While working as a spy for the FBI, Stefan Halper interacted on multiple occasions with the media, both on the record and, according to a University of Cambridge researcher, as an anonymous background source.
Those media interactions, which occurred between December 2016 and March 2017, could be cause for concern for the FBI, according to two retired senior bureau officials who worked closely with confidential informants during their careers.
“This is something that is highly irregular and not something that I would have ever tolerated with any of the folks working for me,” retired FBI investigator and CNN analyst James Gagliano told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The road is fraught with peril when somebody is speaking off the cuff or speaking to the media and putting themselves in a position where that can then be used as discovery material when we do bring a case.”
Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund President Ron Hosko, a former assistant director of the FBI’s criminal investigative division, added that an informant’s interactions with the press could create circular reporting that would serve to make their information “appear more valuable or more true” than it actually is.
Halper, a former professor at Cambridge with extensive ties to the CIA and MI6, was quoted on the record for a Dec.16, 2016 article at the Financial Times about alleged Russian infiltration of the Cambridge Intelligence Seminar, a forum that convenes academics and current and former spies to discuss intelligence issues.
Halper, 73, told the Financial Times that he resigned from the organization due to “unacceptable Russian influence on the group.” But the evidence of Russian penetration was thin, and another Cambridge professor, Christopher Andrew, dismissed Halper’s complaints as “absurd.”
Halper was also an unnamed source for allegations about former national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to a Russian-British researcher at Cambridge, Svetlana Lokhova.
Lokhova, who studies the history of Russian intelligence, said multiple reporters have told her Halper was behind allegations that she and Flynn had an improper relationship when he visited Cambridge in February 2014. Flynn served at the time as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
“‘FBI confidential informant’ Halper invented a false story which he passed on to official channels & Press, in full knowledge [sic] his personal attack was going to cause me, an innocent party, enormous harm,” Lokhova wrote on Twitter.
She also told The (London) Times that “Halper told reporters he had seen me leaving the dinner with Flynn.”
Reporters from three newspapers, The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, approached Lokhova at around the same time in February and March 2016 with allegations related to her interaction with Flynn.
According to The Journal, which was the only newspaper to publish a story on the matter, Lokhova sat next to Flynn at the dinner and showed him an erotic postcard that Joseph Stalin sent in 1912. The Journal reported that American authorities had been alerted to Flynn’s interactions with Lokhova and that Flynn had failed to disclose his contact with the researcher to the Defense Intelligence Agency.
DIA official Dan O’Neil, who accompanied Flynn to and from the event, said he saw nothing at the dinner that warranted Flynn’s disclosure of the interaction with Lokhova.
DIA spokesman James Kudla told TheDCNF this week that officials are required to disclose contact with a foreign national that is of a “close and continuing nature,” but “casual contact” does not need to be reported to the agency.
It has since been revealed that Halper, a veteran of three Republican administrations, first raised concerns about Flynn and Lokhova’s interactions at the Cambridge event.
The New York Times reported on May 18 that the FBI spy — which the newspaper did not identify but who is now known to be Halper — “was alarmed” by Flynn’s “apparent closeness with a Russian woman who was also in attendance” at the Cambridge seminar.
“The concern was strong enough that it prompted another person to pass on a warning to the American authorities that Mr. Flynn could be compromised by Russian intelligence, according to two people familiar with the matter,” reads the report.
Lokhova denies any impropriety between her and Flynn.
“They were throwing all sorts of things at me — love, sex, money. Obviously, I reject them all,” Lokhova told The (London) Times about her interactions with reporters chasing the Flynn story. “I just want to add that I’ve never been interviewed by any authorities and clearly if there were any doubts about who I am and what I do, I would have been [interrogated].”
Lokhova said that reporters with The New York Times and The Washington Post declined to run stories about her and Flynn for lack of evidence.
The University of Cambridge has not responded to numerous requests for comment about Halper, Flynn or Lokhova. But it appears that the university is not overly concerned that Lokhova is a Russian agent, as Halper initially feared.
On May 18, Lokhova gave a presentation for her forthcoming book, “The Spy Who Changed History,” at the Cambridge Intelligence Seminar. Former MI6 head Sir Richard Dearlove, a close associate of Halper’s, convened the event, though he did not personally attend.
At the same time he was in contact with the media, Halper was also working as a spy for the FBI as part of its investigation of possible Russian infiltration of the Trump campaign.
As part of that operation, Halper was in contact with three Trump campaign associates: Carter Page, Sam Clovis and George Papadopoulos. The relationship with Page began in July 2016 and lasted through September 2017.
Halper met Clovis once on Sept. 1, 2016. The next day, Halper reached out to Papadopoulos and offered to fly the young Trump campaign aide to London to discuss work on an academic paper dealing with energy issues. Halper paid Papadopoulos $3,000 for the report.
Papadopoulos has told associates that during one dinner they had in London, Halper randomly asked whether he was involved in Russia’s efforts to steal Democrats’ emails.
Halper also attempted to join the Trump administration. Axios reported on May 21 that Halper convinced White House trade czar Peter Navarro to submit his name for consideration for an ambassadorship to an unidentified Asian country.
Navarro said Wednesday he felt “duped” by Halper, who is considered an expert on China.
Halper’s contacts with the press while working as an FBI spy could be problematic for the bureau for several reasons, according to Hosko, a 30-year FBI veteran.
“The handling agents should be alert to actions by a source that indicate they are trying to influence FBI credibility [and] veracity assessments by engaging in acts that multiply their reporting,” Hosko told TheDCNF.
Hosko said that in some cases, confidential sources could meet with the press if the topic is unrelated to their work for the FBI.
“But, if the [confidential human source] is meeting with the media in a manner that raises questions about their motivation or about their credibility (they fail to disclose same to the handling agent) then the FBI should be reassessing the relationship.”
It is not known whether the FBI was aware of Halper’s media contacts. The bureau declined to comment, and Halper could not be reached for comment.
Gagliano, the CNN analyst and 25-year FBI veteran, told TheDCNF that he would not “in a million years … agree to allow a source, an asset, cooperating witness to speak in the media.”
Halper is not the only FBI source who worked on the Russia investigation to have contact with the press. Former British spy Christopher Steele had multiple meetings and conversations with reporters about the infamous anti-Trump dossier he wrote during the campaign.
At the direction of opposition research firm Fusion GPS, Steele met with reporters from The Washington Post, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Yahoo! News and Mother Jones.
According to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the FBI severed its relationship with Steele just before the election after finding out about his unauthorized contacts with the media. Despite cutting ties, a Department of Justice official named Bruce Ohr met numerous times with Steele to discuss his reporting on Trump.
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