous media reports get basic facts of what happened at this dinner completely wrong.
1. It’s claimed that Lokhova sat next to Flynn, when she did not. She has made public a photo she herself took at the dinner that shows Flynn on the opposite side of the table from her.
2. It was reported by many media outlets that Flynn didn’t clear his attendance at the conference or the private dinner with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). In fact, not only was Flynn’s participation known and cleared beforehand, O’Brien, head of the DIA’s UK liaison office, also attended. So the allegation that the DIA didn’t know about any of this is absurd on its face.
3. It was reported that Lokhova left the dinner with Flynn, a claim that’s 100 percent false. Lokhova stated that she’s never been alone with Flynn and her subsequent contact with Flynn was limited to several emails.
Halper’s fantastic tale boils down to this: He heard from others that the intrepidly fearless Russian spy Lokhova was earnestly trying to put the moves on the head of the DIA at this private dinner in a room full of top intelligence officials that included a former head of MI6.
Somehow Halper, in his stories to reporters and to U.S. authorities, managed to spin this one, single, completely innocent interaction between Flynn and Lokhova into something nefarious that placed both under suspicion.
Was there ever any investigation by the FBI, the CIA, or MI6 into whether Halper’s allegations against Lokhova and Flynn had any merit? I’ve yet to see any evidence of that.
Lokhova has filed a lawsuit against Halper, seeking $25 million in damages.
On Aug. 13, Halper’s defense team filed a motion to dismiss with the court, seeking to have the judge toss out Lokhova’s suit.
Halper is essentially saying that he’s not admitting he was any kind of government contractor, but if he was, then he would have the same kind of immunity afforded to government agents.
This sounds incoherent to me. Either he is not a government agent, as he is talking to the press about Lokhova, or he is. Was he engaging in this slander as a private citizen or in an official capacity as an agent of a government? Which is it?
A reminder of what I’ve been saying for more than a year: A real intelligence professional who is doing real intelligence work isn’t going to leak evidence being used in active investigations to the news media.
Assuming that Halper really did believe Lokhova was a Russian agent, why would he be calling media reporters about it? That’s not how this kind of thing is handled by an intelligence professional. But it’s exactly the kind of thing that a political operative does.
Halper should be ashamed of himself. And so should every member of the news media who let themselves be used to defame two innocent people.
Brian Cates is a political pundit and writer based in South Texas and the author of “Nobody Asked for My Opinion … But Here It Is Anyway!”
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