John Durham’s prosecution of Igor Danchenko has revealed many details on his work for the FBI, but one overlooked—and crucial—element has been how Danchenko’s claims were used not just by the FBI but throughout the intelligence community.
According to FBI agent Kevin Helson, who was Danchenko’s handler while he was a confidential human source, as of October 2020, Danchenko’s information had contributed to “at least 40 IIRs.”
An IIR is an intelligence report that goes out to the U.S. Intelligence Community—as Helson testified, “to pretty much all our agencies.”
Helson testified in court that “what goes in an IIR is NOT necessarily raw” intelligence. He stated that “it’s already been somewhat vetted and has been approved.”
In other words, Danchenko’s information was spread widely throughout the intelligence community and was viewed as having been somewhat vetted or even approved.
Because Danchenko was made a confidential human source in March 2017 the FBI effectively ensured that Danchenko was completely shielded from any congressional investigation.
Danchenko on Oct. 18 was found not guilty on all four counts by a jury in Virginia.
What also came out in court is that Danchenko’s information made up 80 percent or more of the information contained in Steele’s fictitious dossier.
To this date, virtually nothing in the Steele dossier has been confirmed and it’s widely considered to be completely discredited. As a result of the many errors in the dossier, two renewal Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants issued based on it have since been deemed invalid by the DOJ and two other FISAs remain under review.
Despite this, in court, FBI agent Helson attempted in his testimony to portray Danchenko as helpful to the FBI and trustworthy. He also admitted that Danchenko had “provided information on at least 25 FBI investigations” covering at least six different FBI Field offices.
Helson also stated that Danchenko “aided the United States Government by introducing the United States Government to a sub-source who had provided additional information separate to his report.”
Helson also told the court that Danchenko had informed the FBI of individuals who were previously unknown to the FBI on numerous occasions and that these individuals and information “ended up becoming very important to the FBI’s counterintelligence activity.”
Helson claimed that Danchenko had “a high value for identifying potential intelligence officers and influencers” along with a “high potential for identifying criminal targets.” Helson then claimed that Danchenko had “reshaped the way the US perceived threats.” He also asserted that “the development of Danchenko” as an FBI source “was considered a model for developing sources going forward within the FBI.”
Helson testified that the FBI’s Washington Field Office—its most important field office–had not had an informant with a comparable source network during his 20 years there. Helson told the DOJ Inspector General—and the court—that Danchenko was “gold” as a cooperator.
He said that the FBI had actually “set up a new squad of agents based on Mr. Danchenko’s information.” Helson lamented the loss of Danchenko as a source for the FBI after he was identified by a group of internet sleuths, including my co-host on "Truth Over News," Hans Mahncke. This identification happened after Attorney General Bill Barr directed the FBI to declassify a redacted report about its three-day interview of Danchenko in 2017.
Helson testified that he “was upset” after he found out that Barr intended to “release a redacted version of Danchenko’s testimony in July 2020,” telling the court that he disagreed with that decision and went so far as to term the release of Danchenko’s redacted interview “dangerous.”
Following the identification of Danchenko as the primary source for Steele’s dossier, the FBI ultimately made the decision to end Danchenko's status as a confidential human source.
Helson admitted that Danchenko himself had confirmed to the media that he was indeed Steele’s primary sub-source after he had been identified by internet sleuths on Twitter. He claimed that losing Danchenko as a confidential human source actually “harmed national security” noting that “there’s a lot going on in Russia and Ukraine these days,” inadvertently raising immediate questions as to exactly what sort of information Danchenko had been providing the FBI on Russia and Ukraine, particularly as his sources in the Steele dossier were all low-level individuals with little to no inside knowledge.
Although Danchenko claimed that Steele inflated some of his claims or stated as fact some items that Danchenko said were not fully confirmed—a matter that Steele disputes—it is again worth reminding everyone that virtually the entirety of the Steele dossier was based on information from Danchenko.
It’s also worth pointing out that after the FBI was told by Danchenko that some of what he told Steele did not match what was actually in the Dossier, his new FBI handler, Helson, suggested that Danchenko scrub his phone. Helson said “we had discussed that action” in order “to kind of mask and obfuscate his connection to Steele and any connection to us.”
Danchenko had also already deleted many of his communications during his work on the dossier. In other words, once the FBI realized the Steele dossier was fiction, they not only hid Danchenko behind CHS status, but they also had him scrub his phone.
The sources used by Danchenko have denied that they actually provided any of the information that Danchenko claimed they did. Six different sources used by Danchenko have willingly submitted legal affidavits stating that none of the information that Danchenko attributed to them was actually provided by them. In other words, Danchenko simply made this information up.
Ivan Vorontsov, a financial journalist, who was listed in the Steele Dossier as “Sub-Source 2” stated in his affidavit, “Although it is apparent that Mr. Danchenko claimed that I was a source of information for the Dossier, in fact I was not a 'source' for the Dossier. I never provided Mr. Danchenko (or anyone else) with any information associated with the contents of the Dossier.”
Vorontsov stated that “Danchenko later confirmed this to me as well when he expressed guilt for dragging me into this whole controversy concerning the Dossier.” Vorontsov concluded by stating that “My impression of the dossier is that the contents are false and inherently improbable. I believe the Dossier was fabricated to fit whatever the client who requested the information wanted to receive.”
Sergey Abyshev was listed as “Sub-Source 1” in the dossier. Abyshev stated in his affidavit, “Contrary to what Mr. Danchenko told U.S. authorities, I was not a 'source' of the Dossier. I never provided Mr. Danchenko (or anyone else) with any information related to the contents of the Dossier.” Abyshev stated that “Danchenko referred to me as 'Sub-Source 1' for the Dossier to give credibility to the information that he provided, in light of my then-role at the Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation.” Abyshev also noted that his “understanding of Mr. Danchenko’s information-gathering process is that he first receives a story from his clients that he then must substantiate in any manner possible.”
As we noted earlier, Helson had stated that Danchenko introduced “the United States Government to a sub-source who had provided additional information separate to his report.” That source was none other than Abyshev. Helson stated that Danchenko had “continued to provide information” to the FBI “on people referenced in the dossier.” Abyshev was specifically noted during Helson’s testimony as being one of these individuals. Steele was offered $1 million by the FBI on Oct. 3, 2016, to corroborate claims made within his dossier. Danchenko was the source of almost all of these claims. Despite this huge incentive, Steele was unable to provide the FBI with any corroborating information, which also means that Danchenko was unable to do so.
But instead of ending the investigation, the FBI escalated it and then protected the source of the lies by making Danchenko a confidential human source, paying him over $200,000 with another $346,000 in payments requested by Helson. Danchenko’s status as a confidential human source ensured that his identity and information provided to the FBI would be shielded from congressional investigations.
Abyshev also identified another problem in relation to Danchenko and the reliability of his information. Abyshev stated that “based on my interactions with and observations of him, Mr. Danchenko had a severe drinking problem from the time that I first met him until 2017 or 2018.”
Recall that Danchenko was interviewed by the FBI in January 2017 and was made a confidential human source in March 2017 with Helson as his handler. Abyshev also noted that on June 15, 2016, during the period that Danchenko was working for Steele, Danchenko allegedly appeared very intoxicated and was not able to maintain a conversation. Abyshev specified that there were no conversations relating to the dossier.
Under questioning, Helson was forced to admit that he never did a background check on Danchenko, despite citing Danchenko as perhaps the most valuable asset of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.
Helson was also forced to admit that Danchenko never provided any corroboration for his dossier claims. Making matters even worse, Helson was forced to admit that he ignored a number of recommendations, including an “examination to determine what Mr. Danchenko’s actual motives, allegiances and vulnerabilities were.” Helson also ignored a recommendation to assess concerns that Danchenko was “shopping around his research” and “pre-composing reporting.”
Durham also got Helson to admit that he ignored a specific recommendation to administer a polygraph test to Danchenko to “determine if he has ever been tasked by a foreign individual, entity or government to collect information or to perform actions adverse to the U.S. interest.”
Helson also ignored concerns cited in a 65-page report by a 19-year veteran of the FBI’s Human Intelligence Validation Unit that Danchenko might be a member or former member of Russian intelligence. Helson admitted that while she “implied that he [Danchenko] was a GRU officer, Helson claimed that “there is nothing” that “would indicate that he was a Russian intelligence officer.” Helson refused to investigate or pursue the claims regarding Danchenko.
One does have to question why Durham didn’t introduce Helson as a hostile witness. In effect, the FBI covered up Danchenko in early 2017. And the Mueller investigation, which began in May 2017, in turn, covered up the FBI’s actions.
It’s also worth noting that while Danchenko was working for Steele, Steele was also working for a Russian Oligarch, Oleg Deripaska.
Given all the questions raised during Helson’s testimony, the extensive use of Danchenko’s information throughout the Intelligence Community may require an immediate and full re-examination.
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.