A former colleague of the accused FBI agent, Charles McGonigal, says the former top counterintelligence official was a "selfish narcissist" who often "screamed at subordinates", could not stand the successes of subordinates and could was part of an anti-Hillary Clinton clique at the agency's New York office, adding to pressure on FBI Director James Comey to reopen the bureau's investigation into the presidential candidate's inappropriate emails just days later before the 2016 elections.
"He was well respected by his peers, even his managers," the decorated former FBI agent said, speaking on condition of anonymity to speak freely about the indictment that has rocked the tight-knit world of counterintelligence.
"But a lot of people who worked for him couldn't stand him because he was irritating. He just treated people very badly."
"Charlie's was just ego and ambition," the former colleague said.
If true, such a personality defect may help clear up the mystery of why such a high-ranking and successful FBI official would risk falling prey to the "magic" of foreign agents.
News of McGonigal's arrest certainly surprised a former senior FBI official, who in 2010 put McGonigal in charge of a "highly sensitive" project (which he chose not to name for security reasons). security). The New York Times reported years later, in 2018, that he was appointed at the time to lead an FBI-CIA task force investigating the loss of CIA spies in China.
The agency's former officer, Jerry Chun Shing Lee, was arrested, but a full answer to all the losses has yet to be received. In 2016, McGonigal was appointed Special Agent in Charge of the Counterintelligence Division for the New York Office.
The former FBI official says he saw no reason why McGonigal should not be promoted. "I did my homework and vetted Charlie, who was also in the Washington field office, and they all said, 'yeah, he's your man,'" he told SpyTalk.
If there were complaints about McGonigal's management style, they never surfaced, he said. He remembers McGonigal as "extremely professional and methodical".
McGonigal was charged Monday in two separate corruption cases involving embezzlement and money laundering — the first for allegedly receiving secret payments of more than $225,000 from a former Albanian intelligence agent on behalf of a political party there, the other for trying to save the Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, from American sanctions.
In that scheme, according to the Justice Department, McGonigal was paid $25,000 a month through an account in the name of a former Russian diplomat named Sergey Shestakov, who worked as a translator for the US government. McGonigal pleaded not guilty in New York on Monday and had nothing to say as he left court accompanied by his lawyer.
Before retiring in 2018, McGonigal had been in charge of investigating Deripaska, a billionaire friend of Vladimir Putin, who has been implicated in several criminal acts over the years, including an engagement in Russia's covert efforts to influence the presidential election of of 2016, in favor of Donald Trump.
The FBI's New York office (officially, a division) was "Trumpland," the source said. In accordance with FBI tradition in Washington, McGonigal did not openly display his political orientation, if any. But when he landed in New York on October 4, 2016, he suddenly found himself in an environment where some agents openly expressed their disdain for the Clintons and Democrats in general.
McGonigal was a 24-carat New Yorker. Earlier in his career 20 years ago, he had worked on the investigation into the downing of TWA Flight 800, headed by New York bureau chief James Kallstrom, who was close to both then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani, as well as pompous real estate developer and tabloid boss Trump. In the final weeks of the 2016 campaign, Giuliani, Trump's adviser and lawyer, repeatedly went on Fox News to suggest that the FBI had a "big surprise" about Hillary Clinton that would propel Trump to victory. .
The "surprise" turned out to be the FBI's discovery of the former Secretary of State's emails on the laptop of her close adviser, Huma Abedin. The latter's husband, Anthony Weiner, used the same laptop to send nude photos of himself to underage girls. On September 21, just two days after the FBI got hold of the infamous "Steele Dossier" on ties between Trump and the Russians, the London tabloid Daily Mail published a front-page "exclusive" of Weiner's emails with a 15-year-old girl .
FBI Director James Comey, fearing he might be accused of covering up for Mrs. Clinton, announced he was reopening the bureau's email investigation, a major blow to her campaign. McGonigal has had a front-row seat — at least — to all of these developments, as well as the tumultuous surveillance orders against Trump's foreign policy aide, Carter Page, and information obtained from an Australian diplomat that an aide Another Trump campaigner, George Papadopoulos, had boasted that the Russians had "something dirty" on Clinton.
Perhaps McGonigal may have had a role in this. The issues are already being brought back into the spotlight — and heated — according to the former FBI official — by the right-wing media as a result of the FBI man's arrest.
"When he got to New York, he had a piece of the Carter Page case as a high-level SAC," he said. But only "for a little while". "These things that are being said about how he ran Hurricane Crossfire," the code name for the FBI's investigation into ties between Trump associates and Russians and whether Moscow interfered in the campaign, are wrong, the former official said. "No, I didn't touch him. This is all nonsense. The "Carter pay" thing, yes, because he was boss in New York for a period." But that's all.
"The other thing that's interesting, and worth looking at," the former official continued, "is that he was one of (there were many, but he was one of) the first people to tell the bureau, 'Hey, this guy , George Papadopoulos, told the Australian ambassador in London that the Russians had "something dirty" about Hillary.'
Now this, surely, was one of the factors that led headquarters to open the original early CI case about Russia meddling in the US election...Now why, why did Charlie have knowledge of George Papadopoulos, who had said this? Me, I don't have any crazy ideas. And I'm sure someone is watching this," the former official said.
The tip of the iceberg
"I think there's more to it," says McGonigal's former colleague. "He's involved in all of this. I think somebody needs to take a good look at what his role was and all of that. Now, was he a decision maker? No, but he was the SAC (Special Agent in Charge) [ for counterintelligence] in New York…”
In a series of provocative tweets Monday night, prominent presidential historian Michael Bechloss drew some connection between McGonigal's arrival in New York, the Clinton leak, and the strange (and inaccurate) New York Times story just days before election, titled "Donald Trump probe, FBI sees no clear ties to Russia."
Citing "anonymous law enforcement sources," the Times reported that "none of the investigations so far have found any conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government." He added that "even the hacking of Democratic emails, the FBI and intelligence officials now believe was aimed at disrupting the presidential election, not electing Mr. Trump."
Did McGonigal and/or Giuliani give this information to the tabloids? He was too ambitious to make such a mistake, his former colleague told SpyTalk. He may have done this to please his anti-Clinton bosses and Giuliani.
"I wouldn't discount the possibility that Charlie was one of those sources," he said. And as the bureau's counterintelligence chief, he would have been an authoritative source for reporters on both the Weiner laptop case and Russiagate.
"I would have no doubt that Charlie played a role in the leak," the source said. "It wouldn't surprise me. It just wouldn't surprise me.”
Together, the stories originating from the New York FBI went viral on social media, where they were amplified by fake Russian accounts and effectively damaged the Clinton campaign. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid was outraged by the FBI's "double standard." He sent a letter to Comey saying it “has become clear that you possess explosive information about the close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisers and the Russian government — a foreign interest openly hostile to The United States, which Trump praises every chance he gets."
But "you continue to resist calls to inform the public of this critical information" about Russian subversion (which would be asserted after the election in a US intelligence report).
McGonigal has not been charged with espionage, but intelligence sources fear the discovery of evidence proving he leaked secrets to Russia, China or others.
"If the counterintelligence SAC in New York went bad, really bad, meaning espionage, the losses would be almost insurmountable," said a former senior FBI official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the matter. so sensitive. "If I had to choose four or five top roles in the FBI to be recruited by a foreign service, that would be the worst case scenario..."
Like other senior intelligence agency veterans, former career CIA officer Douglas London said it was impossible to say what McGonigal might do with the Justice Department memos. Based on "absolutely nothing but my own speculation and instinct," London said that, "working as a lobbyist for Deripaska and the Albanians, respectively, McGonigal may have been commercially recruited under the guise of false flag business or otherwise oriented toward collusion with the Russians , who may have worked over time to force the FBI agent to reveal what he knew about counterintelligence." London added that, "it would have been an extremely amateurish mistake for a guy of his experience, perhaps believing he could spy 'eye to eye'
Sido që të jetë, London tha se "shpreson që [McGonigal] të mos ketë nxjerrë gjithçka", veçanërisht emrat e rusëve ose shtetasve të tjerë të huaj që punonin si spiunë për FBI-në ose CIA-n.
Aspekte të tjera të çuditshme të punës së McGonigal pas FBI-së bien në sy për veteranët e inteligjencës. Si ish-shef i kundërzbulimit, McGonigal "mund ta gjente punën e tij në sektorin e korporatave", siç e sheh ish-zyrtari, si njeriu i duhur që për 200 000 dollarë mund të drejtonte operacionin e sigurisë së një kompanie. Por McGonigal, ndoshta duke u ndier i shpërfillur nga dështimi për të arritur një nga tre vendet kryesore të FBI-së, si agjenti special në krye të Nju-Jorkut, Los Anxhelosit ose Zyrës Field të Uashingtonit, mund ta kishte hedhur poshtë këtë si diçka pa rëndësi.
“Është pothuajse sikur, ‘do t’ju mund të gjithëve’”, tha ish-zyrtari. Në vend të kësaj, McGonigal mori angazhim nga Deripaska dhe shqiptarët - dhe një Zot e di kush tjetër – për një pagesë prej 75 000 dollarësh në muaj. Plus udhëtime ndërkombëtare. FBI e arrestoi McGonigal pasi ai zbriti nga avioni ndërsa kthehej nga një udhëtim në Sri Lanka. Ku kishte qenë tjetër? Për kë tjetër mund të ketë punuar? Si mund të jetë komprometuar ai?
Bota e inteligjencës përdor një akronim, MICE, për të përmbledhur motivet kryesore që i shtyjnë zyrtarët e saj të ndërrojnë drejtim. Akronimi përmbledh "Para, Ideologji, Kompromis dhe Ego". Për sovjetikët e Luftës së Ftohtë, një shtysë kryesore ishte urrejtja ndaj sistemit komunist. Sot, në vende si Rusia, Kina, Irani, Kuba, Venezuela dhe Koreja e Veriut, është korrupsioni dhe represioni sistematik. Amerikanët e pasluftës, nga ana tjetër, kanë spiunuar për para, ose janë komprometuar nga shërbimet armiqësore, ose të dyja bashkë. Por në të dyja rastet, armiqësia personale – pakënaqësia ndaj shefave apo kolegëve – ka qenë pothuajse gjithmonë faktor kyç.
Çfarë i ka thënë mendja McGonigal-it? Marrëdhënia me njerëz si Deripaska ishte akti tepër i pamatur i një personi që duhet ta ketë menduar veten të paprekshëm – ose i shtyrë nga demonët privatë, spekulojnë ish-spiunët e tjerë.
"Nuk është e sigurt nëse ishte 'thjesht' një fund i korruptuar i karrierës së tij [duke dalë] në pension, apo [nëse ai ishte] një spiun i vërtetë që kreu spiunazh," tha një ish-zyrtar i lartë i operacioneve të CIA-s, i cili paralajmëroi se thjesht po spekulonte si vëzhgues i jashtëm.
“Gjithashtu, ai duket se ka manovruar shpejt dhe lirshëm [me shoqatat e tij të paligjshme] kështu që do të habitesha nëse nuk do të kishte shenja paralajmëruese të korrupsionit” shumë kohë përpara se të hapej hetimi për të. "Pavarësisht këtyre, është shumë tronditëse," tha ai.
McGonigal always thought he was "the smartest guy," his former colleague said. “And I think you can see that in the charges. There you find the theme of ambition and just thinking you're smarter than everyone else.
"I mean, how do you think you're going to get away with that — unless you're narcissistic and think, 'I can beat the FBI.' I'm smarter than them. And I'm untouchable.'
Translation: Gazmira Sokoli/ Respublica