Dead Drop: August 31

HOW I MISSPENT MY SUMMER VACATION: Earlier this month, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) chairman Devin Nunes undertook a secret mission.  According to The Atlantic, Nunes traveled to London to dig up dirt on former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. But the chairman’s efforts to build a dossier on Steele were dashed when three different British intel outfits (MI5, MI6 and GCHQ) turned down requests for meetings. Nunes did score a meeting with the U.K.’s deputy national security adviser, Madeleine Alessandri, but no one from the intel services wanted to dish dirt for Nunes’ report on Steele. While the chairman may have been surprised and disappointed by the chilly reception on the other side of the pond, a veteran U.S. intelligence official tells The Dead Drop it was entirely predictable that the U.K. intel services would want nothing to do with a U.S. legislator wanting to investigate a British citizen. This “special relationship” stuff only goes so far. Hopefully Nunes’ taxpayer-funded trans-Atlantic excursion wasn’t a complete bust.  Perhaps he was able to take in a play while in London.

DON’T YOU TRUST MY NEIGHBOR: The former head of German intelligence, August Hanning, warned last week that western intelligence services should not share secrets with the government of Austria.  Hanning, who formerly headed the BND, Germany’s foreign intelligence arm, cited close links that have developed between senior Austrian government ministers and Russia as a reason for playing keep away. The Washington Post reported last week that other foreign intelligence services had already turned off the tap of secret information flowing to Vienna. What evidence is there that Russia is cozying up to Austria?  Well, there is that video of Vladimir Putin gazing longingly into the eyes of Austrian foreign minister Karin Kneissl, as he danced with her at her wedding.

The Cipher Brief has become the most popular outlet for former intelligence officers; no media outlet is even a close second to The Cipher Brief in terms of the number of articles published by formers.” —Sept. 2018, Studies in Intelligence, Vol. 62

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