Buzzfeed has published an absolute blockbuster of a report: that Russia cultivated relationships with U.S. Treasury Department employees under a program designed to share information about ISIS funding. Using private Gmail and Hotmail accounts, the Russian financial crimes agency created a backchannel with some U.S. Treasury Department officials—and were able to get private financial information, including Social Security numbers of American citizens, in addition to sensitive financial information on Russian dissidents. Here’s just a bit of the extensive reporting from Buzzfeed:
Russia’s financial crimes agency, whose second-in-command is a former KGB officer and schoolmate of President Vladimir Putin, also asked the Americans for documents on executives from two prominent Jewish groups, the Anti-Defamation League and the National Council of Jewish Women, as well as Kremlin opponents living abroad in London and Kiev.
In an astonishing departure from protocol, documents show that at the same time the requests were being made, Treasury officials were using their government email accounts to send messages back and forth with a network of private Hotmail and Gmail accounts set up by the Russians, rather than communicating through the secure network usually used to exchange information with other countries.
OUTRAGEOUS! Did employees of the U.S. Treasury really turn over information on prominent Jewish citizens and organizations to Russia? Hold on, folks, because that’s not all:
Most startlingly, Russia requested sensitive documents on Dirk, Edward, and Daniel Ziff, billionaire investors who had run afoul of the Kremlin. That request was made weeks before a Russian lawyer showed up at Trump Tower offering top campaign aides “dirt” on Hillary Clinton — including her supposed connection to the Ziff brothers.
Must be a coincidence that Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya turned up at Trump Tower with information on the Ziff brothers, no?
Officials from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, known as FinCEN, sounded the alarm internally and became suspicious of some Treasury employees when the communications continued. BuzzFeed reports they had six sources confirm that at least two FinCEN employees were “suspected of working against the interests of the US.”
One analyst was a man with close family ties to Ukraine. He was tracking the finances of corrupt foreign officials in a job that requires a security clearance. Four sources said they were told by security officials at the agency that the analyst turned out not to have one. He had applied for clearance during his previous posting at the State Department, they were told, but was denied it because of suspicious contacts with foreigners. The sources said the man also had unusual contacts with his colleagues both before and after he was fired. Shortly after he was escorted out of FinCEN early last year, he showed up outside a coworker’s apartment building late at night and asked questions about investigations and internal Treasury databases. The coworker reported the encounter to supervisors.
The man’s uncleared access to sensitive information was considered such a major national security breach that FinCEN was stripped of its authority to grant security clearances for some time, according to these four sources. FinCEN’s security chief was later placed on administrative leave.
A second employee was suspended after he was caught traveling to other countries without informing his supervisors — something that FinCEN analysts are forbidden to do because of the value their data could have to foreign powers. A Treasury spokesperson declined to answer detailed questions about these matters.
From the NRA, to hacking election systems in 39 states, to cultivating employees at the U.S. Treasury Department, the breadth and depth of the Russian infiltration of our political system is still being revealed—and it appears we have been under stealth assault for years. Perhaps the Cold War never ended at all.
Buzzfeed’s extensive report on the Russian infiltration can and should be read here. Congress should make this investigation a top priority in the new year.