The concept of moles within a country’s intelligence services is well-known: it was the subject of John le Carré’s seminal Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Indeed, the technique of source-betrayal-by-stalling-for-time used by the mole within MI6 was the same ploy used on at least one occasion by Kim Philby. But the idea of it being the USA having its intelligence capability thus compromised is a new one.
But that is the inescapable conclusion from the latest insight out of Talking Points Memo, which tells “a top Russian spy who is the number two person in the FSB department which allegedly oversaw the US election hacking operation had been arrested and charged with treason … Well, now we have reports that Sergei Mikhailov is suspected of being a US asset at the heart of Russian intelligence”. We have a mole, Jim.
TPM added this from the Moscow Times: “According to the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, the FSB believes Sergei Mikhailov tipped off U.S. officials to information about Vladimir Fomenko and his server rental company ‘King Servers,’ which the American cybersecurity company ThreatConnect identified last September as ‘an information nexus’ that was used by hackers suspected of working for Russian state security in cyberattacks”.
And then comes the thought that it may be rather more serious than “We have a mole, Jim”: “if Mikhailov was a US asset, how was he compromised? Did the information put out by US intelligence somehow lead to his exposure? Without putting too fine a point on it, a number of close advisors to President Trump are being scrutinized for ties to Russia. Some of them participated in the intelligence briefings the President receives”.
We have a mole. Bad sadly we do not have George Smiley
Before anyone claims that TPM has added two and two and got an answer rather larger than four, let’s stop and think for a moment. If Mikhailov had been a US mole working within the FSB (the successor organisation to the KGB), he would not just have appeared there overnight. Moles, by their very nature, burrow themselves deep into enemy security networks. The process takes years, rather than months and days.
If Mikhailov was indeed a US mole, he would have been there for years. And for almost all of that time, he remained free of compromise, not betrayed by anyone. Then along comes the Combover Crybaby Donald Trump and his entourage, already rumoured to be potentially compromised by its Russian connections. And within a matter of weeks, Mikhailov is unmasked, undone, and facing prison - or even the death penalty.
TPM also tells of the Moscow Times piece “The article goes on to say that four others have been arrested in connection to the treason case against Mikhailov”. So he may have established a network of contacts, which the Russians now appear to be rolling up. And just remember, this has all happened since Trump, thought by many to be the real-life Manchurian Candidate, fetched up with his pals at intelligence briefings.
When TPM asks “Do we have a very big problem?” the answer, on the basis of what my Occam’s Razor is telling me, is Yes We Do. And if the US’ intelligence agencies want to prevent it happening again, they have one very obvious course of action.