Editor – Liberty Nation presents part three of our Novichok series. In part one, we addressed the details of the two Novichok poisonings that have taken place on English soil in 2018, and their political ramifications. Part two looked at which nations had access to the poison and why Hillary Clinton was trying to cover up U.S. knowledge. In this final installment, we look at the connections to the Trump-Russia Collusion narrative and the people involved.
A transmitter disguised inside a fake, plastic rock and placed on a Moscow street – this may sound like the type of equipment used by agents in the 1960s spy comedy Get Smart, but British Intelligence wasn’t saying “Good thinking, 99” when Russian TV revealed that this very piece of equipment was being used by MI6 (the U.K.’s version of the CIA) to collect information from its sources in Moscow.
This tragically hilarious piece of espionage incompetence involved a number of British agents and Russians secretly working for the Brits, including one of the main characters in our Novichok saga, Sergei Skripal. Mr. Skripal, a Russian military intelligence officer, had been caught passing information to the Brits by using the rock (other reports suggest he was betrayed by a Spanish agent), and was arrested. While Skripal worked as a double agent throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, nobody yet knew that his MI6 handler and reportedly close friend would end up working for none other than Christopher Steele, author of the Fusion GPS Trump-Russia dossier.
Skripal the Spy
While the British government publically denied involvement in the “Fake Rock” scandal until 2012, it was eventually admitted by Prime Minister Tony Blair’s former Chief of Staff that, “The spy rock was embarrassing, I mean they had us bang to rights. Clearly, they had known about it for some time and had been saving it up for a political purpose.” Indeed, the Russians clearly knew about and monitored the rock for at least two years before they decided to make their accusations since Skripal was arrested in 2004 but the TV exposé wasn’t broadcast until 2006.
Skripal was tried and convicted of high treason, following his December 2004 arrest. Although he was sentenced to 13 years in prison, he was pardoned and released after six years, as part of a spy swap in 2010 – prompting speculation that the Kremlin eventually poisoned him in revenge. He relocated to England where he purchased an average home in the town of Salisbury and reportedly lived a quiet, retired life until he was poisoned in March 2018. Salisbury also happened to be the residence of his former MI6 handler and friend, identified as Pablo Miller.
Liberty Nation has previously examined the existence of DSMA notices (or “D notices”) issued by the British government to pressure the media into ignoring certain stories. The Novichok affair has been the source of two D notices urging the media not to publish certain details of the case.
After a few hints and rumors about the existence of the D-notices, the documents – if they are genuine – were eventually obtained by and published by Spinwatch, a website that campaigns for lobbying transparency in the press.
The first D-notice was released on March 7, shortly after the initial Skripal poisoning. According to the document provided by Spinwatch, it instructs media outlets not to reveal the identity of an intelligence operative connected to the case:
The issue surrounding the identify [sic] of a former MI6 informer, Sergei Skripal, is already widely available in the public domain. However, the identifies [sic] of intelligence agency personnel associated with Sergei Skripal are not yet widely available in the public domain. The provisions of DSMA Notice 05 therefore apply to these identities.
The Daily Telegraph newspaper ran an article that did not identify this mysterious agent by name, although it included a few tidbits that left many readers intrigued:
The Telegraph understands that Col Skripal moved to Salisbury in 2010 in a spy swap and became close to a security consultant employed by Christopher Steele, who compiled the Trump dossier. The British security consultant, according to a LinkedIn social network account that was removed from the internet in the past few days, is also based in Salisbury.
On the same LinkedIn account, the man listed consultancy work with Orbis Business Intelligence, according to reports. Orbis is run by Mr Steele, a former MI6 agent, who compiled the notorious dossier on President Trump that detailed his allegedly corrupt dealings with Vladimir Putin…
The consultant’s wife told the Telegraph, when asked if her husband had worked for Orbis and knew Col Skripal: “He won’t be talking.”
As evidence of the D-notice began to surface, such as a tweet by the chief correspondent for Channel 4 News, Alex Thomson, the authorities evidently weren’t happy. March 14 saw the release of a second D-notice “to remind editors” not to publish the identity of the mysterious agent connected to the Skripal case. So who is this person? He is now believed to be Pablo Miller, Skripal’s former handler and apparent friend.
Pablo Miller and Christopher Steele
Russian counterintelligence started claiming in 2000 that Pablo Miller was an MI6 agent recruiting Russian spies while working undercover at the British embassy in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. At the time, spies who were arrested identified Miller as their handlers. In 2007, tax inspector Major Vyacheslav Zharko surrendered himself to Russian authorities and admitted to spying for the Brits, naming Miller as his recruiter, according to the FSB.
According to Meduza, a site specializing in Russian news, and the BBC, the details of Skripal’s spy career were published in the 2015 Russian language book “Devil’s Dozen of Counterintelligence” by Russian secret service historian Nikolai Luzan. According to the book, Miller recruited Skripal while working under the alias Antonio Alvarez de Hidalgo, and the two had a working relationship for almost a decade, during which they compromised around 300 Russian agents.
Let’s not forget our friend Christopher Steele in all this – what was he doing while all of this was going on? Why, he was also working for MI6 and was reportedly known as an expert on Russia. During Skripal’s active years, he was stationed at the British Foreign Office, but from 1990 to 1993, he worked undercover in Moscow, and between 2006-2009, he worked at MI6’s Russia Desk in London.
In 2009, he reportedly left MI6 and founded Orbis Business Intelligence, the company that was eventually sub-contracted by Fusion GPS to research Donald Trump on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the DNC. Between 2014 and 2016, Orbis compiled 100 reports on Russia and Ukraine, some of which were used by the U.S. State Department.
Curiously, Pablo Miller and Christopher Steele also have links to another famously poisoned Russian defector, Alexander Litvinenko, who died from exposure to radioactive polonium-210, in 2006. Steele was reportedly Litvinenko’s case officer and the person who identified his death as a “hit” by the Russian state. Litvinenko allegedly worked with Miller and introduced him to possible assets, such as the earlier mentioned Zharko. How closely together did Miller and Steele work?
Skripal the Spy, Continued?
Is it possible that Skripal had continued his spying career under the radar? Valery Morozov, a Russian political refugee who now lives in the U.K., told Channel 4 that Skripal was still working cyber-security and was in monthly contact with military intelligence officers at the Russian Embassy. Morozov added that he avoided Skripal because it might “bring some questions from British officials.” Was the British government aware of the possibility that Skripal was still involved in espionage – and for which side?
According to the Independent:
The Russian double agent poisoned in Salisbury may have become a target after using his contacts in the intelligence community to work for private security firms, investigators believe. Sergei Skripal could have come to the attention of certain people in Russia by attempting to “freelance” for companies run by former MI5, MI6 and GCHQ spies, security sources say.
Private security firms such as Orbis, run by former spies, such as Christopher Steele with help from Pablo Miller, perhaps? Naturally, Orbis has denied that Skripal had contributed to the Trump dossier, but did not comment on whether he had worked on the company’s other reports.
The Telegraph’s report was also quickly denied by reporters at the BBC and The Guardian, including Luke Harding, who appears to be in contact with Steele and has just released a book called “Collusion: How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win.”
Of course, Steele had been the object of his very own D-Notice in 2017, as the British government unsuccessfully attempted to hide his identity as the creator of the Trump dossier.
Is it to be expected that three key figures in MI6’s Russian intelligence operations knew each other and continued to work together? Is it mere coincidence that Skripal was poisoned soon after Steele’s Trump dossier began to fall apart, and that two major incidences driving the West’s current anti-Russian narrative involved the same key figures?
Or is there something else connecting these three men? Was Skripal involved in creating the spectacular failure that was the Steele dossier? What information may he have on the production of this document that may affect those who commissioned the paper and even the Mueller investigation into the Trump-Russia collusions scandal? Or was the dossier actually authored by a Russian spy, as posited by Paul Roderick Gregory at Forbes, possibly by Skripal himself?
Alas, it is with these questions that we must close our Novichok series, but let us part with one new piece to the puzzle. As the only victim who has actually died from exposure to this apparent weapons-grade chemical, Dawn Sturgess, is put to rest, Public Health England has taken “protective” measures at her funeral. There will be no pallbearers, her coffin will be placed in situ when mourners arrive, and her family will be permitted 15 minutes with the coffin, before a private cremation.