Suspicions that the arrests of alleged cyber spies that have been taking place in Moscow since the middle of December are in some way connected to the US intelligence community’s allegations of Russian hacking of the DNC and Podesta have received more support from a report by the Russian news agency Interfax that Sergey Mikhailov – a former FSB officer – and Dmitry Dokuchaev – now also revealed to be an FSB officer and apparently Mikhailov’s deputy – are being charged with passing on information to the CIA.
Interfax is a highly reliable news agency, and information it provides can usually be considered trustworthy. Probably the information about the charges against Mikhailov and Dokuchaev were intentionally provided to Interfax for publication by the FSB.
To add spice t0 the story, Russian media reports are apparently claiming that the FSB has found up to $12 million in cash stashed away in various hiding places in Mikhailov’s home and dacha. If so then that would suggest that he was a longstanding CIA agent working for pay.
It should be stressed that as of now there is no official confirmation of these claims, or that Mikhailov and Dokuchaev provided the CIA with information about the Russian hacking claims. Even if they did, and even if the information they provided was the source of some of the claims of a Russian role in the leaking of the DNC and Podesta emails to Wikileaks, it doesn’t mean that what they told the CIA about Russian intelligence’s supposed role in passing on the DNC and Podesta emails to Wikileaks is true.
To add to the mystery, the Russian media has been full of reports that the arrests are in some way connected to a group of hackers called Shaltai-Boltai, who have supposedly been busy hacking the Russian government.
There is far too little information currently available to comment about this. It could be that the claims about the alleged connection to the Shaltai-Boltai group are a smokescreen put up by the FSB to conceal the direction of its investigation. Alternatively Shaltai-Boltai might have been a CIA front to conceal a US cyber operation in Russia. If I had to guess, I would say the second is more likely to be true.
As I said in previous report, clearly something is going on, but given the lack of detail, and given the strong possibility of disinformation, it is essential not to assume too hastily that anything which appears in the media is true.