Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) building in London
A former British intelligence officer said to have prepared the recent dossier containing unverified allegations about President-elect Donald Trump’s activities and connections in Russia, has reportedly gone into hiding.
According to a report in The Telegraph, Christopher Steele, the author of the dossier who now heads a private security and investigation firm, is “terrified for his safety” and has fled his home in Surrey, England.
A source close to Steele said Wednesday that Steele fears a “prompt and potentially dangerous” reaction from Moscow.
The dossier generated a firestorm less than 10 days before Trump’s inauguration. U.S. officials have examined the allegations but haven’t confirmed any of them. The Wall Street Journal noted it also hasn’t corroborated any of the allegations in the dossier.
Trump on Wednesday dismissed the reports on the dossier as fake news. During a press conference in New York, Trump called the reports "nonsense" and added, "A thing like that should never have been written, should never been had, and should never have been released.”
Russia also denied earlier on Wednesday that it had any damaging material on Trump.
“The Kremlin does not have compromising information on Trump," Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aide Dmitry Peskov said.
While we learned earlier that John McCain was responsible for handing over the 35-page “dossier” of compromising, if arguably fake, revelations about Trump’s connections to Russia over to the FBI, the identity of the actual creator, who was said to be an ex-British intelligence service, remained a mystery.
Courtesy of the WSJ, we now know his name: the former MI-6 officer, now working for a private security-and-investigations firm “who produced the dossier of unverified allegations about President-elect Donald Trump’s activities and connections in Russia” is Christopher Steele, a director of London-based Orbis Business Intelligence…. and before readers google him, beware, there is a male gay porn star with the same name, who may or may not be into “golden showers.”
The real Chris Steele is profiled below, courtesy of LinkedIn.
Steele, 52 years old, is one of two directors of Orbis, along with Christopher Burrows, 58.
Burrows, reached at his home outside London on Wednesday, said he wouldn’t “confirm or deny” that Orbis had produced the report. A neighbor of Mr. Steele’s said Mr. Steele said he would be away for a few days. In previous weeks Mr. Steele has declined repeated requests for interviews through an intermediary, who said the subject was “too hot.”
According to Steele’s LinkedIn profile, at least before he scrubbed it, he was a counselor in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, with foreign postings in Brussels and New Delhi in the 2000s. The Foreign Office declined to comment to the WSJ. Furthermore, the LinkedIn profile for Mr. Steele doesn’t give specifics about his career, however notes that intelligence officers often use diplomatic postings as cover for their espionage activities. That, or they are dumb enough to actually reveal where they are stationed.
Some more details courtesy of the WSJ:
Orbis Business Intelligence was formed in 2009 by former British intelligence professionals, it says on its website. U.K. corporate records say Orbis is owned by another company that in turn is jointly owned by Messrs. Steele and Burrows. It occupies offices in an ornate building overlooking Grosvenor Gardens in London’s high-end Belgravia neighborhood.
The firm relies on a “global network” of experts and business leaders, provides clients with strategic advice, mounts “intelligence-gathering operations” and conducts “complex, often cross-border investigations,” its website says.
The dossier consists of a series of unsigned memos that appear to have been written between June and December 2016. Beyond creating the document, Mr. Steele also came up with a plan to get the information to law-enforcement officials in the U.S. and Europe, including the F.B.I., according to a person familiar with the matter.
The WSJ adds that “the author of the report had a good reputation in the intelligence world and was stationed in Russia for years, said John Sipher, who retired in 2014 after 28 years in the CIA’s clandestine service, where he specialized in Russia and counterintelligence.”
Private-intelligence firms like Orbis have a growing presence.
Major corporations use them to conduct due diligence on potential business partners in risky areas, but quality control can be loose when it comes to high-level political intrigue, according to executives of private intelligence companies.
It appears they are also used to create smear campaigns (for lots of money one assumes) targeting potential presidential candidates, not to mention president-elects.
Christopher Steele, 52, who runs London-based Orbis Business Intelligence, was named in reports as having compiled the file on Mr Trump.
The 35-page dossier contains unverified allegations that Russian security officials have compromising material on Mr Trump that could be used to blackmail him.
Mr Steele, a former MI6 officer, is one of two directors of Orbis, according to Companies House, along with Christopher Burrows, 58.
According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Mr Steele has repeatedly declined requests for interviews in recent weeks, with an intermediary telling the newspaper the subject was "too hot".
A neighbour said he was away for a few days, the WSJ said.
The Telegraph said Mr Steele fled his home on Wednesday morning as it became clear his name would become public, and that he now feared a backlash from Moscow.
Mr Burrows refused to "confirm or deny" that Orbis, a corporate intelligence company, had produced the report, the WSJ said.
Orbis, which was founded in 2009 by former British intelligence professionals, has a "global network" of experts and "prominent business figures", according to its website.
It says: "We provide strategic advice, mount intelligence-gathering operations and conduct complex, often cross-border investigations."
The firm, based in Grosvenor Gardens, close to London's upmarket Belgravia area, says it "draws on extensive experience at boardroom level in government, multilateral diplomacy and international business to develop bespoke solutions for clients".
"Our tailored approach means the directors are closely involved in the execution and detail of every project, supported by an in-house team of experienced investigators and professional intelligence analysts," it says.
Mr Burrows formerly worked for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as a counsellor, according to his LinedkIn profile, with postings to Brussels and Delhi in the early 2000s.
The dossier has been circulating in Washington for some time as media organisations, uncertain of its credibility, held back from publication.
Both Mr Trump and US president Barack Obama had been briefed on its contents and Mr Trump has suggested American intelligence agencies may be responsible for its release.
In a press conference in New York on Wednesday that was dramatic and at times ill-tempered, the president-elect branded the dossier "fake news" and said it would be a "tremendous blot" on the agencies' reputations if they were shown to have leaked it.
In the hours before his appearance, Mr Trump issued a series of tweets in which he denounced the document as "A COMPLETE AND TOTAL FABRICATION, UTTER NONSENSE".
"Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to 'leak' into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?" he tweeted.
Russian president Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the reports were "complete fabrication and utter nonsense" and the Russian government "does not engage in collecting compromising material".
Standing in front of a row of US flags, Mr Trump blamed the creation of the dossier on his political opponents, who he said had "got together - sick people - and they put that crap together".
Some of the more lurid details of the allegations were highly improbable because he was a "germophobe" who hated uncleanliness, he said, adding that he was very aware of the danger that hotel rooms may contain hidden cameras.
He thanked media organisations which declined to publish the "phoney stuff", saying: "They looked at that nonsense that was released by maybe the intelligence agencies - who knows, but maybe the intelligence agencies - which would be a tremendous blot on their record if they in fact did that, a tremendous blot.
"A thing like that should never have been written, it should never have been had and it should certainly never have been released."
Mr Trump insisted Moscow had "no leverage" over him as he had "no deals, no loans, no nothing" with Russia.