Former British spymaster has flown under radar in Russia probe, despite links to key figures
Chuck Ross, DCNF
- Sir Richard Dearlove has links to several key players involved in the Trump-Russia investigation, including Christopher Steele, Stefan Halper and Michael Flynn.
- Despite that, Dearlove, the former head of MI6, has largely avoided media scrutiny, or that of American lawmakers probing the origins of the Russia investigation.
- Dearlove’s contacts with Steele, the dossier author, also have parallels to the former spy chief’s links to another “dodgy dossier.”
Sir Richard Dearlove has avoided scrutiny during the Russia probe, despite having links to several of the former spies, government informants and targets involved in the U.S. government’s collusion investigation.
Dearlove, who served as chief of MI6 from 1999 to 2004, had contact during the 2016 campaign with dossier author Christopher Steele. He is also a close colleague of Stefan Halper, the alleged FBI and CIA informant who established contact with several Trump campaign advisers. Dearlove and Halper attended a Cambridge political event in July 2016 where Halper had his first contact with Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
The retired British spymaster also hosted, along with Halper, an event at Cambridge in 2014 attended by Michael Flynn, who served at the time as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Dearlove and Halper are reported to have expressed concerns about Flynn’s contacts at the event with Svetlana Lokhova, a Russia-born student at Cambridge. Those warnings were somehow shared with American intelligence.
Despite his presence at those key junctures, Dearlove has mostly dodged media attention, as well as that of American lawmakers investigating the origins of the Russia probe. That’s perhaps a testament to Dearlove’s 38 years in MI6.
Dearlove is best known internationally for his links to a dossier, though not the one authored by Steele, a former MI6 officer.
Dearlove was head of MI6 when the British government peddled a report alleging that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The British government, led by Prime Minister Tony Blair, used the dossier as a pretext to launch a war against Iraq.
Sir John Chilcot, who investigated the Iraq intelligence failures, faulted numerous British officials, including Dearlove, for failing to thoroughly vet the so-called “dodgy dossier” before endorsing it to other British government officials.
“Sir Richard Dearlove’s personal intervention, and its urgency, gave added weight to a report that had not been properly evaluated and would have coloured the perception of ministers and senior officials. The report should have been treated with caution,” Chilcot said in his report, published in 2016.
As with the Iraq dossier, Dearlove’s reputation has also been used to bolster Steele’s report, which alleges a “well-developed conspiracy” between the Trump campaign and Russian government.
In a Dec. 13, 2017 interview, Dearlove declined to confirm that he knew Steele, but said that the dossier had “some credibility.”
In a glowing profile of Steele in The New Yorker on March 12, 2018, Dearlove described Steele’s reputation as “superb.” He told The Washington Post that Steele was the “go-to person on Russia in the commercial sector.”
Despite those positive reviews of Steele, many of the ex-spy’s allegations have been undermined in recent months. Special counsel Robert Mueller found there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government.
Carter Page, a prominent figure in the Democrat-funded dossier, has vehemently denied Steele’s allegations that he met secretly in Moscow in July 2016 with Kremlin officials to discuss blackmail material on Hillary Clinton. Michael Cohen, a former Trump attorney, testified to Congress on Feb. 27 that he did not meet with Russian operatives in Prague in August 2016, as Steele alleged.
Though Dearlove has refused to acknowledge his links to Steele, The Washington Post has reported that the pair convened in September 2016 to discuss the dossier.
During the meeting, Dearlove reportedly suggested that Steele discretely provide the information to the FBI as well as to a top British government official. Steele, who was hired to investigate Trump by the firm Fusion GPS, did provide some of his reporting to his contacts at the FBI, but he also began around the same time to meet with American reporters regarding the Trump research.
Dearlove has also offered glowing endorsements for Halper, a veteran of three Republican presidential administrations who has contracted with the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment.
“He is a well-regarded academic who is also a patriot,” Dearlove told The Washington Post in a June 8, 2018 article, shortly after the revelation that Halper was a longtime FBI and CIA informant.
Dearlove formed a close bond with Halper at Cambridge, where Dearlove served as president of Cambridge’s Pembroke College from 2005 through 2015. Halper joined the faculty in 2001. Together they formed the Cambridge Security Initiative (CSI), a think tank that claims to have U.K. and American government agencies as clients.
“With unrivalled expertise in security and intelligence issues, the organisation integrates long-term historical trends with the experience of security professionals to deliver prescient analysis of current and future threats to a range of clients and to its signature ‘International Security and Intelligence’ programme,” reads CSI’s website.
Dearlove also attended the same event at Cambridge University where Halper made first contact with Carter Page. Page told The Daily Caller News Foundation that he did not recall speaking with Dearlove, who gave a speech at the symposium. But Page did strike up a relationship with Halper, and remained in contact through September 2017, the same month that FBI’s surveillance warrant expired against the Trump aide.
Dearlove has also been involved in a controversy surrounding Michael Flynn and Svetlana Lokhova, a Cambridge Ph.D. candidate who was mentored by Christopher Andrew, a close colleague of Halper’s who is chief historian for MI5, the U.K.’s domestic spy service.
News stories appeared in March 2017 suggesting that American intelligence had been tipped off to suspicious interactions between Flynn and Lokhova at a dinner hosted at Cambridge in February 2014 by Dearlove, Halper and Andrew.
The stories had no specific allegations, and Lokhova has publicly and vehemently denied that she had any improper contact with Flynn, who would later serve as President Trump’s national security adviser. A Defense Intelligence Agency official who accompanied Flynn also told The Wall Street Journal that he saw nothing disturbing at the event.
Halper and Dearlove were the two Cambridge officials who first expressed concerns about Flynn’s interactions with Lokhova, according to a Washington Post story published on June 5, 2018.
It remains unclear what those warnings entailed, who raised them, or when they were passed to intelligence officials. But Lokhova has told TheDCNF that two reporters at national news outlets told her that Dearlove was the Cambridge official who provided information to U.S. and British intelligence agencies regarding the Flynn visit. She has since filed a formal complaint with Cambridge over reports about Halper and Dearlove’s activities.
“It has been reported that Sir Richard Dearlove, on the urgings of Prof. Halper, has apparently reported me to US authorities as a Russian spy. The accusation is demonstrably false,” Lokhova wrote to Cambridge’s vice chancellor, asking for an investigation of Halper and Dearlove’s “malign” and “covert” activities.
Dearlove could not be reached for comment. The Cambridge Security Initiative did not respond to requests for comment. Cambridge’s vice chancellor declined to comment.