Putin’s elite spy world has been penetrated by U.S. intelligence. That’s the implication of the extraordinarily detailed 29-page indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence (GRU) officers handed up by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigators on Friday. The 11-count charge includes names, dates, unit assignments, the GRU’s use of “X-agent” malware, its bitcoin covert funding schemes and a wealth of other tradecraft.
Putin must be asking himself: How did the Americans find out all these facts? What other operations have been compromised? And how much else do they know?
“The Russians have surely begun a ‘damage assessment’ to figure out how we were able to collect this information and how much damage was done to their cyber capacity as a result,” says Jeffrey Smith, a former CIA general counsel, in an email. “They are probably also doing a CI (counter-intelligence) assessment to determine whether we have any human sources or whether the Russians made mistakes that we were able to exploit.”