The Current

Alleged extraction of U.S. spy was meant to calm nerves over Trump's handling of secrets: former agent

The alleged exfiltration of a U.S. spy from Russia was a message to calm other agents nervous about U.S. President Donald Trump's handling of sensitive information, according to author and former spy Naveed Jamali.

U.S. media reported on Monday a high-level CIA spy was extracted from Russia in 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump has been accused of revealing U.S. secrets during meetings with foreign officials. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
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The alleged exfiltration of a U.S. spy from Russia was a message to calm other agents nervous about U.S. President Donald Trump's handling of sensitive information, according to an author and former spy.

"Under the auspices of Donald Trump, the intelligence community in the United States has not fared all that well," said Naveed Jamali, who spent three years working undercover for the FBI against Russian military intelligence.

"I have to say that if I'm a spy right now today, [working for] the United States — I'm worried," he told The Current's interim host Laura Lynch

On Monday, CNN reported that the U.S. successfully extracted one of its highest-level covert sources inside Russia in 2017. The New York Times later said the informant had sent secrets to Washington for decades, but the Kremlin disputed how much access the alleged spy had to Russian officials.

U.S. media reported that the decision to extract its informant had occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office, in which Trump had discussed highly-classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

When you're looking at Donald Trump, you're looking at someone who is anti-intellectual, who's anti-information, who's anti-truth, who's anti-fact-finding.- Mel Goodman

Lavrov said Tuesday that nobody had divulged any secrets to him at the meeting with Trump.

A U.S. government source also insisted that Trump did not disclose secrets, such as the informant's existence or identity, at any meeting with Russian officials.

Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the White House in May, 2017. (Russian Foreign Ministry/EPA)

Jamali said that the removal "communicates back to other spies ... that we will take care of you, stay where you are." 

"If it gets too hot the CIA will reach in and scoop you out, and you don't have to worry until that time."

Former CIA analyst Mel Goodman believes that concern over Trump's conduct "would have been the key reason for getting [the spy] out of Moscow at that time."

"The CIA people I talked to are very nervous and careful about what they actually supply to the president of the United States, because they know he is in a position to expose very sensitive materials because of his lack of understanding of the information he gets," said Goodman, who was division chief and senior analyst at the CIA's Office of Soviet Affairs from 1976 to 1986.

Goodman is now a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and an adjunct professor of international relations at Johns Hopkins University.

He said that Trump has attacked the CIA in the past, and "doesn't sit still for intelligence briefings."

"When you're looking at Donald Trump you're looking at someone who is anti-intellectual, who's anti-information, who's anti-truth, who's anti-fact-finding."

A U.S. government source insisted that Trump did not disclose secrets, such as the informant's existence or identity, at any meeting with Russian officials. (Ivan Sekretarev/The Associated Press)

Tensions with Russia high before Trump: author

Jamali said that tensions between Russia and the U.S. were rising even before Trump's inauguration, and operating as a spy "must have been tremendously dangerous."

"It must have been a very tense time and to start to hear the president of the United States was being haphazard in intelligence, I think the normal fear that is already there must have really, really expanded," he said.

Journalist Amy Knight said the idea that Trump's conduct prompted the extraction is just one theory, but there is another.

"When information began to be leaked at the end of 2016 and early 2017 within the United States about Russian election interference, the media began speculating on the sources of the U.S. intelligence committees," said Knight, author of Orders to Kill: The Putin Regime and Political Murder.

"One possible scenario is that the Russian government, the Kremlin, became concerned about a possible leak from within their midst."


Written by Padraig Moran, with files from Reuters. Produced by Howard Goldenthal and Alison Masemann.

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