Christopher Steele

Last updated on 16 August 2017

Christopher David Steele (born 24 June 1964) is a former British intelligence officer, who worked for MI6 and is a founding director of Orbis Business Intelligence, a London-based private intelligence firm. He is the author of a controversial dossier that claims Russia collected a file of compromising information on U.S. President Donald Trump.[2][3]

Early life and education

Christopher David Steele was born in Aden, Federation of South Arabia, on 24 June 1964.[1][4] He attended Girton College, Cambridge and wrote for the oldest of Cambridge University's main student newspapers, Varsity.[5] In the Easter term of 1986, Steele was President of The Cambridge Union.[6][7] He was known as a "confirmed Socialist",[4][8] and graduated with a degree in Social and Political Sciences in 1986.[9]

Career

Steele was recruited by MI6 directly following his graduation from Cambridge, working in London at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) from 1987 to 1989.[1] From 1990 to 1992, Steele worked under diplomatic cover as an MI6 agent in Moscow, serving at the Embassy of the United Kingdom in Moscow.[7][10] Steele's identity as an MI6 officer was one of 115 names Her Majesty's Government attempted to suppress through a DSMA-Notice in 1999.[11][12] He returned to London in 1993, working again at the FCO until his posting to Paris in 1998, where he served under diplomatic cover until 2002.[10][13][14][15] In 2003, Steele was sent to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan as part of an MI6 team, briefing Special Forces on "kill or capture" missions for Taliban targets, and also spent time teaching new MI6 recruits.[10] Between 2004 and 2009 Steele headed the Russia Desk at MI6.[7][16]

Steele's expertise on Russia remained valued, and he served as a senior officer under John Scarlett, Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), from 2004 to 2009.[16] Steele was selected as case officer for Alexander Litvinenko and participated in the investigation of the Litvinenko poisoning in 2006.[10] It was Steele who quickly realised that Litvinenko's death "was a Russian state 'hit'".[16]

In March 2009, Steele with his fellow MI6-retiree Chris Burrows co-founded the private intelligence agency Orbis Business Intelligence, Ltd., based in Grosvenor Square Gardens near Buckingham Palace.[17][7] In 2017 Steele established a new company called Chawton Holdings, again with Christopher Burrows.[18]

FIFA research

In 2010, The Football Association, England's domestic football governing body, organized a committee in hopes of hosting the 2018 or 2022 World Cups. In advance of the FBI launching its 2015 FIFA corruption case, members of the FBI's "Eurasian Organized Crime" squad met with Steele in London to discuss allegations of possible corruption in the FIFA.[17][19]

2017 Trump dossier

Background and information gathering

In September 2015, Republicans who were concerned about the possibility of Donald Trump winning the Republican presidential nomination retained the services of Fusion GPS, a private Washington D.C. opposition research firm,[20] to investigate Trump's Russia-related activities.[17] By early June 2016, it was clear that Trump had secured the GOP nomination for the 2016 general election. According to David Corn of Mother Jones, Democrats then took over from the Republicans in financing the inquiry into Donald Trump's activity in Russia and Europe.[21] It was at this time that Steele's services were retained by Fusion GPS.[22]

In July 2016, Steele, on his own initiative, supplied a report he had written to an FBI agent in Rome.[23] His contact at the FBI was the same senior agent with whom he had worked when investigating the FIFA scandal.[10] By early October 2016, he had grown frustrated at the slow rate of progress by the FBI investigation, and cut off further contact with the FBI.[20]

In October 2016, Steele spoke about his discoveries to David Corn of the progressive American political magazine Mother Jones. Steele said he decided to pass his dossier to both British and American intelligence officials after concluding that the material should not just be in the hands of political opponents of Trump, but was a matter of national security for both countries.[21] Corn's resulting October 31 article was the first to publicly mention the dossier, although the article did not disclose Steele's identity.[21] The magazine did not publish the dossier itself, however, or detail its allegations, since they could not be verified.[24]

Post-election work on the dossier

The project was no longer of interest to the Democrats, following Trump’s victory in November 2016. Steele[25] continued to work for Fusion GPS on the dossier without a client to pay him.[26] After the election, Steele's memos "became one of Washington’s worst-kept secrets, as reporters — including from The New York Times — scrambled to confirm or disprove them."[26]

On 18 November 2016, Sir Andrew Wood, British ambassador to Moscow from 1995 to 2000, met with U.S. Senator John McCain at the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada, and told McCain about the existence of the collected materials about Trump.[27] Wood vouched for Steele’s professionalism and integrity.[28] In early December, McCain obtained a copy of the dossier from David J. Kramer, a former U.S. State Department official who now works at Arizona State University.[26] On 9 December 2016 McCain met personally with FBI Director James Comey to pass on the information.[27]

Compromised identity

On 11 January 2017, The Wall Street Journal revealed that Steele was the author of the controversial dossier about Trump, citing "people familiar with the matter."[3] Although the dossier's existence had been "common knowledge" among journalists for months at that point and had become public knowledge during the previous week, Steele's name had not been revealed. The Telegraph asserted that Steele's anonymity had been "fatally compromised" after CNN published his nationality.[20]

The Independent reported that Steele left his home in England several hours before his name was published as the author of the dossier, as he was fearful of retaliation by Russian authorities.[20] In contrast, The Washington Post reported that he left after he had been identified earlier in the day by the initial Wall Street Journal report.[29]

Christopher Burrows, director of Orbis Business Intelligence, Ltd., said he would not "confirm or deny" that Orbis had produced the dossier.[30]

On 7 March 2017, as some members of the United States Congress were expressing interest in meeting with or hearing testimony from Steele, he reemerged after weeks in hiding, appearing publicly on camera and stating, "I'm really pleased to be back here working again at the Orbis's offices in London today."[31]

Disclosure and reactions

A two-page summary of the Trump dossier was presented to President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump in meetings with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, and NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers.[32]

On 10 January 2017, BuzzFeed was the first media outlet to publish the full 35-page dossier. In publishing the Trump dossier, BuzzFeed stated that it had been unable to verify or corroborate the allegations.[33] The UK issued a DSMA notice on 10 January 2017, requesting that the media not release Steele's identity,[34] although the BBC and other UK news media released the information in news stories the same day.[11] Trump vigorously denied the dossier's allegations, calling it fake news during a press conference.[35] Vladimir Putin also dismissed the claims.[36]

Ynet, an Israeli online news site, reported that American intelligence advised Israeli intelligence officers to be cautious about sharing information with the incoming Trump administration, until the possibility of Russian influence over Trump, suggested by Steele's report, has been fully investigated.[37]

Former British ambassador to Russia, Sir Tony Brenton, read Steele's report. Speaking on Sky News he said, "I've seen quite a lot of intelligence on Russia, and there are some things in it which look pretty shaky." Brenton expressed some doubts due to discrepancies in how the dossier described aspects of the hacking activities, as well as Steele's ability to penetrate the Kremlin and Russian security agencies, given that he is an outsider.[38]

On 15 March 2017, former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell raised questions about the dossier. He was concerned about the accuracy of the information, due to the approach taken by Steele to gather it. Steele gave money to intermediaries and the intermediaries paid the sources. Morell said, "Unless you know the sources, and unless you know how a particular source acquired a particular piece of information, you can't judge the information — you just can't." Morell continues to believe that Russia attempted to influence the 2016 U.S.presidential election.[39]

Congressional investigation

In the summer of 2017, two Republican staffers for the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence traveled to London to investigate the dossier, briefly meeting with Steele.[40]

Legal action

Lawyers for Russian internet entrepreneur Aleksej Gubarev, who was mentioned in Steele's dossier, have demanded Steele give a deposition regarding the dossier, as part of a libel lawsuit against BuzzFeed News, which Steele is resisting.[41][42][43] Steele's objections were rejected by U.S. District Court Judge Ursula Mancusi Ungaro, who allowed the deposition to proceed.[44][45]

References

  1. ^ a b c The Diplomatic Service List. H.M. Stationery Office. 1996. p. 235. Steele, Christopher David; Second later First Secretary FCO since April 1993; born 24.6.64; FCO 1987; Second Secretary (Chancery) Moscow 1990; FCO 1987; m 1990 Laura Katharine Hunt.
  2. ^ "Trump dossier: Christopher Steele, ex-MI6 officer, named as author". The Guardian. 12 January 2017. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  3. ^ a b Bradley, Hope; Rothfeld, Michael; Cullison, Alan (11 January 2017). "Christopher Steele, Ex-British Intelligence Officer, Said to Have Prepared Dossier on Trump". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Inside the shadowy world of Chris Whatsit: How the confirmed Cambridge socialist became the top British spy behind the Trump 'dirty dossier' that is tearing apart American, British and Russian relations". Mail Online. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  5. ^ Dawson, Hannah (13 January 2017). "Everything we know about Christopher Steele, the Cambridge MI6 spy". The Tab. Archived from the original on 13 January 2017.
  6. ^ Parkinson, Stephen (2009). Arena of Ambition: A History of the Cambridge Union. Icon. p. 368. ISBN 1848310617.
  7. ^ a b c d Blum, Howard (April 2017). "How Ex-Spy Christopher Steele Compiled His Explosive Trump-Russia Dossier". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on April 3, 2017. Retrieved April 3, 2017.
  8. ^ Dawson, Hannah (12 January 2017). "Ex-MI6 Spy responsible for Trump dossier was President of The Cambridge Union". The Tab. Archived from the original on 12 January 2017. In 1986, Steele was President of The Cambridge Union in Easter Term. In a book ‘Arena of Ambitions’ on the history of The Cambridge Union, it was said that Steele was a ‘confirmed socialist’.
  9. ^ The Cambridge University List of Members
  10. ^ a b c d e Rayner, Gordon (13 January 2017). "Who is Christopher Steele, the former British spy who created the Donald Trump Russia dossier?". The Telegraph. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  11. ^ a b Cox, Joseph (13 January 2017). "UK Asks Journalists to Not Name Ex-Agent Allegedly Behind Trump Report". Vice News. Archived from the original on 13 January 2017.
  12. ^ "List of MI6 Officers". Cryptome. Archived from the original on 6 January 2017. Christopher David Steele: 90 Moscow; dob 1964.
  13. ^ Behar, Richard (11 January 2017). "Could This Be The British Ex-MI6 Agent Behind The Trump FBI Memos?". Forbes. Retrieved 12 January 2017. A diplomatic service list published by the British government shows that Steele, 52, was posted to the U.K.'s Moscow embassy in 1990 with the title of "Second Secretary (Chancery)."
  14. ^ "Ex-MI6 officer Christopher Steele in hiding after Trump dossier". BBC News. 12 January 2017. Archived from the original on 12 January 2017.
  15. ^ Diplomatic Service Administration Office (1999). The Diplomatic Service List. p. 297. Steele, Christopher David; First Secretary (Financial) Paris since September 1998; born 24.6.64; FCO 1987; Second Secretary (Chancery) Moscow 1990; Second later First Secretary FCO 1993; First Secretary Bangkok 1998; m 1990 Laura Katharine Hunt (2s 1996, 1998).
  16. ^ a b c Nick Hopkins & Luke Harding (12 January 2017). "Donald Trump dossier: intelligence sources vouch for author's credibility". The Guardian. Over a career that spanned more than 20 years, Steele performed a series of roles, but always appeared to be drawn back to Russia; he was, sources say, head of MI6’s Russia desk.
  17. ^ a b c Hosenball, Mark (12 January 2017). "Former MI-6 spy known to U.S. agencies is author of reports on Trump in Russia". Reuters. Archived from the original on 12 January 2017. After he left the spy service, Steele supplied the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) with information on corruption at FIFA, international soccer's governing body.
  18. ^ Silvera, Ian (June 28, 2017). "British spy behind Donald Trump dossier creates new company with a Jane Austen link". International Business Times. Public records show that Steele has set up Chawton Holdings with his business partner and fellow former intelligence officer, Christopher Burrows.
  19. ^ Isikoff, Michael (11 January 2017). "The British ex-spy behind the Trump dossier was an FBI asset". Yahoo News. Archived from the original on 12 January 2017.
  20. ^ a b c d Rayner, Gordon (12 January 2017). "Former MI6 officer Christopher Steele, who produced Donald Trump Russian dossier, 'terrified for his safety' and went to ground before name released". The Telegraph. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  21. ^ a b c David Corn: A Veteran Spy Has Given the FBI Information Alleging a Russian Operation to Cultivate Donald Trump, Mother Jones, 31 October 2016
  22. ^ Corn, David (13 January 2017). "My interview with the former spy who wrote the Trump-Russia memos". Mother Jones.
  23. ^ "Donald Trump dossier casts a shadow over MI6 and Christopher Steele, the man it trusted in Moscow". Telegraph.co.uk. 2017-01-12. Retrieved 2017-04-04.
  24. ^ Matt Taibbi: The Russia Story Reaches a Crisis Point, Rolling Stone, 13 January 2017
  25. ^ Goodman, Alana (13 January 2017). "Meet the D.C. espionage firm which ordered dirty dossier on Trump". Mail Online. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  26. ^ a b c Confessore, Scott Shane, Nicholas; Rosenberg, Matthew (11 January 2017). "How a Sensational, Unverified Dossier Became a Crisis for Donald Trump". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  27. ^ a b Edwards, Jim (11 January 2017). "TIMELINE: That Russian Trump blackmail dossier has been making the rounds for months — here is how it finally came to light". Business Insider. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  28. ^ Sengupta, Kim (12 January 2017). "Revealed: former British ambassador Sir Andrew Wood's key role in Trump investigation". The Independent. Retrieved 14 January 2017.
  29. ^ Adam, Karla (12 January 2017). "This former British spy was identified as the Trump dossier source. Now he is in hiding.". The Washington Post.
  30. ^ Nichols, Hans. "Former British Spy Christopher Steele Prepared Explosive Trump Memo". NBC News. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  31. ^ "Ex-British spy Christopher Steele breaks silence over Trump Russia dossier". The Independent. 2017-03-07. Retrieved 2017-03-11.
  32. ^ Steve Robson, Christopher Bucktin, Louise Sassoon: CIA 'believes Russia has more than one Donald Trump sex tape and second source claims it DOES exist', Mirror Online, 12 January 2017
  33. ^ Masha Gessen: Lessons From Russia: Verify Everything, Don't Publish Rumors, The New York Times, 14 January 2017
  34. ^ "The Register on Twitter". Twitter. 11 January 2017. Retrieved 26 January 2017. US media names ex-MI6 agent as source of the CNN/BuzzFeed dossier on Trump. UK media gets a D-Notice…
  35. ^ Jamieson, Amber (11 January 2017). "'You are fake news': Trump attacks CNN and BuzzFeed at press conference". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  36. ^ Chaplain, Chloe (18 January 2017). "Vladimir Putin: Russian prostitutes are the best in the world". Evening Standard. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  37. ^ Ronen Bergman: US intel sources warn Israel against sharing secrets with Trump administration, Ynetnews News, 12. January 2017
  38. ^ "Trump dossier 'shaky' - former British envoy". Sky News. 13 January 2017. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  39. ^ Dilanian, Ken (16 March 2017). "Clinton Ally Michael Morell says no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion". NBC News. Retrieved 28 March 2017.
  40. ^ Watkins, Ali (August 4, 2017). "Hunt for Trump dossier author inflames Russia probe". Politico. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  41. ^ Gerstein, Josh (August 10, 2017). "Legal fight breaks out over deposition of Trump dossier author Christopher Steele". Politico. Retrieved August 11, 2017.
  42. ^ ALEKSEJ GUBAREV, XBT HOLDING S.A., and WEBZILLA, INC. v. BUZZFEED. INC. and BEN SMITH (United States District Court, Southern District of Florida, Miami Division August 10, 2017). Text
  43. ^ Ross, Chuck (August 10, 2017). "Ex-Spy Who Wrote Trump Dossier Really Doesn’t Want To Testify In BuzzFeed Lawsuit". The Daily Caller. Retrieved August 11, 2017.
  44. ^ Gerstein, Josh (August 15, 2017). "Judge denies Trump dossier author's bid to scuttle deposition". Politico. Retrieved August 16, 2017.
  45. ^ Bolado, Carolina (August 15, 2017). "UK Man Tied To Trump Dossier Must Testify In BuzzFeed Row". Law360. Retrieved August 16, 2017. A Florida federal judge declined Tuesday to allow a British security company director who is widely believed to have compiled a dossier alleging Russia has compromising information on President Donald Trump to intervene in a Russian technology executive's defamation suit against BuzzFeed over the publication of his name in the dossier.

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