In a stunning revelation, an informant from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) who was extracted from Russia in 2017 had confirmed that President Vladimir Putin had "personally ordered and orchestrated" Moscow's meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.
People familiar with the matter said that the CIA source, was outside of Putin's inner circle, was privy to decision-making at high levels of the Russian government, according to The New York Times (NYT).
The informant's information was so delicate and carefully guarded that then CIA director John O. Brennan had kept it out of then-President Obama's daily security briefings in 2016. Instead, Brennan transmitted intelligence reports, most of them based on the source's information in separate sealed envelopes.
"The information itself was so important and potentially controversial in 2016 that top C.I.A. officials ordered a full review of the informant's record, according to people briefed on the matter. Officials reviewed information the source had provided years earlier to ensure that it had proved accurate," the NYT report said.
When intelligence officials revealed the severity of Russia's election interference with unusual details in 2016, media started reporting more on the CIA's sources on Russian meddling which forced the agency to extract the informant from Russia.
As the CIA officials expressed concerns about the source's safety, the situation became more worrisome after the informant refused to be extracted citing family concerns. This created suspensions among some American counterintelligence officials that he may have become a double agent.
Subsequently, after some months, the source was offered exfiltration for the second time which was accepted.
Although the informant was successfully extracted, intelligence officials were in a fix as they were hunting for possible clues over possible meddling in the 2018 midterm elections and 2020 presidential polls.
Meanwhile, CNN reported that the decision to extract the CIA source was driven "in part" amid concerns that the Donald Trump administration had mishandled delicate intelligence.
However, according to former intelligence officials, there was no public evidence of Trump publicly imperilling the source.
Other officials said that the exfiltration was due to concerns that the informant might be compromised amid media scrutiny of CIA sources.
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