11 February, 2018
After months of secret negotiations, a Russian bilked U.S. spies out of $100,000 previous year, promising to deliver stolen National Security Agency cyberweapons in a deal that would also include compromising material on President Trump, according to U.S. and European intelligence officials.
After lengthy negotiations, the United States intelligence intermediary met the Russian spy in September in Berlin and gave him the first installment - $100,000, just to learn, alas, that he was, as he said, holding on to the NSA cyberweapons "at the orders of senior Russian intelligence officials".
US intelligence wanted to buy back the secret NSA tools so they could do inventory, the story goes, and in the meantime - unsolicited - the Russian promised to give them the Trump kompromat - which the spies insisted they had no interest in whatsoever.
Several US intelligence officials told the paper they said they did not want the Trump information from the Russian, who was suspected of having ties to Russian intelligence and Eastern European cybercriminals. The Russian reportedly had "unverified and possibly fabricated information" on Trump and associates.
The Central Intelligence Agency declined to comment on the negotiations with the Russian seller.
American intelligence officials who spoke with the Times insisted they paid the $100,000 to the Russian operative to get back stolen NSA cyberweapons and were not seeking the supposedly damaging intelligence.
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According to the report, an unnamed Russian "bilked" six figures out of American spies by promising the return of stolen cybersecurity weapons if they delivered cash to a Berlin address.
The Times reports that American spies had their doubts about the Russian operative, who was known to have ties to Russian intelligence and cybercriminals, but chose to arrange a deal with him. The cyberweapons had been built to break into computer networks of Russia, China and other rival powers.
The Russian's first delivery turned out to be hacking tools the Shadow Brokers had already released.
No officials wanted to pass on information they thought might help determine what had happened. The documents, according to the newspaper, discuss former Trump campaign aide Carter Page and billionaire GOP donors Robert and Rebekah Mercer.
The man initially asked for $10 million in exchange for the classified hacking tools data, which was stolen in 2017 by a group which calls itself Shadow Brokers, which was known to the NSA agents. Carter Page, the former campaign adviser who has been the focus of FBI investigators, features in one; Robert and Rebekah Mercer, the billionaire Republican donors, in another.