In the wake of multiple news reports that a secret CIA asset close to Vladimir Putin was spirited away in 2017 over fears Russian intelligence had uncovered him, NBC News decided to act on claims Russian officials made about the man’s identity and tracked down the asset themselves.
The visit from NBC national security correspondent Ken Dilanian apparently prompted the U.S. government to move the asset and his family. It was something the network seemed proud of during Tuesday’s NBC Nightly News.
“Tonight, a former Russian government employee and alleged CIA asset on the move, following reports he was extracted from Moscow by the Americans two years ago out of fear the Russians were on to him,” announced NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell.
She went on to brag: “Once in the U.S., the Russian was apparently living in plain sight under U.S. government protection in the Washington area where NBC News found his house and knocked on the door, but no one answered.”
Dilanian regaled NBC viewers with the story of how he was in his car, outside the asset’s home, when he saw “an SUV screeching down the street at a high rate of speed. It stops nose to nose with my vehicle. Inside are two men.”
“They were clearly U.S. government agents who had been alerted to my presence and rushed to the house,” he elaborated. Then, while wrapping up her report, Mitchell appeared to boast that “now that he has been exposed, the man and his family have been moved to a secret location.”
In a sharp and more responsible contrast, during ABC’s World News Tonight, chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz declared that “ABC News has not confirmed the name of the spy, nor will we repeat the name the Russians revealed.”
Adding: “Russia has historically been unkind to those who betray the motherland. It was just last year; Russia was blamed for the attempted murder by poisoning of former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal in Britain.”
Then, on the CBS Evening News, White House correspondent Paula Reid detailed how it was the media’s digging into U.S. intelligence reports that caused the CIA to pull the plug and bring him to the U.S.
“After the intelligence community published its findings, news organizations began to dig into the source of the intelligence. That reportedly led the CIA to become concerned for the asset's safety, and the U.S. helped him leave Russia later in 2017,” Reid reported.
The transcript is below, click "expand" to read:
NBC Nightly News
September 10, 2019
7:08:09 p.m. Eastern
LESTER HOLT: And tonight an intriguing spy story is playing out between Washington and Moscow involving a man the CIA reportedly used to spy on the Kremlin, until he was brought to the U.S. For his own safety. Andrea Mitchell has the new details.
[Cuts to video]
ANDREA MITCHELL: Tonight, a former Russian government employee and alleged CIA asset on the move, following reports he was extracted from Moscow by the Americans two years ago out of fear the Russians were on to him. According to The New York Times, he was the source telling the CIA Vladimir Putin had personally ordered the attack on the 2016 election. NBC's Ken Dilanian.
KEN DILANIAN: He wasn't a Putin insider, but he was in the room with Vladimir Putin. He had access to documents. He was able to report to the CIA on Vladimir Putin's orders and his intentions and his moods. It was an incredibly valuable source, and it's a great loss that he is no longer in place.
MITCHELL: Today, Russia confirming the man worked in the Kremlin, but says he did not have direct access to Putin, calling the U.S. reports “pulp fiction”. The Russian foreign minister saying "I have never seen this man. I have never met and have never monitored his career or movements."
Once in the U.S., the Russian was apparently living in plain sight under U.S. government protection in the Washington area where NBC News found his house and knocked on the door, but no one answered.
DILANIAN: [I] get in my car, and I notice an SUV screeching down the street at a high rate of speed. It stops nose to nose with my vehicle. Inside are two men. [Transition] They were clearly U.S. government agents who had been alerted to my presence and rushed to the house.
MITCHELL: No secret to the Russians.
FRANK FIGLIUZZI: I'm convinced after 25 years in counterintelligence the Russian services knew exactly who this person was, knew that he had been essentially exfiltrated.
[Cuts back to live]
MITCHELL: Now that he has been exposed, the man and his family have been moved to a secret location. Intelligence experts worry it will be much harder for the CIA to now recruit another Kremlin insider, making it more difficult to track Russia's efforts to interfere with the 2020 election campaign. Lester.
HOLT: Fascinating story, Andrea. Thank you.