ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The FBI paid the primary source of the notorious debunked Steele dossier nearly $220,000 between March 2017 and October 2020 to be a “confidential human source” for the bureau.
And Russian business analyst Igor Danchenko was worth every penny of it, FBI special agent Kevin Helson said during the third day of testimony on Oct. 13 in Danchenko’s trial on five counts of making false statements to investigators in January 2017.
Testifying before U.S. Eastern District of Virginia Judge Anthony Trenga, Helson said during that 42-month span, information from Danchenko generated 40 intelligence reports and spurred 25 investigations, calling his network of contacts the best he had seen in his 20-year career and changing the way the agency runs its Russian counterintelligence programs.
When then-Attorney General William Barr in July 2020 released a redacted transcript of Danchenko’s three-day interview with agents in January 2017—where he allegedly made the false statements—he became “a target because of the political environment” and potentially exposed to Russian operatives, Helson said.
“Outed” and embroiled in high-profile political drama during the summer of 2020, Danchenko could no longer function effectively. The agency closed his “confidential human source” status, Helson said, meaning he also lost a significant component of his income.
On Oct. 21, 2020, Helson submitted a final lump sum payment request of $346,000 for Danchenko, but the Department of Justice (DOJ) denied it. The arrangement ended with that.
“Would you agree that losing Mr. Danchenko was a blow to national security?” defense attorney Stuart Sears asked Helson.
“Yes,” he said, noting he routinely gets calls from fellow agents asking to speak with Danchenko about counterintelligence issues, especially since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“It was a big deal for the FBI to have access to someone like Mr. Danchenko, wasn’t it?” Sears asked Helson.
“Yes,” he replied. “In my opinion, it would have been a big win for the FBI if he had come aboard sooner.”
By John Haughey