Kremlin-linked informants who proved critical to American intelligence operations both during and after the 2016 elections have gone silent, according to the New York Times, leaving the United States’ intelligence services in a bind.
Officials say they don’t think these sources have been killed. Instead, they believe a combination of factors have pushed them further underground, including Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to cut down on leaks by any means possible. He has both expelled U.S. diplomats in response to similar American actions and also sent not-so-subtle messages by poisoning former agents.
Mr. Putin has also said he is intent on killing so-called traitors, comments he made just ahead of the high-profile assassination attempt of the former Russian intelligence officer, Sergei V. Skripal.
But Donald Trump hasn’t done U.S. intelligence officials any favors, either.
Officials also raised the possibility that the outing of an F.B.I. informant under scrutiny by the House intelligence committee — an examination encouraged by President Trump — has had a chilling effect on intelligence collection.
As U.S. businesses like Facebook and Microsoft and even think tanks continue to uncover new attempts to hack and undermine their platforms, what’s unclear to officials is whether there’s a more coordinated theme that’s animating these individual efforts other than simply sowing chaos. And while U.S. officials say not all of their Russian contacts have been lost, the ones closest to Putin have gone dark, leaving them guessing at his goals as we head into the midterm elections.
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