It describes the career of Christopher Steele - the British spy responsible for the dossier alleging that Russia has compromising information on Donald Trump. The facts are still in dispute, but the details about how spy agencies work is worth your time.
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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. When the agency was plunged into panic over the poisoning of its agent Alexander Litvinenko in 2006, the then chief, Sir John Scarlett, needed a trusted senior officer to plot a way through the minefield ahead – so he turned to Steele. It was Steele, sources say, who correctly and quickly realised that Litvinenko’s death was a Russian state “hit”.
As good as he was, Steele was unlikely to get the top MI6 job, perhaps because his specialisms were not a priority in that period – Russian espionage was taking a back seat to Islamic terrorism and non-state threats. And, of course, there is money to be made in the private sector – lots of it, particularly in the past two years. He decided to quit the service in 2009.
As the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, exerted influence in all kinds of spheres, so Steele’s background made him hot property. Though he could not travel to Russia, he appears to have maintained his contacts and made new ones, using old-school techniques: going out, meeting people, shaking hands, making friends – and paying for information.
With his business partner, Chris Burrows, he set up the London-based company Orbis Business Intelligence, which was busy and expanding. Their operation would have been a good choice for anyone trying to gather intelligence about Russia and Trump.
It is unlikely that Steele would have had direct contact with the unnamed Kremlin officials who allegedly gave sensitive information on the president-elect. In fact, it’s believed the former spy hasn’t been able to visit Russia for more than 20 years. Rather, Steele would have tapped up his network of sources deep inside the country, some of them dating from his time there and others cultivated later, British officials suggested.
In turn, these individuals will have had sources of their own. Steele would likely have subcontracted some of his Trump investigation to trusted intermediaries in Moscow, who will have reported back to him via secure channels.
For more: What we know – and what's true – about the Trump-Russia dossier.
Here's a key allegation:
It says Vladimir Putin’s Russia has been “cultivating, supporting and assisting Trump for at least five years”. Moscow’s aim is “to encourage splits and divisions in the western alliance” and to upend the “ideals-based international order” set up after the second world war. Putin’s preference, according to the report, is for a return to the “Great Power” politics of the 19th century, where big states pursue their own interests.