Donald Trump’s order to declassify cherry-picked classified documents, including the 2015 secret court order that authorized U.S. intelligence surveillance of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, will enable Russian and other Eastern European and Eurasian organized crime syndicates to understand how they are targeted by the FBI, National Security Agency, and the CIA.
The secret court order on government surveillance of Page, who was believed to be acting as an agent for Russian official interests, was authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The judges who signed off on the surveillance were Judges Rosemary Collyer, Michael Mosman, Anne C. Conway and Raymond J. Dearie, all nominated by Republican presidents.
Among the documents ordered released by Trump are text messages dealing with surveillance of Page between former FBI director James Comey, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, former FBI Deputy Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division Peter Strzok, and former FBI attorney Lisa Page. Also contained in the document release are interviews with former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, a leading expert on Russian-Eurasian organized criminal syndicates at Main Justice.
Ohr was an assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) from 1991 to 1999, a time frame during which the Eurasian Mafia expanded its presence in the Russian Jewish community in Brooklyn and established close links with the Trump Organization. In the early 1990s, Ohr worked closely at the SDNY with Comey, the deputy chief of the Criminal Division.
After transferring to Main Justice, Ohr was the chief of the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. In 2010, Ohr became the counsel for the Justice Department’s Transnational organized crime and international affairs section. One of the chief targets of Ohr’s counter-intelligence operations was Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a key figure in Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s case against Paul Manafort, Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman.
As one of the Justice Department’s key Eurasian mafia crime busters, Ohr worked closely with McCabe, a former supervisory special agent with the Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force in New York.
Ohr, McCabe, and Comey also relied on the assistance of Strzok, the lead agent in the FBI’s pursuit of Russian intelligence agents, a program code named “OPERATION GHOST STORIES.” Some of the agents unmasked by the FBI were deeply embedded in Eurasian mob syndicates in New York, including those dealing with the Trump Organization’s activities. Trump’s gambit is obvious: expose and destroy the network of U.S. government counter-mafia operations that had his illegal operations under surveillance for over three decades.
Carter Page may have been under U.S. intelligence surveillance for some time. A 1993 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Page was selected for the Navy’s Trident Scholar program, which allowed him to avoid ship duty and enter directly into independent academic research and study. In his senior year at the academy, he was detailed to work in the House Armed Services Committee office of chairman Les Aspin. While in the Navy, he served as an intelligence officer for the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), the peacekeeping force established to ensure an independence plebiscite for the people of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony illegally occupied by Morocco.
In 2000, Page became an investment officer at the Moscow office of Merrill Lynch. There, he became involved with major Russian energy firms owned by criminal syndicate-linked oligarchs, including Deripaska. After leaving Moscow for New York, Page established his own firm Global Energy Capital, with the assistance of Gazprom executive Sergei Yatsenko. However, Page’s involvement with Russian energy companies may have begun earlier.
Little is known about Page’s “intelligence” work for MINURSO in Western Sahara, Morocco, and the camps of the Western Saharan POLISARIO government-in-exile in Algeria. However, Western Sahara and its border region with Algeria is known to be rich in natural gas resources, something that would be of great interest to the Russian natural gas giant Gazprom. Russia’s interest in the region was capped in 2001 by the signing of a strategic partnership between Russia and Algeria.
The FBI’s and Justice Department’s interest in Page in 2015 stemmed from his business relationships with key Russian oligarchs, all of whom had close ties with or were members of the Russian foreign intelligence service, the SVR, the agents of which were rolled up earlier by Strzok and his team in 2010. In addition, Page’s business ties linked to some of the same operations involving Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, with offshore entities headquartered in Cyprus, the British Virgin Islands, and Israel.
Trump and one of his leading supporters in the House, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, have decided to place current FBI, NSA, and CIA surveillance operations in jeopardy by forcing the release of top secret and above documents involving multiple current counter-intelligence investigations and their concomitant sensitive sources and methods. For Trump, the reason for the release is to divert attention away from the sexual predator issues involving his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. For Jordan, the ploy is to avoid the focus of his involvement in covering up sex abuse cases involving his wrestling team at Ohio State University. Both Trump and Jordan are willing to trade the safety of U.S. counterintelligence officers for short-term political gain.
Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.
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Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).