The operation, which targeted FBI communications, hampered the bureau’s ability to track Russian spies on U.S. soil at a time of increasing tension with Moscow.
September 16, 2019

In the week following the news that a top-level U.S. source in Russia was extracted from that country, another breaking story.

Remember when Obama seized two estates on Maryland's Eastern Short and booted Russian "diplomats" out of the country shortly before Trump was inaugurated? We now have this Yahoo News story to give us the specifics on why that happened, and it has wide-reaching implications.

Both compounds, and at least some of the expelled diplomats, played key roles in a brazen Russian counterintelligence operation that stretched from the Bay Area to the heart of the nation’s capital, according to former U.S. officials. The operation, which targeted FBI communications, hampered the bureau’s ability to track Russian spies on U.S. soil at a time of increasing tension with Moscow, forced the FBI and CIA to cease contact with some of their Russian assets, and prompted tighter security procedures at key U.S. national security facilities in the Washington area and elsewhere, according to former U.S. officials. It even raised concerns among some U.S. officials about a Russian mole within the U.S. intelligence community.

“It was a very broad effort to try and penetrate our most sensitive operations,” said a former senior CIA official.

American officials discovered that the Russians had dramatically improved their ability to decrypt certain types of secure communications and had successfully tracked devices used by elite FBI surveillance teams. Officials also feared that the Russians may have devised other ways to monitor U.S. intelligence communications, including hacking into computers not connected to the internet. Senior FBI and CIA officials briefed congressional leaders on these issues as part of a wide-ranging examination on Capitol Hill of U.S. counterintelligence vulnerabilities.

Yahoo reports the breaches gave Russian spies in American cities "key insights" into the location of undercover FBI surveillance teams, and "likely the actual substance of FBI communications." The information gave Russians opportunities to shake off FBI surveillance and communicate with sensitive human sources, check on remote recording devices and even gather intelligence on their FBI pursuers, former officials told Yahoo.

“When we found out about this, the light bulb went on — that this could be why we haven’t seen [certain types of] activity” from known Russian spies in the United States, said a former senior intelligence official.

This really is stunning news, and the follow-up stories this week should uncover even more of the outcomes.

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