One of the things that emerges after even a modest investigation of the subject is that the Congressional intelligence committees ought to be very well aware that it has been standard practice for Russia to insert itself into American politics and American elections. There is simply no speculation on that point. In 1992, the Chief Archivist for the KGB sought asylum, bringing with him a trove of thousands of operational documents describing operations conducted against the Soviet Unions “main adversary” nations, including the United States and Britain.
Those documents recorded political action projects which included efforts to circulate damaging personal information – including the use of falsified documents – into American media circles. Individuals targeted in the campaigns included a national security advisor, senators and presidential candidates. One of the most extensive, albeit least successful, active measures programs was conducted against Ronald Reagan, in both his presidential campaigns.
Later, in 2000, a senior operations manager in the Russian New York residency defected to the United States – remaining in place for some years before actually seeking asylum. The officer had been on a fast track inside the SVR, the Russian foreign intelligence service which succeeded the KGB. His work in Canada had been particularly good, including a proposal which led to a whole series of new practices based on what was called “business recruitment”, gaining control over foreigners seeking to do business with post-Soviet Russia. The practice involved covers which allowed for payments under the guise of both consulting and actual projects such as construction work inside Russia. In some instances the target came to understand the quid pro quo of the relationship; in others they simple became “agents of influence”, apparently with no clear idea that they were being manipulated.
Based on this sort of information it is clear that the FBI and other American intelligence organizations are quite well of the evolving Russian practices. Recent events have shown us that they certainly have the capability to target and collect information on American businessmen who become heavily involved financially with Russian oligarchs, agencies, investment firms and even key individuals supportive of the Putin regime.
Clearly the long term Russian game is still in play (for some decades it was referred to inside the KGB as the “long war”). So why is it that the members of intelligence committees seem to be unable to grasp the fact that Russian political meddling is and has been a constant? The Russian SVR officer who came over in 2000 was amazed that American businessmen and even government officials seemed so naïve – or at least pretended to be – he named some individuals who then defended themselves by denying that they could have actually been manipulated. However none of them denied their extremely close personal relationships with Russians who were shown to have intelligence connections. And the SVR files carried them as key political action assets.
Why is it that as of 2017 so many senior people are still able to claim ignorance that there may have been more to their Russian connections than meetings, dialogs, discussions – or speaking and consulting fees? More in terms of a covert agenda on the part of their Russian associates. Apparently they had never heard of the decades long Russian practice of establishing “agents of influence”. Did they totally lack any sense of history? Did they not see that as of 2008 Russia under Putin had most definitely begun to slip back into an adversarial position with both NATO and the United States? I’m finding it hard to believe they were all that naïve…or is it just me being too much of a skeptic.