News & Politics

Rachel Maddow Explains Mystery Around Arrests of High-Level Russian Intelligence Officers

We aren't sure why Russia wants us to know this information.

Photo Credit: MSNBC

Over the summer, MSNBC reporter Richard Engle went to Russia to investigate a number of 2016 arrests by the government, including one high-ranking intelligence colonel for the FBS. Engle spoke with an attorney representing one person and was threatened live on camera that even asking the questions he was broaching were dangerous.

Rachel Maddow said that her research staff has been monitoring those arrested. The internal department within Russia’s spy agency, the FSB, called it’s cyber-terrorism division the Information Security Department. She recalled that the United States intelligence agencies described the Russian hack involving two different hacker groups: fancy bear and cozy bear. The Information Security Department was the “cozy bear” in the intelligence information.

At the meeting last year with high-ranking FSB officers, men rushed in and put a black bag over the head of the deputy chief of the Information Security Department.

“And he hasn’t been seen since,” Maddow said. His deputy was also arrested that day along with a senior person with Kaspersky Labs, who was charged with treason. She noted that The New York Times described these arrests as the “highest profile arrests of the FSB since the breakup of the Soviet Union.”

“As we’re all watching from the United States, the progress of this American investigation into what Russia did and whether they had help from the [Donald] Trump campaign,” Maddow continued. “We’re watching that investigation indict the Trump campaign chairman and get a guilty plea from the national security advisor. We’re watching the incredibly dramatic investigations, those arrests at that FSB meeting a year ago, those are the closest things we’ve seen to any kind of parallel action happening on the Russian side. Right?”

She noted that the Russians are not likely to be investigating the hack on the United States or any possibly collusion or conspiracy with the Trump campaign. However, they might want to cover it up.

A new outlet in Russia called “The Bell,” published a report that the reason for the black bag being thrown over the man’s head was that he knew Karate and they were concerned he would resist arrest.

“As Americans, the thing we’re most interested in is whether or not those arrests tell us something or prove to us anything about what Russia did in our election,” Maddow said. “In January, The New York Times reported it was possible Russia might have made those arrests to try to stop the flow of information out of Russia about what the Russian government did to hack the U.S. election.”

They cited two U.S. officials saying, “human sources in Russia did play a crucial role in proving to U.S. investigators who was responsible for the DNC hacking.”

“Well now, from the Russia side, ‘The Bell’ is reporting, based on conversations with acquaintances of the men arrested, that the reason they were arrested is because they were the Russian sources who helped U.S. intelligence services get evidence last year,” Maddow said.

Maddow’s research team hired a Russian translator to review the article and explain that “The Bell” reported, “confirmed that the arrest of Sergey Mikhailov and his comrades is connected with the U.S. elections.”

She explained that this website is a new site that has sprung up out of the blue and that her team is trying to seek out confirmation for the story.

“But if, in fact, the news reports are correct and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin has locked up his own people who he believes told U.S. investigators about what Russia did in the election last year, including a colonel at the FSB, one of the top cyber spies, if this reporting from Russia bears out, it would prove one important thing for us and raise an important question for us,” she continued.

She explained that it would prove the Russian government is “full of bull-pucky” when they told President Donald Trump that they had nothing to do with the attacks.

“If they hadn’t actually attacked the election they wouldn’t have to lock up people who told the U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia had attacked our election,” Maddow explained. “You only lock somebody up if they gave out real information, right?”

She went on to wonder why Russia would be allowing this information to surface now.

“That FSB colonel and those arrested with him have been in jail for a year this week,” she said. “Why would the Russian government allow us to know now the reason they have been in jail all this year, because they helped America figure out Russia hacked our election? Why would it be to Russia’s advantage for us to allowed to know this now?”

Unfortunately, only the intelligence community can answer those questions.

Watch the full commentary below:

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Sarah K. Burris writes about politics and technology for Raw Story.