The Mechanics of Deception

Yaacov Apelbaum - The Prince of Deception

Much has been said and written about Christopher Steele’s authorship of the notorious document that alleges Russia-Trump collusion. According to Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS (who plead the Fifth and only spoke through his lawyers), Steele was hired by them in June 2016 to gather information about “links between Russia and [then-presidential candidate] Donald Trump.” Pursuant to that business arrangement, Steele prepared a series of reports styled as intelligence briefings, some of which were later compiled into a collection of documents and published by a number of media outlets and later become known as the “Trump dossier.”

On the face of the dossier, it appears that Steele gathered his data from multiple sources in Russia/FSU countries and the US. He then edited the raw intelligence—which seems to be a combination of conversations and notes—organized it in a summarized brief format, and published/leaked it in parts or in its entirety on a rotating schedule (see image 1).

Yaacov Apelbaum - Christopher Steele ClaimsTimeline
Image 1:
The Dossier events and publication schedule

My initial impression reading the dossier was that the writing was sloppy and that it did not resemble an intelligence report. It exhibited multiple writing styles and writers, both English and non-English speakers, and it was assembled in haste. I also thought that in many ways, it paralleled the plot line of the Dreyfus Affair. Just like in the case of the “dossier” and the Bordereau from the Dreyfus case, the Trump dossier was presented as undeniable proof of collusion. Yet, it’s uncertain who composed it, how it was collected, or even if the document is genuine. 

As you can see from the table below, not much has changed by way of ‘secret dossiers’ for the past 120 years.


The Dreyfus Affair

The Trump Dossier

Secret Court and Hearings

All hearings and key prosecution testimonies take place behind closed doors and in complete secrecy.

Multiple FISA applications and special hearings are done behind closed doors in secrecy.

Political Objectives

From the outset, the case is driven by political objectives. All charges and sentencing decisions are done by political figures. The army, government, and judiciary hold regular coordination meetings. 

The FBI and DOJ leadership have a stated political agenda and are routinely sharing the status of their investigation with the White House. Fusion GPS’s King’s wife is Obama’s senior political advisor. Fusion GPS’s Simpson’s wife briefs Obama.

Secret Files

The secret files of the Dreyfus Affair are never made public nor shared with the defense. Some content is leaked opportunistically to the media.


Dreyfus is convicted multiple time based on secret letters, note, and fraudulent testimonies.

The files the DOJ and FBI collected from Fusion GPS and Steele form significant part of their applications for the FISA warrants. They are never made public and even today despite congressional and FOIA requests, they have not been released. Glenn Simpson lies/hides many dossier related details in his testimony.

Unknown Evidence and Sources

Sources, methods of acquisition, and most of the evidence against Dreyfus are withheld from the defense during all trials. Some of the case documents are not even available today.


The “secret dossier” from the Italian & German sources is entered into evidence but is withheld from the defense because of national security reasons. After the documents release, they are quickly flagged as forgeries.

Sources, methods of acquisition, and most of the evidence is withheld from congress and public due to national security reasons. When content is shared, it’s heavily redacted.


The dossier is key evidence in the FISA court application. The FBI and DOJ do not disclose to the court that the Clinton Campaign and DNC are funding the document and that its content has not been confirmed or verified.

Leaks and Friendly Media

The case is managed via steady leaks throughout the entire affair using Edouard Drumont, the publisher of La Libre Parole, and other friendly newspapers like Le Soir and Le Rire that maintained a constant virulent campaign against Dreyfus.



Many anti-Dreyfus newspaper editorials, pamphlets, and articles knowingly promote forged documents and false information.  

Steady leaks through the entire dossier project by Fusion GPS and Steele to Evan Perez from CNN, Michael Isikoff-Yahoo News, David Corn-Mother Jones, Ben Smith-NYT, Amber Phillips-WAPO, Luke Harding-The Guardian, David Cay Johnston, and Jane Mayer-New Yorker. Mayer writes a paid 15K word article defending Steele.


Fusion GPS pays reporters to publish Op eds, editorials, and investigative pieces.  Reports are fully aware that the dossier contains some outright false information.

Biased Investigators

The military appoints a special prosecutor that focuses all of his effort on Dreyfus. The decision to court-martial him is done despite knowing that he is innocent and could not be linked to the alleged crime.


In each subsequent trial and hearing the military appoints anti-Dreyfus prosecutors and judges. The judges selectively refuse exonerating evidence such as Esterhazy’s own confession and other evidence.

FBI officials leading the dossier investigation on the special counsel team send messages like: “I’m afraid we can’t take that risk of Trump becoming president” or “We do not want this election stolen from us.”


The DOJ and FBI know that Steele has a political agenda and “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.” Bruce Ohr hides his wife’s employment with Fusion GPS.

Expert Testimony

Alphonse Bertillon who testifies in the trial is not a handwriting expert. Instead of proving how the Bordereau matched Dreyfus’s writing he focuses on the techniques Dreyfus allegedly used to evade hand writing detection.


The French military’s high command vouches for Bertillon’s and other bogus witness credibility and rubber stamps their testimony.

FBI utilizes Steele’s briefs in the FISA application and in the subsequent collusion investigations citing Steele’s expertise. The DOJ and State Department vouches for Steele’s credentials.


Brannan, McCabe, Steele, Bruce Ohr, Winer, Kramer, Talbot, and the two Fusion GPS Russia experts, Baumgartner and Nellie Ohr vouch for the validity of the dossier and its sources.

Manipulation, Forgery, and Tampering with Evidence

The L’Eclair, publishes the letter from the secret file only seen by the judges during the 1894 trial but deliberately misquotes the line: “this scoundrel of D [Esterhazy]…” with “this scoundrel of Dreyfus“.


The Schwartzkoppen and Panizzardi personal communications are forged to show that they both knew Dreyfus.


Hubert-Joseph Henry and Lemercier-Picard forge the “le faux Henry”, a letter allegedly from the Italian Embassy to the German Attaché specifically naming Dreyfus as their contact. 

Strzok, who leads the Trump investigation from July 2016, destroys texts on his FBI issued phone to his mistress Lisa Page (another FBI attorney) that shows fierce hostility to Trump. Both use a private Gmail accounts to hide communications.


Strzok is removed from Mueller’s Special Counsel investigation after the Inspector General forensic team recovers Strzok’s and Page’s deleted texts.  FBI director Comey doesn’t disclose that Strzok found emails on Weiner’s laptop that contained classified Huma Abedin communications with Clinton. Deputy director McCabe lies under oath about his leaks to the media.


The anti-Dreyfus media is ridiculing all proofs of his innocence. They maintain that the Dreyfus supporters are bribed by a Jewish interest lobby known as “le Syndicat”. A common theme in anti-Dreyfus newspaper is that of Jewish ‘collusion’ against France.


The pro-Dreyfus camp claims a government conspiracy involving the army, government, and judiciary.  The anti-Dreyfus camp claims that a government conspiracy of such proportion is not feasible.

Media reports are referring to the “Trump Syndicate” and his links and support from the “New York and other wealthy Jews”.  There is a coordinated social media campaign that constantly repeats the dossier allegation of Russian ‘collusion’ against the US and the ‘DNC hacking’.


The anti-dossier camp claims “deep state” conspiracy involving the DOJ, FBI, Intelligence, and White House. The pro-dossier camp claims that a government conspiracy of such proportion is not feasible.

Collusion Between Officials

Esterhazy receives warning messages from Armand du Paty de Clam and letters from Hubert-Joseph Henry signed “Espérance” warning him to be more careful.


Trials do not follow any rules of evidence or discovery. The Army’s high command and judiciary forge papers and coordinate trial strategy and guilty verdicts. Picquart, a whistleblower on the case is first silenced and then jailed on charges of forgery.

FBI and DOJ internal communications discuss “insurance policies” and the need to be careful. DOJ and FBI are coordinating their activity with Fusion GPS and Steele utilizing secret channels.


Family, personal, and business relationships between key figures at the FBI, DOJ, State Department, and Fusion GPS. Winer, Jacoby, and Nuland promote Steele and the dossier in the US and abroad. Strzok is a colleague of Contreras, the FISC/Flyn’s Judge.

Official Coordination

Esterhazy meets Schwartzkoppen (his controller) on a regular basis. French counter intelligence is fully aware of these meetings.


Esterhazy meets Armond du Paty de Clam in secret at Parc Montsouris to coordinate their stories. de Clam promises to protect him as long as he doesn’t admit that he is the author of the Bordereau and a spy.


Esterhazy has multiple coordination meetings with the senior army officers that are designed coordinate testimony and to shield him from persecution.

Steele meets with Bruce Ohr from the DOJ to coordinate the dossier search topics. White House, FBI, and State Department are kept in the loop.


Steele meets secretly with the FBI in Rome to go over the dossier details prior to the FISA application. He also discusses it with senior officials at the US State Department and UK government.


Storzk the lead FBI dossier investigator privately discusses the case with U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras, who sits on the FISC court and presides over Flynn’s hearings.

Patriotic Motives

Nationalist author Charles Maurras writes a eulogy for Hubert-Joseph Henry, the man who produced most of the forgeries used to convict Dreyfus. He describes him posthumously as a “man of honor” who wrote a “patriotic forgery”.

Pro-dossier media like the Washington Post and New York Times are referring to Steele as an “American patriot” who deserves our thanks for trying to save the Republic. His motives are explained as attempts to protect US and UK national security.


Esterhazy is found not guilty by French court of any impropriety. He and his co-conspirator officers retire from the Army with full pensions and honors. After 3 guilty verdicts and 12 years in prison Dreyfus is never acquitted, but eventually gets a presidential pardon. Esterhazy is quietly relocated to England were he assumes the identity of Count Jean de Voilemont”. He works as a translator and a writer publishing pro-German articles.


in one of them, he confesses to being the author of the bordereau. Esterhazy travels once a month to the French embassy in London and collects his stipend until his death in 1923.

Steele receives over $200K in payment for the dossier and other unknown amounts for other FBI work. British court protects him from disclosing any details about his unverified sources on the grounds of the Official Secrets Act.

Despite criminal conduct, Bruce Ohr from the DOJ and Peter Strzok from the FBI keep their jobs and are merely reassigned. McCabe is fired after committing perjury. He collects over. $550K in crowd sourced contributions.


Nellie Ohr, Bruce’s wife, lands a job with Accenture as a Principal in their Cyber Security division where she uses some dossier materials in her presentations.

Just like its nineteen century French predecessor, the Trump dossier too had a powerful social and political impact in the US. Its content has dominated the news and has raised substantial questions about the rule of law, the political impartiality of senior federal career bureaucrats, and the true extent of the separation of powers in government.

Yaacov Apelbaum-Russia issues vs. Non-Russia issues
Russia vs. Non-Russia issues on MSNBC’s news coverage

Considering all of the dossier’s unusual aspects, I decided to take a little time and do a deeper dive on its structure and makeup. In this post, I’ll demonstrate how by using several readily available OSINT, video and entity analytics, network graphing, and writing style analysis tools, we can pinpoint the likely sources, methods, and the individuals involved in the creation and distribution of this document.

The Team
When Glenn Simpson testified on November 8th and 14th in front of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, he was vague and evasive about the makeup of the dossier team and said that he hired Steele, who then:

Use[d] his old contacts and farmed out other research to native Russian speakers who made phone calls on his behalf“.

Two of these “native Russian speakers” were subsequently identified as Nellie Ohr and Edward Baumgartner. But even after this revelation, there are still many unanswered questions about the makeup of the team. For example, what was the organizational structure of this network? How was the raw intelligence actually collected and transmitted? Or how was Steele, a British citizen, able to so quickly and effectively reach the top echelons of the US media outlets, State Department, DOJ, and FBI?

Before answering these and other questions, let’s first review the dossier team. Our Dramatis Personæ are:

Glenn Richard Simpson Co-founder of Fusion GPS.
Mary Barston Jacoby Contractor at Fusion GPS and wife of Co-founder Glenn Simpson.
Peter Fritsch Co-founder of Fusion GPS.
Neil King Jr. Principal at Fusion GPS.
Shailagh Murray Wife of Neil King and President Obama’s Senior Policy Adviser
Thomas Catan Co-founder at Fusion GPS.
Begoña Cortina Segurola Reporter and wife of Tom Catan.
Christopher Steele Co-founder Orbis Business Intelligence.
Chris Burrows Co-founder Orbis Business Intelligence.
Sir Andrew Wood Former British Ambassador to Russia and an Orbis contractor.
Luke Harding A Guardian Reporter and an Orbis contractor.
Edward Baumgartner Co-founder of Edward Austin. Employee of Orbis.
Nellie Hauke Ohr Russian Intelligence specialist and wife of Bruce Ohr.
Bruce Genesoke Ohr Associate Deputy Attorney General at the DOJ.
Jonathan Winer State Department special diplomatic envoy.
David Kramer State Department Assistant Secretary. Director at McCain Institute.
Strobe Talbott Former Deputy Secretary of State.
Cody Shearer Clinton Campaign Executive.
Lisa Holtyn Intelligence Adviser, DOJ Organized Crime Unit.
Scott Dworkin Co-Founder at The Democratic Coalition.
Perkins-Coie US Law firm representing the DNC and funding Fusion GPS.
Natalia Veselnitskya Russian attorney and a customer of Fusion GPS.
Stefan Halper Former White House advisor
Jonathan Clarke Former UK diplomat and the US representative of Hakluyt

Glenn Simpson
Simpson is the public face of Fusion GPS. He was the prime contact for Perkins-Coie, the Law firm that paid for the dossier on behalf of the DNC and the Clinton presidential campaign. Simpson controlled and managed dossier contractors like Nellie Ohr, Edward Baumgartner, and Chris Steele. From his own testimony he was the “architect of the research” and the first contributor to it. He graduated from George Washington University in 1986 with a degree in journalism. From 1989-1994 he worked as a reporter for Roll Call, where he met his wife Mary Jacoby and then at The Wall Street Journal 1995-2009.

Yaacov Apelbaum -  Simpson and Jacoby Roll Call 1994

Simpson also held a number of consulting and freelance investigative positions including one in 2004 with the International Assessment and Strategy Center (IASC).

Yaacov Apelbaum - International Assessment and Strategy Center About
The 2004 IASC website and Glenn Simpson’s profile

In 2010 Simpson, his wife Mary Jacoby, Peter Fritsch, and Benjamin Schmidt formed Bean LLC, and gave it the trade name Fusion GPS. Shortly afterwards, Neil King Jr. and Tom Catan joined the team.

Yaacov Apelbuam - Fusion GPS Founding Team
(from left to right) Glenn Simpson, Mary Jacoby, Peter Fritsch, Neil King, Tom Catan

According to the original Fusion GPS website (before its content was purged and replaced with a single generic paragraph):

“Fusion GPS brings to your project years of experience in collecting and sifting open source and proprietary intelligence”. They also claimed to have a global network of contacts and a proven record for accuracy and professionalism and having ahigh-level relationships in government and the media, legal, and policy communities.

The statement about having a “global network” of resources and “high-level relationships in government” is interesting because Steele makes this identical claim about his own company Orbis. Fusion GPS also prided itself on its team of experts who had special depth in matters of financial fraud and complex due diligence. Their value proposition was described as:

“Our work begins where routine surveys of public information leave off: we explore sources others overlook, as well as the complex human and cultural relationships crucial to investment decisions and performance”.

Fusion GPS 2011
Image 2:
Fusion GPS Website January 2011

Glenn Simpson Fusion GPS 2011 Peter Fritsch Fusion GPS 2011 Benjamin Schmidt Fusion GPS 2011
Fusion GPS original founder biographies

The Fusion GPS mission statement was:

Based in Washington, DC, Fusion also stands at the crossroads of the regulatory, policymaking and enforcement communities increasingly important to the sound allocation of capital. We know the people on the front lines of issues related to trade, technology, natural resources and security. Our specialists can provide support in matters of regulatory compliance, asset recovery and market intelligence.

We have the ability to present information in powerful products written by a team of specialists trained in producing material for some of the most discerning readers in the world, including the President of the United States and the readers of The Wall Street Journal.

It is clear from Fusion GPS’s own materials that in 2011 and onwards the company was already producing “products” in the form of commercial, financial, and political reports that were reaching the Oval Office and were being read by the president himself.

FusionGPS Website 2018
The Striped down version of the Fusion GPS website in 2018

Christopher David Steele
Steele is ‘officially’ the primary author of the dossier and a second contributor after Simpson. He graduated from Cambridge University in 1986 with a degree in Social and Political Sciences. While at college, he wrote for the student newspaper Varsity. Steele was recruited by MI6 directly following his graduation. From 1987 to 1989 he worked in London at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), then from 1990 to 1993 at the UK Embassy in Moscow. Steele returned to London in 1993 and was posted to Paris in 1998. In 1999 his cover was blown when a media leak disclosed the identity of 116 MI6 agents. In 2009, Steele, with his fellow MI6-retiree Chris Burrows and Nicholas Butcher, founded the private intelligence agency HL3299 Limited, which was afterwards renamed to Orbis Business Intelligence.

Yaacov Apelbaum - Steele and Burrows LinkedIn Profiles
Image 3:
Christopher Steele and Chris Burrows LinkedIn profiles

According to the Orbis website, the company draws on extensive experience at the boardroom level, in government, multilateral diplomacy, and international business to develop bespoke solutions for clients. In 2011 before the dossier affair blow up they were also promoting their influence operations capabilities which included functions such as:

  • Creating public opinion groundswells
  • Delivering targeted political media campaigns

Just like in the case of Fusion GPS, Orbis also claims to have a global network of senior associates which is made up of regional, industry and academic experts, as well as prominent government and business figures, their expertise and a closed network of contacts worldwide”.

Orbis Intelligence Website 2011
Orbis Business Intelligence Website in 2011

ORBIS Business Intelligence
Image 4:
The Orbis Business Intelligence Website 2018

The Orbis mission statement is:

“Our core strength is our ability to meld a high–level source network with a sophisticated investigative capability. We provide strategic advice, mount intelligence–gathering operations and conduct complex, often cross–border investigations.”

Orbis has a curious association with a number of companies, one of which is Grace Electronics Ltd. This 40 year old PC and laptop distributer (see below) also operates in a number of locations in the US and is associated with defense work.

Grace Electronics Ltd and Chris Steele

Grace’s employees seem to be somewhat secretive. Most don’t have visible portraits and are cryptic about their personal details. They’ve also invested some effort in scrubbing their on-line footprint.

Yaacov Apelbaum - Grace Electronics Ltd-1 Yaacov Apelbaum - Grace Electronics Ltd-3 Yaacov Apelbaum - Grace Electronics Ltd-2

The curious thing about the Grace/Orbis relationship is that Orbis’s now hidden ICANN registry lists one Alex Buckland aka Alexander B. an employee of Grace Electronics as the technical and administrative contact since 2009. According to Grace Electronics, they do not provide any web hosting support or site management services. The variation in Grace’s address (i.e. current vs. the one in Orbis’s domain registration) is due to their 2013 relocation to a new office which is about 6 miles from their old HQ.

Registrant: Orbis Business Intelligence Limited
Domain name: ORBISBI.COM
Administrative Contact: Alex Buckland
Technical Contact: Alex Buckland
Address: Crowthorne Enterprise Centre Old Wokingham Road Crowthorne,
Berkshire RG12 6AW GB
Phone:  +441344752626×0
Fax:       +441344777557

Yaacov Apelbaum -  Orbis and Alex Buckland Grace Electronics

Nellie Hauke Ohr
Ohr was the third contributor to the dossier. She earned a degree in history and Russian literature at Leningrad State University, Harvard, and Radcliff 19821983 and MA and PhD in history from Stanford 1986-1990. She taught history at Vassar College and after leaving that position in 1998, free-lanced and contracted for among others these government and commercial organizations:

  • Accenture – Principal Security Division
  • Fusion GPS – Analyst content Creator
  • Miklos Systems – Senior Analyst Mar 1, 2015 – Dec 2015
  • Plessas Experts Network – Analyst content Creator Oct 1 – 2013 Jan 21, 2015
  • Open-Source-Works – Senior Analyst Sep 1, 2008 – Sep 1, 2014
  • Mitre Corporation  – Linguist analyst Jan 1, 2000 – Dec 31, 2008
  • Vassar College – Assistant Professor, History Department Jan 1, 1990 – Dec 31, 1998

She worked in Russia during the 1990s and according to at least one source, had powerful political connections there. In her book Adventures in Russian Historical Research, Cathy Frierson writes: “Nellie encouraged me to call the Smolensk archive [the home of Russia’s historical state secrets] director, assuring me that he would welcome me.”

Yaacov Apelbaum - Nellie Ohr
Image 5:
Nellie Ohr

In 2017, after her position with Fusion GPS ended, Ohr landed a new gig not in Russian translation or analysis work but rather as a cybersecurity expert. Her new title was Principal at Accenture Security. In this capacity, she delivered a presentation during the ISO-ISAC Fall 2017 session entitled: “Ties Between Government Intelligence Services and Cyber Criminals – Closer Than You Think?”

Nellie Ohr Accenture
Nellie Ohr, Principal Accenture Security

Ohr’s presentation focused on enforcement activity in 2016-2017 and provided examples of how cyber threat actors were arrested, indicted, or identified in intelligence reports by US and European governments. She pointed out connections and ties between government intelligence services (such as the FSB) and cybercrime actors. She discussed the drivers and mechanisms between state and criminal cooperation and offered a case study that explored how seemingly ordinary cybercrime combined with strategic espionage.

Edward Emil Baumgartner
Baumgartner was the forth contributor to the dossier. He is a British/French national. He earned his BA in history from Vassar College in 1995 and an MA in Russian, Eastern European, and Central Asian Studies from Harvard in 2000.

Yaacov Apelbaum - Edward Baumgartner 2
Image 6:
Edward Baumgartner

Baumgartner Fusion GPS School
Baumgartner’s university track (source LinkedIn profile)

Baumgartner specializes in the Former Soviet Union (FSU). He started as an independent consultant in the FSU, focusing on research and business intelligence. From 2002 to 2005, he was a Russia consultant at a London-based public relations company. His clients included Russian and Ukrainian government-owned and private companies.

In 2008 Baumgartner founded the UK based political consultancy Baumgartner Limited. In 2010, together with Peat Austin Alexander, he cofounded the UK-based intelligence consulting firm Edward Austin.

The firm’s mission statement:

“With an established network spanning the FSU and beyond, Edward Austin serves clients in the private and public sectors worldwide. We are pan-FSU. Alongside extensive work in Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine – the region’s three main economies – we have completed numerous projects on the ground in the wider Central Asia region (Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan), the Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia), the Baltics (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), Belarus and Moldova. Reinforcing this is a global network of trusted partners, enabling us to undertake work across jurisdictions worldwide.”

Edward Austin and Chris Steele
Image 7:
Edward Austin Business Intelligence website

The Analysis: Methods and Tools
In the analysis of the dossier, I’ve used the following tools:

The Analysis: Data Sources
To build the network I’ve used the following publically available and accessible data sources:

  • Server and computer logs
  • Network scans and maps
  • Federal, state, media, and news archives
  • Email, forum, websites, blog, and message archives and backups
  • Car make, model, and LP reconstructed from commercially available imagery
  • Publically accessible IoT devices and cams
  • On-line Image and file depositaries
  • Social media postings by friends, neighbors, and family
  • LinkedIn profiles
  • Twitter Profiles
  • FB profiles
  • Corporate and court filings
  • Commercial BR sources

The Analysis: Data Processing
The total data storage was close to 7TB, the loading and processing time for the data was about 6 hours. I also spent about 2 hours writing scripts to FR, LPR, and OCR some of the PDFs and images before they could be loaded into the database. The operation was executed on a Dell PowerEdge R630 server with a 4 x 4TB array of SSD Intel P4500 Series drives, a quad Intel Xeon E5-4669 2.1GHz processor, and 32GB of RAM.

For the image processing I’ve used an object classifier to detect and track images such as social media avatars, gravatars, icons, and logos.

Martha Ohr FB Avatar     Grace Electronics Ltd. Logo     image_thumb3     Nellie-Hauke-Ohr-Shirt-Pattern_thumb
Examples of a Facebook Avatar, company logos, and patterns used in image object searches

In order to conduct face recognition (FR) on a person on interest (POI), I’ve digitized and reconstructed the portraits of all key dossier team member. These digital portraits where than used to perform recursive on-line searches to discover and catalog the identity of additional individual in the proximity of the POI.

Nellie Ohr FR-1 Nellie Ohr FR-2 Nellie Ohr FR-3      Bruce Ohr FR-1 Bruce Ohr FR-2  Bruce Ohr FR-3
Face digitization of Nellie and Bruce Ohr used in FR image searches and linkage

Bruce Ohr and Nellie Ohr SM FR matches
An example of FR matches for “Nellie+Bruce Ohr” and “Martha Ohr+EKM” with 2 node linkage

Nellie and Bruce Ohr FR and Pattern Matching
An example of a FR and Image pattern matches with 2 node linkage for “Nellie+Bruce Ohr”

Bruce Ohr Third degree linkage
An example of a three node FR and pattern match linkage graph results for “Nellie+Bruce Ohr”

Yaacov Apelbaum - Martha Ohr's and Martin's media Network Linkage
Martha Ohr’s (Pokémon avatar) linkage to over 40 news outlets, content creators, and reporters

Yaacov Apelbaum - Example of Martha Ohr's and Martin's Media Network Postings
Collusion and dossier related content created and distributed through Martha Ohr’s network

Mary Jacoby FR-1 Fusion GPS Mary Jacoby FR-2 Fusion GPS Mary Jacoby FR-3  Fusion GPS        Glenn Simpson FR-1  Fusion GPS  Glenn Simpson FR-2  Fusion GPS Glenn Simpson FR-3  Fusion GPS  Face digitization of Mary Jacoby and Glenn Simpson used in FR image searches and linkage

Yaacov Apelbaum - Mary Jacoby FR Matches
An examples of FR matches for Mary Jacoby in on-line image and media searches

Yaacov Apelbaum - FR Match on Simpson and Jacoby Roll Call 1994
An examples of FR matches for Glenn Simpson and Mary Jacoby in on-line media searches

Yaacov Apelbaum - Jacoby Identity verificaiton Imagery Match
Image Object Classifier used for entity enrichment (address verification) for Mary Jacoby

Yaacov Apelbaum - Grace Electronic Ltd Address Match
Image Object Classifier used for entity enrichment (address verification) for Grace Electronics Ltd.

In the post-data processing operation, I’ve used a number of scrubbing algorithms to match, rate, and score entity details such as: variation in name spelling, different home addresses, and multiple phone numbers in order to get the most accurate entity linkage. In the example below, the strongest relationships between two entities (Jacoby and Simpson) is determined by number of known linkage points.


Entity Name

Glenn R  Simpson


Glenn Richard Simpson


Mary Jacoby





Mary Simpson





Mary Barston Jacoby





Mary B Jacoby Simpson





Mary J Simpson





Mary G Simpson





Mary Jacoby Simpson




All entities were also crossed correlated with multiple public registries and databases such as sex offender, criminal, and civil records. As can be seen from the example below Glenn Simpson matched in multiple categories and jurisdictions.


Glenn Simpson Criminal Record



Public Swearing and Drunkenness



Date of offense








Court case


Driver License Match


Court date




Court disposition




Court level












Date of Offense








Court Case


License Plate Match


Court Date




Court Disposition




Court Level

Fine and points







Court Case


License Plate Match


Court Case

8101997CR 004383

License Plate Match

I’ve also taken into account the possibility that some of the entities did not want to be identified and were utilizing countermeasures like false portrait images, names, addresses, and fictitious registration in order to disguise their location and relationships. Any such linkage anomaly mismatch was flagged and verified manually. For example, Mary Jacoby who according to her professional profile is typically associated with:

Organization:  Fusion GPS, IASC, GIR, WSJ, Roll Call, Main Justice
Job category: Journalism, Investigative Reporting, and Media Production

generated an anomaly when her affiliation changed to:

Organization: Spring Hill College
Job category: Benefits Specialist Human Resources

Yaacov Apelbaum - Glenn Simpson detection countermeasure
An example of linkage anomaly detection (in red) showing that Glenn Simpson is creating fictitious personas on social media and via bogus professional registrations to evade detection in on-line searches (i.e. his new vocation is computer HW professional, mental health worker, admin at a bank, and an RV travel blogger).


Yaacov Apelbaum - Grace Electronics Ltd. Logo

Yaacov Apelbaum - Grace Electronics Ltd. Logo


Yaacov Apelbaum - Grace Electronics Ltd. Logo


Yateley United Kingdom





Grace Electronics Ltd.

sandy dias

Jan Neuendorf

Tim Hayes


distributes PCs, components, peripherals, and computer software to business customers. Its distribution portfolio includes cables, card readers, cases, coolers and fans, CPUs, enclosures and caddies, genius [sic] products, graphics cards, hard drives, keyboards, laptops and accessories, media products, desktop/flash/laptop memory products, mice, monitors, motherboards, wired/wireless networking equipment, optical products, PCs, peripherals, printers, PSUs, software products, and tablets, as well as sound cards, speakers, and headsets. The company sells products through its online store.

Aviation Technician

Engineering Management

Aviation Technician

An example of linkage anomaly detection (in red) showing profile and keyword mismatches between what Grace Electronics Ltd. claims to do and what it’s employees are actually doing.

Evan Perez CNN FR1 Yaacov Apelbaum - Evan Perez FR2 Yaacov Apelbaum - Evan Perez FR3
Face digitization of Evan Perez used in image searches and linkage

Yaacov Apelbaum - Evan Perez Fusion GPS FR
An examples of FR matches for Evan Perez in on-line image and media searches and linkage

Stefan Halper US Goverment Payment for Services
An example of identity confirmation using FR and OCR for Stefan Halper’s 2016-2017 US Government GSA payment record of $282K (of a total of over $400K) for “Special Studies/Analysis” services

Dr. Lezlee Brown Halper
An example of FR and Name mismatch anomaly detection for “Dr. Elizabeth Halper CEO of DHA-USA” and “Dr. Lezlee Brown Advisory Board member of DHA-USA”.  “Lezlee Brown” and “Lezlee Chadda” are two of several aliases used by Elizabeth Halper.

To determine the network graph of people, companies, and content (Image 8), I’ve used these seven entity relationships rules:

  1. Place and time affiliation
  2. Share the same professional, educational, family, or recreational circles
  3. Have a marital, teacher-student, parent-child, or employee-employer relationship
  4. Demonstrate a known public association (i.e. belong to the same social network)
  5. Communicate with each other via email, phone, text, blog comments, etc.
  6. Work for the same company or organization
  7. Confirm a relationship via a statement or testimony

I’ve limited the input/output to two degrees of separation between entities and organizations. However, I did use a three degrees of separation linkage several times in order to trace indirect relations between what on the surface appeared to be random groupings of individuals (e.g. the five person party listed with the same UID U99520 accompanying Mary Jacoby during her April 19 White House visit).

Yaacov Apelbaum - Trump Dossier Network Phone Log Analysis   Yaacov Apelbaum - Trump Dossier Network Persons Analysis
Image 8:
An examples of two user entity profiles results

The Dossier Network
The network graph analysis indicates that the fellowship of the dossier is a close-knit group; everyone knew each other long before embarking on the quest to find the alleged collusion. All of the project key player are related through marriage, family relations, and work affiliations. As can be seen in images 9-10, this team collaborated in various member configurations on many other ‘dossier projects’ and utilized the same collection methods, materials, resources, political links, and publication channels. Some of these affiliations go back more than 20 years.

Yaacov Apelbaum - The Trump Dossier Network
Image 9:
The Dossier Network

These relationships between the team members transcended their changing places of employment and job titles. The following is a short sampling of the dossier network linkage results:

Christopher Steele knew Sir Andrew Wood from his days at the UK Diplomatic Service since 1986. In 2013 Wood had a paid consulting gig with Orbis. Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6 promoted the Dossier in UK, Australian, Canadian, and US government circles was Steele’s boss in MI6. Steele knew and worked with Luke Harding from The Guardian since 1996, Harding also became an Orbis contractor after its establishment in 2009. Steele worked with Stefan Halper as early as 2005 and actively communicated with him about the dossier in early 2016. Steele know Jonathan Clarke from his days in MI6 and communicated and met him in the US in 2016. Steele and Burrows know and communicated with Joseph Mifsud since 2010. Edward Baumgartner has been working with Orbis since 2011.

Steele and Burrows had a long term working relationship with several other semi-active British foreign office individuals like, Charles Crawford, a former UK ambassador to South Africa, who was stationed with Steele in Moscow in 1993 and Raymond Asquith, a former British diplomat to Russia in 2009. Steele’s and Burrows’s professional network and email communications also includes multiple active and retired British intelligence officers like Nicholas Fishwick, the former director of PGI and Claire Smith, a member of the UK Joint Intelligence Committee. Steele met with Sir Richard Dearlove in person and communicated with him via email in regards to the dossier.

Stefan Halper Hakluyt and Chris Steele
Halper, Clarke, Downer, Sudak, Dearlove, Crawford, Lobban, MI6, LAD, and Hakluyt Linkage.

Burrows exchanged emails with Stefan Halper who consulted for Hakluyt & Co., a UK intelligence firm similar to Fusion GPS and Orbis Business Intelligence.

Received Header








Stef Halper <>


Fri, 27 October 2017 17:14:43 -0400




multipart/mixed; boundary=”———————8a8eec3c2c21558e9eb84a45907f9d6a”

To: <>





Baumgartner, Nellie Ohr, Bruce Ohr, and David Kramer are all Harvard alumni.  Nellie Ohr know Stefan Halper since at least 2000. Nellie Ohr also worked in the Mitre Corporation with Halper’s son Marin Halper.

Marin Halper and Nellie Ohr Mitre Corporation
Example of Linkage based on company logo, address and phone number for Stefan Halper, Marin Halper, and Nellie Ohr

Peter Fritsch, Nellie Ohr, and Baumgartner all attended Vassar College. Nellie Ohr and Baumgartner were together at the History department at Vassar between 1991-1995, where Baumgartner was Nellie Ohr’s student.

Tom Catan, knew and worked with Steele, Harding, Burrows, and Baumgartner since 2011.

Glenn Simpson and his wife Mary Jacoby knew Bruce and Nellie Ohr from their days at the International Assessment and Strategy Center as early as 2004. Simpson and Jacoby knew and worked with Stefan Halper at the WSJ. They also know Steele from their days at the WSJ going back to 2009.

Glenn Simpson’s wife, Mary Jaboby, founded Main Justice in 2009, a company specializing in paid corruption research and reporting. She is the Chief Executive at Fusion GPS since 2010. Jacoby also worked as a reporter for organizations such as GIR, and Law Business Research (who purchased Main Justice in 2015). While at Main Justice, she worked with Bruce Ohr and in fact nominated his FIFA investigation for the GIR Anti-Corruption award.

Yaacov Apelbaum - Mary Jacoby and Bruce Ohr FIFA Investigation

As can be gleaned from Main Justice’s mission statement below, Mary and her merry band of paid corruption fighters were assembling and selling opposition research and dossiers as early as 2009.

Main Justice and our subscription-only site, Just Anti-Corruption, services top law firms and corporate counsel, business leaders of Fortune 500 companies, U.S. Department of Justice, Securities and Exchange Commission, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund. It offers on-demand research tools, published analysis from leading practitioners, access to a preparatory searchable FCPA (The Foreign Corrupt Practice) database with links to public documents and associated news stories. We also provide profile guides,  high powered VIP networking events, and the highest insight and intelligence reports.

Just Anti-Corruption -- Graft, The FCPA and Compliance
While working in Main Justice, GIR, Law Business Research, and the WSJ, Jacoby cultivated a network of dozens of key Federal (FBI, SEC, and DOJ) executives that included notables such as Adam Hickey, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the DOJ who was familiar with the dossier and the FISA application and Andrew Weissmann, the Chief of the DOJ’s criminal fraud section, who is now working for Robert Mueller the Special Counsel investigating the alleged Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election.

Chris Lazzaro -   Yaacov Apelbaum - Andrew Weissmann DOJ and Mary Jacoby
Adam Hickey and Andrew Weissmann presenting in one of several GIR events

Jacoby also facilitated special recognition awards for individuals such as Leila Babaeva, a Russian speaking attorney who is working at the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act unit in the DOJ.

Yaacov Apelbaum - 2015 GIR Awards FR Overview
Mary Jacoby, Leila Babaeva, and Kathryn Cameron Atkinson at the 2015 GIR Awards

Jacoby knew and worked with Christopher Steele, Nellie Ohr, Peter Strzok and his wife Melissa Hodgman, the Associate Director in SEC Enforcement Division, Peter Fritsch, Neil King Jr. and his wife Shailagh Murray, David Kramer, Jonathan Winer, and Sidney Blumenthal who worked with her at Salon in 2004.

Sidney Blumenthal’s network is especially noteworthy because his email address book contains many of the dossier characters including Jacoby’s, Simpson, Winer, and others. It also contains most of the journalist involved in the dossier coverage.  For example the reporter count includes:


News Outlet

Number of reporters Blumenthal communicated with



2 New Yorker 16


New York Times



Washington Post


On April 19, 2016, two months before the content of the dossier was leaked to the media, Jacoby spent a few hours in the White House in the company of the following five seemingly non related individuals:




Relevant Relatives


Scott C. Auerbach


Wife –  Former Miami New Times Editor
2 Ian G. Bregg Researcher Wife –  An Attorney


Bower L. Amy




Mary C. Jacoby


Husband – Co founder of Fusion GPS


Laura K. Kwedar (Minch)


Husband – An Attorney with Koch Institute


Eileen T. Zamkov

State Department


A second degree linkage analysis revealed that despite what appears to be a random group of tourists, these six individuals were in fact related to the dossier team through:

  • Involvement in the Clinton Campaign
  • Direct contact with the core and auxiliary Fusion GPS team via email communications 
  • Work at the State Department
  • Participation in news production and reporting
  • Various types of legal services

It is noteworthy that all of the six members of this group’s home and office address are clustered within 4 miles of each other, (see below), and that most attempted to scrub (not always successfully) their online presence and 2016 SM activity. Another interesting observation is that in two cases, it is the spouse of the individual on the list that was the link to the dossier team.

Yaacov Apelbaum-Mary Jacoby Visit to White House

Yaacov Apelbaum - Mary Jacoby 6 White House Visitor Addresses

In 2007, Simpson and his wife, Mary, authored an article entitled: “How Lobbyists Help Ex-Soviets Woo Washington”. The piece alleged that prominent Republican politicians provided US business access to Kremlin-affiliated oligarchs and other friends of Putin. One such friend was Viktor Yanukovich who become president of Ukraine in 2010. According to the article, Yanukovich’s facilitator in the US was Paul Manafort. Manafort figures prominently throughout the article and later in the dossier.

Jonathan Winer from the State Department knew Steele from mid-2000s. Winer also knew and worked with Glenn Simpson and Douglas Farah, his partner at the IASC in 2004. Winer and Farah even cross endorsed each other on their LinkedIn profiles.

Yaacov Apelbaum - Glenn Simpson-Douglas Farah-Jonathan Winer  Yaacov Apelbaum - Jonathan Winer
Jonathan Winer and Glenn Simpson and Douglas Farah linkage

Nellie Ohr, Peter Fritsch, and Jonathan Clarke knew each other from the Wilson Center.

Neil King Jr. from Fusion GPS is married to Shailagh Murray who was President Obama’s Senior Policy Advisor. She was also Joe Biden’s Deputy-Chief-of-Staff. King and Murray knew Steele, Kramer, Winer, and the Ohrs going back to the mid-2000s.

In 2010, several of the members of the future dossier team participated in a workshop dedicated to “Racketeering in Russia”. The event was hosted by the National Institute of Justice and featured among others:

Glenn Simpson – Senior Fellow International Assessment and Strategy Center
Nellie Ohr – Researcher Open Source Works
Bruce Ohr – Chief Organized Crime and Racketeering Section Criminal Division DOJ
Lisa Holtyn – Intelligence Advisor Organized Crime and Racketeering (who hosted Bruce Ohr multiple times at the White House)

In 2012, Steele did some work for the US state department and was in communication with Winer and the Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland. This was done directly and through Sir Andrew Wood, who was the former British Ambassador to Russia and an employee of Orbis. Steele’s work included the production of over 100 reports on the Ukraine-Russia conflict. These reports were based on information from UK and Ukrainian government sources and contained political and financial data about Russian companies that was shared with Bruce Ohr from the DOJ. Subsequently, it was Nuland who ultimately approved and facilitated Steele’s meetings with FBI’s special agent Michael Gaeta in London and Rome.

FBI Agent Michael Gaeta and Chris Steele
FBI Special Agent Michael Gaeta Attaché at the US Embassy in Rome

When questioned about Steele’s relationship with Winer, Nuland said:

During the Ukraine crisis in 2014-15, Chris Steele had a number of commercial clients who were asking him for reports on what was going on in Russia, what was going on in Ukraine, what was going on between them. Chris had a friend [Jonathan Winer] at the State Department and he offered us that reporting free so that we could also benefit from it.”

Victoria Nuland on the Trump Dossier
Victoria Nuland on the Steele reports and dossier

Steele’s information didn’t only flow in one direction. In January 2016 before the dossier project kicked-into-gear, Winer and Strobe Talbott were sharing with Steele via Orbis’s Canada hosted servers and email system documents authored by Cody Shearer, who was working on a ‘second Trump-Russia dossier’.

Strobe Talbott is Cody Shearer’s brother in law and was Cody’s brother Derek roommate in Yale. Talbott is a Russian expert who served as Deputy Secretary of State in the Clinton Administration. Talbott knew and worked with Steele as early as 2006.

Nellie Ohr’s relationship with Steele goes back to the early-2000s or even earlier. Bruce Ohr’s relationship with Steele began long before Trump’s presidential bid. It goes back to Steele’s 2009 FIFA corruption investigation. Bruce was then chief of the Organized Crime and Racketeering section in the DOJ, which had a keen interest in the early stages of the case. Steele also worked directly with FBI’s special Agent Michael Gaeta, who supervised the FIFA investigation and who he would in meet again in Roma and in London on July 5th 2016 to discuss the dossier.

Yaacov Apelbaum-Trump Dossier Graph
Image 10:
A 45 percent of the dossier relationship entities

So is it reasonable to assume that all of these relationships are coincidental and irrelevant? Ian Fleming, a naval intelligence officer and the creator of James Bond, contemplated the problem of coincidental relationships and came up with the answer in his maxim:

Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action. 

The Great Dossier Authorship Debate
The House Intelligence Committee’s hearings on November 2017 attempted among other things to answer the dossier authorship question. Simpson testified that Steele used his old contacts and farmed out other research to native Russian speakers who made phone calls on his behalf. In the hearing transcripts, Simpson comes through as being evasive and ambiguous; he hemmed and hawed a lot and had problems remembering and recalling details. Despite his fogginess, however, he was crystal clear about Steele being the author of the documents.

From Simpson’s testimony, we also know that while contracting for Fusion GPS in mid-2016 Edward Baumgartner was working on these two projects:

  • Russian government lobbying effort to overturn the Magniseky Act. This case revolved around one Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian whistleblowing tax accountant, working for Hermitage Capital who outed some Russian officials for fraud. He was arrested and detained without trial for a year until he finally died in prison in 2009. When his family examined his body, they found evidence that he was beaten to death while in custody. Then-president Medvedev’s investigative committee report sided with the family.
  • The Prevezon project which helped the Russian government-owned company Prevezon defend itself against a US government charge alleging a 230 million dollar money laundering scheme

During the Prevezon and Magniseky contracts which ran through October 2016, Baumgartner was the lead writer and researcher working closely in Russia and Ukraine. In his testimony, Simpson identified Baumgartner as a contributor to the dossier:

Foster: And what type of work did Mr. Baumgartner undertake for Fusion?

Simpson: Discovery mostly, helping locate witnesses. He speaks Russian. So he would work with the lawyers on gathering Russian language documents, gathering Russian language media reports, talking to witnesses who speak Russian, that sort of thing. He may have dealt with the press.  I just don’t remember.

Foster: So was Mr. Baumgartner also working on opposition research for Candidate Trump?

Simpson: At some point, I think probably after the end of the Prevezon case we asked him to help with I think — my specific recollection is he worked on specific issues involving Paul Manafort and Ukraine.

Somewhat surprising is Baumgartner’s denial of Simpson’s statement that he did work on the dossier. Specifically:

“I was helping them [Fusion GPS] on this other project, which was unrelated, and they mentioned it to me in July 2016, I was never made aware of Chris Steele’s work or the dossier, and it was kept that way deliberately. I would have had nothing to add, anyway. I produce memos based on information that is in the public record that can be given to the feds or shared with journalists.

But then in a contradictory statement, Baumgartner said that he produced memos that could be given to the Feds. We now know that the only memos given to the Feds (DOJ and FBI) by Steele and Fusion GPS were the dossier documents.

The third contributor, Nellie Ohr, was another Russian intelligence analyst working for Fusion GPS and Steele. She has not been deposed nor has voluntarily offered any insight into her role in the writing process so it’s difficult to ascertain the exact part she played. Not surprisingly, when questioned, Simpson didn’t mention her. However, from a recent House Intelligence Committee memo, it’s clear that Nellie Ohr was in fact “employed by Fusion GPS to assist in the cultivation of opposition research on Trump”. The memo adds that Bruce Ohr “later provided the FBI with all of his wife’s opposition research.”

Asked by intelligence panel staff if he verified Steele’s “sources in Russia” or corroborated their information, Simpson said he’d never been to Russia himself and couldn’t “evaluate the credibility of someone on the other side of the [Atlantic]”, nor could he confirm that Steele actually spoke directly with any of his Russian sources.

A private company like Orbis (unless it’s a front for SIS) lacks the means to properly vet foreign intelligence sources let alone vet the source’s information. But that didn’t create any doubt in Simpson’s and Jacoby’s minds—both former investigative reporters for the WSJ. Simpsons said that he completely deferred to Steele’s expertise and did not question his findings because of his “sterling reputation”.

The sterling reputation he was referring to was Steele’s work on the FIFA corruption case. According to Steele, he provided investigative services and intelligence to the Interpol, DOJ, and FBI which resulted in the arrest and prosecution of a number of FIFA officials. The problem with this case’s sources and methods is the same as with the dossier initiative.

The whole FIFA case revolved around England’s hope to host either the 2018 or 2022 World Cup, but FIFA awarded those tournaments to Russia and Qatar. Steele was then ‘hired’ in 2009 by England’s Football Association to investigate allegations of corruption by FIFA. In 2015, the DOJ indicted a number FIFA affiliated individuals. Interestingly, the DOJ did not charge anyone at FIFA with bribery because US federal bribery laws cover only payments to government officials. Bruce Ohr’s team, instead alleged racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracies.

Steele didn’t perform any hands-on investigative work on the FIFA case himself. From the documentary evidence, a few of his contacts in MI5, MI6, and Scotland Yard shared with him some of the SIGINT, HUMINT, and FININT intercepts. He then repackaged the data and passed the file to the DOJ, FBI, and Interpol all the while collecting a lot in service fees. The dossier initiative was also no altruistic act. Steele received over $270K for his 35-page report.

The Dossier Structure
The dossier is 35 pages long and has the following layout and structure (see the sample from page 13 below):

  • Company intelligence report number date/running total
  • Report subheading “Russia/USA Growing Backlash in Kremlin…”
  • Summary of report usually in bullet point format (the raw intelligence)
  • Detailed discussion of summary points with citation of sources

Yaacov Apelbaum - Steele Dossier Sample Page
Image 11:
Dossier sample report

The dossier reports are not sequential and are spaced unevenly. It is also unclear if the report numbering applies to the dossier or if it’s a running total of all the reports produced by Orbis for that time frame. As can be seen from the table below, the reports also contain formatting problems and data entry errors which suggests some haste and carelessness in their preparation.

   Report # Report Title    Report Date







For example, the first company intelligence report # 80 is dated 20-June-2016; then the dossier jumps to report # 86. There are data entry mistakes in some of the dates, for example, report # 86 is dated 2015, report # 95 has a missing date. There are also logical sequence problems with report numbers vs. dates. For example, report # 86 is dated 20-Jul-15 even if we assume that 2105 is a typo and it should have been 2016, report # 94 comes two reports after it but its dated 19-Jul-2016. 

Trump dossier report number distribution

The reports production schedule and volume is also problematic. As can gleaned from the above graph, the report numbers between Oct-16th to Dec-16th 2016 spike from 135 to 166. This is an anomaly (red trend line) and could indicate that Steele is gaming the numbers in order to show high production volumes.

A Vast Shadow Army of Sources
Simpson pimped Steele as a real-life James Bond with deep connections inside the Kremlin and because of this, he didn’t have to corroborate any of his reports. But Steele—his previous contacts in Russia now long gone—had to rely on others like Ohr, Baumgartner, and Ukrainian sources to generate his so-called ‘raw intelligence’.

When Simpson was asked how Steele procured the intelligence he said:

I don’t know. I think there’s been a little bit of confusion I would like to clear up. Some people were saying that he was paying people for information. I don’t know whether he does or not, but that’s not basically how I understand field operations to work. You commission people to gather information for you rather than sort of paying someone for a document or to sit for an interview or something like that. That’s not how I understand it works.

Considering the fact the Simpson paid Steele about $160K (according to Orbis’s income statement it was over $270K) for the information, it is a somewhat puzzling that he didn’t’ bother getting the specifics. But luckily for us, Steele was kind enough to share his methods with The New Yorker. It consisted of the following process:

Orbis employs dozens of confidential “collectors” around the world whom it pays as contractors. Some of these collectors are private investigators; others are investigative reporters or highly placed experts in strategic positions. Depending on the task and the length of project, the fee for a collector can be as high as two thousand dollars per day. The collectors harvest intelligence from a larger network of unpaid sources, some of whom don’t even realize they are being treated as informants. These sources occasionally receive favors—such as help in getting their children into Western schools—but money doesn’t change hands because it could violate laws against bribing government officials or insider trading.

So in other words, Orbis has a “large network” of highly placed government informants in Russia, that don’t know that they are informants—and none of them gets paid for the classified information. This begs the question of what is the incentive of all for these FSB, Kremlin, and Russian Foreign Ministry personal to share deep state secrets with Steele.

This business model also raises some serious questions. Assuming that by “Western schools” Steele means Ivy League and not your average local community collage and that his secret compensation formula is:

‘High value intelligence’ = ‘Getting the source’s child into a Western school’ 

Than how is Steele able to perform this magic with the university admissions office? Is it plausible that Orbis is bribing admission committee members in Cambridge University? And who pays for these students’ tuition, room, and board? The cost of attending a school like Cambridge university for an international student is over $60k per year. How can an FSB source who draws a $10K per year salary possibly afford it? And what about the FSB’s counter intelligence team? Wouldn’t they have a few questions for their fellow employees regarding their children’s attendance at western Ivy League schools?

According to the dossier, it is sourced from about 34 valuable, trusted, and highly placed assets such as:

  1. A senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure
  2. A former top Russian intelligence officer
  3. Several knowledgeable FSB sources
  4. A trusted compatriot (there are references to at least 5 of these)
  5. A former top level Russian intelligence officer who is still active inside the Kremlin
  6. A senior Russian financial official
  7. A close associate of Trump
  8. Source E (redacted)
  9. A female staffer at the Ritz Carlton hotel
  10. An ethnic Russian operative connected to the Ritz Carlton hotel
  11. A senior Kremlin official
  12. A Russian IT specialist with direct knowledge of FSB operations
  13. A senior Russian government figure
  14. An ethnic Russian who is a close associate of Trump
  15. A separate source with direct knowledge of Trump’s investment in Russia
  16. A Russian source close to Rosneft President
  17. An official close to Presidential Administration Head Sergei Ivanov
  18. A Kremlin official close to Sergei IVANOV
  19. A trusted associate of a Russian émigré
  20. Two well-placed and established Kremlin sources
  21. A source close to premier Dmitriy Medvedev
  22. A close colleague (of Steele)
  23. A Kremlin official involved in US relations
  24. A Kremlin insider
  25. A Kremlin advisor
  26. A well-placed Russian figure
  27. An American political figure associated with TRUMP
  28. A senior member of the Russian Presidential Administration (PA)
  29. A senior Russian MFA official
  30. Top level Russian official
  31. Two knowledgeable St Petersburg sources
  32. A senior Russian leadership figure
  33. A Russian Foreign Ministry official
  34. Igor Sechin’s close associate

If this list of assets is genuine and so is the chain of acquisition, than Steele somehow succeeded in building a collection network in Russia that rivals any national intelligence agency. This is a pretty impressive feat for someone who left Russia in 1993 and had his cover blown in 1999.

Steele’s claims of access to top political and security resources in Russia also makes one wonder why would MI5 and MI6 tolerate a private firm like Orbis and Hakluyt actively engaging in espionage against Russia from British soil. Is it plausible that the British security services just didn’t know that smack dab in the middle of London and just a skip and a jump 300 feet from Buckingham Palace, Dr. Evil and his army of mini-me’s were in a castle at Grosvenor Gardens remotely controlling legions of deep Russian assets and aggressively plotting against a US presidential candidate?

Yaacov Apelbaum - ORBIS 9-11 Grosvenor Gardens, London

Yaacov Apelbaum - Orbis vs. MI6 HQ
Image 12:
Orbis Business Intelligence building location in London

Simpson, Steele’s handler, was asked by Congressman Trey Gowdy during the House Intelligence Committee’s November 14 Hearing, (see excerpt below), if Steele had gone “to Russia as part of this project,” to which Simpson replied: “No, sir.” at the time he compiled the dossier, Steele hadn’t been back to Russia in 17 years. Gowdy then asked him:

Gowdy:How was he able to accumulate information in Russia if he didn’t go?”

Simpson: “… and generally, you have a network of sources who live in or came from the place that you’re interested in. So, you know, generally speaking, you would have –you would run a network of sub-sources or subcontractors who travel around and gather information for you. And so without getting into who his sources are, I can say generally, he hires people who can travel and talk to people and find out what’s going on”.

On the possibility that he was just fed a steady diet of dezinformatsiya, according to Steele’s own words that was unlikely because:

“Disinformation is an issue in my profession, it is a central concern, and we are trained to spot disinformation, and if I believed this [the dossier] was disinformation, or I had concerns about that, I would tell you [Fusion GPS] that. And I’m not telling you that. I’m telling you that I don’t believe this [the dossier] is disinformation.”

So what Steele is saying here is essentially: ‘I am a wise old British gentleman spy, I was trained at the Hogwarts School of spy Wizardry, and you can trust everything I’m telling you.’

This is laughable! Vetting sources is a critical part of the evaluation and reliability of intelligence. It’s such an essential part of the craft that no decisions about the information can be made without it. Given the poor quality of his raw intelligence, Steele’s lack of concern for the possibility that he was being fed disinformation is alarming.

Finding one highly placed and reliable Russian source with access to such explosive materials would be equivalent to hitting a multi-million dollar jackpot. To have thirty four such consecutive winning tickets is beyond any probability.

The Media Blitz and the Tradecraft
While still in the early stages of his clandestine dossier project, Steele and Fusion GPS launched a coordinated media blitz to publish the briefs. Steele was sharing the details with a handful of DOJ, FBI, State Department, and other political figures such as Kramer and his friend Winer, who even endorsed him on LinkedIn.

Chris Steele LinkedIn Profile
Chris Steele LinkedIn Endorsement by Winer

Steele and Simpson were also regularly briefing reporters from The New York Times, The Washington Post, Yahoo! News, MSNBC, The New Yorker, and CNN.

Many of the reports betray source information. For example:

Speaking in July 2016, a Russian source close to Rosneft President confided the details of a recent secret meeting between him and…Carter PAGE”.

In March 2017, after Steele started getting negative media coverage, Orbis came out with the following media release:

Orbis Business Intelligence has an established track record of providing strategic intelligence, forensic investigation and risk consulting services to a broad client base.  The nature of our business, and our high standards of professionalism dictate that we would not disclose to the public information on any specific aspects of our work.

This is an almost identical copy of Hakluyt’s statement: We don’t ever talk about anything we do…

Reading this statement, it’s difficult to reconcile Steele’s professed discretion and the vow to “not disclose to the public information on any specific aspects of our work” with the fact that he is a serial leaker.

Even if we assume that Steele didn’t intentionally plan to burn his sources, leaking such details to the media shows total lack of craft.

In December 2016, when the story about the mysterious death of Oleg Erovinkin came out, Simpson attempted to leverage it to shut down questions about Steele’s sources and methods. He was hinting that Erovinkin, a former general in the FSB, was one of Steele’s deep sources. A number of other individuals within Steele’s and Fusion GPS’s circles were also aggressively promoting this narrative. In one example, Scott Dworkin, the head of DNC’s opposition research group the ‘Democratic Coalition’ tweeted:

Scott Dworkin Trump Dossier

In another example, Luke Harding, who worked for Orbis and was one of Steele’s collectors in Russia until he was expelled from there in 2011, in his book, Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win  wrote:

“A person close to Steele admitted that in the wake of the dossier the Kremlin did appear to be wiping out some kind of American or Western espionage network.”

So in the unlikely case that the Russians were now eliminating Steele’s assets, then the death of these people can be blamed squarely on his ongoing whirlwind dossier media tour and his criminal negligence.

Typos and Errors
The report contains a number of errors and inaccuracies that should have been caught and corrected at the final copyedit before publication, after all, Simpson, Jacoby, Steele, Ohr, and Baumgartner earn their living writing. You would certainly expect that one of them would read and clean up the document before it was distributed.

The errors in the briefs include the consistent misspelling of names like the “Alfa Group” with “Alpha Group” which betrays the fact that the writer is not versed in the material he is writing about. This could alternatively be written off as gangsta Ali-G style spelling, but it’s odd that someone like Steele who was raised on the Queens’s English is going to adopt this style of writing in an official intelligence report. It may also be of some relevance that Dworkin uses the same Alpha/Alfa alternate spelling in his publications.

What Language was the Report Written in?
It’s clear from the grammar, punctuation, spelling, idioms, and sentence structure that the report is suffering from some serious English language deficiencies. It is filled with sentences like:

Russians meanwhile keen to cool situation”, or “Educated US youth to be targeted as protest…

Many dossier apologists point out that this is because the raw intelligence came from some ‘Vlad’ who ‘don’t speaka de English’. This is also one of the leading arguments in favor of the authenticity of the intelligence. After all, would you expect perfectly written British English prose from an FSB source? It’s hard to buy this argument. It has the hallmarks of a false flag operation written all over it. Steele doesn’t speak fluent Russian nor for that matter does he even read or write Russian. So, these notes could not have been the transcribed recordings or the transcripts of his conversations/communications with his sources.

According to Simpson, Steele: “… farmed out other research to native Russian speakers who made phone calls on his behalf“. So he wasn’t personally conducting the debriefings of his assets; some other Russian speaker conducted the interviews and/or translated the written intel into English. The only other plausible members of the dossier team to be able to do this were Ohr and Baumgartner. Simpson confirmed that Baumgartner’s job for Fusion GPS was the translation of Russian language documents, writing reports, and interviewing assets who speak Russian. He said:

“So we retained Ed to—originally in the Prevezon case—to do some interviews in Moscow, I think, and retrieve some records from Russia. And other Russian language-related tasks.”

Baumgartner and Ohr are native English speakers with advanced degrees from Ivy League schools. So if they wrote down the bulk of the raw intelligence, then why did they dumb down their writing style and forget how to form proper English sentences? After all, Baumgartner prides himself on his flawless spoken Russian and touts his firm’s translation services:

“Several blue-chip corporate names in the region retain Edward Austin to write, translate and edit their press releases, presentations and other corporate material.”

Ohr also practically lived in the Lenin Library and the Smolensk archive for several years reading and translating documents in Russian. She also made a name for herself as a book reviewer writing in perfect English.

Finally, assuming that the ‘raw intelligence’ came from some Slavic sources, was it received in Ukrainian or Russian? We can’t determine this with certainty because the translation into English destroyed the fine nuances of these two similar languages. Or perhaps, it was written in British English in the first place and then rewritten in a ‘Russian style’ to make it look more authentic?

VC Funding and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion
It is interesting that the dossier contains a significant amount of non-political and business-related activity. There is also a generous amount of emphasis on cyber warfare and cyber crime. Neither of these subjects has much to do with the stated objectives of the original research of gathering information about “links between Russia and [then-presidential candidate] Donald Trump”.

Russian involvement in cyber-related crime is also old news. Russian, Ukrainian, and other FSU based botnets that distribute malware have been operating at full capacity since the mid-2000s. With some of the more significant players having known government affiliations.

Why then the sudden increase in Russian cyber warfare related chatter in the dossier? The reason could be that someone asked Steele to include this material in order to address the DNC internal email leak which was published in June-July 2016.

An illustration for this somewhat irrelevant cyber crime-related material can be found in report 86 dated 26 July 2016. Under item 3 we find the following paragraph:

In terms of the FSB’s recruitment of capable cyber operatives to carry out its, ideally deniable, offensive cyber operations, a Russian IT specialist with direct knowledge reported in June 2016 that this was often done using coercion and blackmail. In terms of ‘foreign’ agents, the FSB was approaching US citizens of Russian (Jewish) origin on business trips to Russia. In one case a US citizen of Russian ethnicity had been visiting Moscow to attract investors in his new information technology program. The FSB clearly knew this and had offered to provide seed capital to this person in return for them being able to access and modify his IP, with a view to targeting priority foreign targets by planting a Trojan virus in the software. The US visitor was told this was common practice. The FSB also had implied significant operational success as a result of installing cheap Russian IT games containing their own malware unwittingly by targets on their PCs and other platforms.

I don’t know what the term “IT Specialist” means in Steele’s world of rent-a-spy, but for most of us in the field it describes individuals who use their technical expertise to implement, monitor, or maintain IT systems. Even if this IT Specialist was working for the FSB, IT staff in any intelligence organization is usually not privy to case files and sources and methods used to recruit agents. It doesn’t take much imagination to cross-reference Steele’s fictitious “IT Specialist” to Snowden and his fantastic exploits. In fact, Snowden describes an almost identical story where allegedly coercion and blackmail were used to turn a Swiss banker into an informant.

As for the term “with direct knowledge”, does he mean that this IT Specialist claimed to have participated in one of these offensive cyber operations and willingly shared this information with one of Steele interviewers?

The same goes for the proposition that an “IT Specialist” would have firsthand knowledge of the FSB’s playbook for recruitment of US citizens of (Jewish) Russian origin. The whole premise that the FSB is targeting US Jews because they are greedy and would flip for a price sounds like it was taken from Borat in the nest of the Jews or the protocols. It reeks of institutionalized anti-Semitism which could have been planted in the report deliberately to generate reader outrage.

Apparently, this allegation didn’t originate from one of Steele’s FSB sources. It can be traced directly to Glenn Simpson through his testimony during the House Intelligence Committee hearing,  where he stated:

[Simpson] The Mossad, was my  source for the belief that Russian intelligence has been operating through the Jewish Orthodox Chabad movement, and the Russian Orthodox Church. The Orthodox church is also an arm of the Russian State now… the Mossad guys used to tell me about how the Russians were laundering money through the Orthodox church in Israel, and that it was intelligence operations.”

Steele also seems to be conflating multiple Russian intelligence services under the FSB. The FSB is the Russian equivalent of the FBI and is responsible for domestic security, they typically don’t recruit and mange foreign agents. The actual Russian intelligence agencies responsible for conducting wide scale foreign surveillance and cyber operations are the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU).

Another noteworthy observation is the general vagueness of the cyber section and the writer’s poor understanding of computer and software terminology in frequently confusing terms like IP (intellectual property) with a code base and Trojans with Viruses.

Besides, whoever wrote this section needs to make up his/her mind about which attack vector is it. A trojan? virus? Or cheap Russian IT games (probably meant to say ‘IT Utilities’ like rogue anti-virus) infected with malware.

To illustrate the FSB’s ’recruitment’ method, Steele tells us about a US citizen who travels to Russia hoping to attract investors in his “information technology program”. What does that even mean?  Is he talking about an executive of a US startup that is looking for seed money in Russia?  If so, the proposition is ridiculous; anyone that has ever tried to raise capital in a startup knows that because of IP and regulatory constraints, the funding source is always country specific. Also, the idea that a US executive running a US-based software company would willingly allow the FSB to plant a virus in his software is laughable and shows a childish understanding of cyber warfare practices. You don’t have to be a genius to know that when he is caught—the question is when, not if—the company would be destroyed and he would be looking at massive personal civil penalties and a very long jail sentence…not to mention the likelihood that as part of his plea bargain he would sing like a canary implicating the FSB in a crime.

Recycled Content
In 2013, Bruce Ohr acting as the Assistant Deputy Director at DOJ participated in the third St. Petersburg International Legal Forum. He was a speaker at a session titled “Criminal Matters and Allegations of Crimes in International Arbitration”, a topic connected to the Magnitsky Act. It’s interesting that his lecture included many of the components of the yet-to-be dossier’s: “money laundering operations”, “payment of large bribes and kickbacks”, “forged documents”, and “collusive schemes”.

Bruce Ohr St. Petersburg 2013
Image 13:
Bruce Ohr 2013 St. Petersburg talk

It may also be of interest that many of the dossier’s cybersecurity allegations such as the ties between the Russian government intelligence services and cybercrime actors and the drivers and mechanisms between state and criminal cooperation are repeated almost verbatim in Nellie Ohr’s Accenture Security presentation that she delivered almost a year after the dossier came out in the FS-ISAC 2017 Summit.

The case study in her presentation explored how seemingly for profit Romanian and Bulgarian hackers combined with strategic Russian espionage initiatives. Her case study mirrors dossier report #166.

Yaacov Apelbaum - Nellie Ohr 2017 FS-ISAC Presentation
Image 14:
Nallie Ohr’s presentation to the FS-ISAC 2017 Fall Summit

Nellie’s 2017 presentation was itself recycled almost verbatim from the 2010 symposium hosted by the National Institute of Justice in Russia. The subject of that event was: Legal Racketeering in Russia and National Security Issues. The talk raised these questions:

How are international criminal organizations attempting to co-opt the state to suit its interests? How are states attempting to use international criminal organizations to advance their interests? How does international organized crime present itself as a national security threat to different types of countries? How do links to other malevolent actors, like terrorist or insurgent groups, manifest themselves and factor into the previous questions? 

So it seems that the Ohrs have been cannibalizing and presenting this “raw intelligence” for several years from DOJ, FBI, and other agency sources long before it made it into the dossier.

Source Credibility and Verifiability
The context of a source is an important part of all intelligence reports. It describes in greater detail  the circumstances under which the source acquired the intelligence, the source’s reporting history, and other pertinent details such as source’s credibility (i.e. his past success and failure). None of Steele’s briefs contain this information. It seems that all of his sources have the same monolithic credibility and the method of obtaining the intelligence is always shrouded in obscurity.

Every source has credibility ranging from ‘Pathological Liar’ to the ‘Word of God’. All intelligence organizations have grading systems for source credibility. Credibility is also a subtle thing that depends on many constantly changing factors. The Key tradecraft for any case officer is the ability to constantly evaluate and determine the credibility of his sources. One of the glaring problems with Steele’s reports is that his source credibility indicator uses vague fluffy terms like “well-placed”, “trusted”, “knowledgeable, etc. Steele is not assigning sufficient granularity of trust to his sources.

None of the briefs show any doubts about the sources. The general impression is that Steele’s assets are all wheat and no chaff, one hundred percent reliable and are the cream of the crop of Russian politics, security services, and the Kremlin. They read like a cast of characters from a wannabe John le Carré novel.

What is ostensibly missing from his stellar list of informants are common everyday sources like:

  • Low level bureaucrats
  • Western intelligence sources 
  • Reporters
  • Academics
  • Political opposition figures
  • Other FSU sources like Ukrainian intelligence
  • Business figures
  • Black-hat hackers (working as contractors for Steele)
  • Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
  • The legions of the disgruntled and the axe-grinders

Steele also seems to be enamored with the titles of his sources and doesn’t provide any indication that he cross-verified their intelligence. In the instance of the alleged sexual acts in the Ritz-Carlton Moscow, he cites the following triple-source:

  • A senior staff employee at the hotel
  • An active FSB officer
  • A senior security officer at the hotel (who would likely be a former FSB or GRU officer)

With assets like this he could have easily confirmed the story by checking out the hotel’s video surveillance footage from the hallway in question. The Ritz-Carlton Moscow has been using CCTV cameras from the mid-2000’s and have in fact switched to a VMS based system in 2012. Steele could have asked his “active FSB officer” for the specific day and time of the alleged November 2013 event and then used his “senior security officer” asset at the hotel to use a phone to take a screenshot of the video frame showing the individuals in the hallway entering and leaving the room.

Yaacov Apelbaum-Ritz-Carlton Moscow CCTV

In a recent court testimony Steele has acknowledged that his final December 2016 report (# 166), contained information he never vetted. He stated that:

The contents of the report did not represent (and did not purport to represent) verified facts, but were raw intelligence which had identified a range of allegations that warranted investigation given their potential national security implications”.

It’s easy to get lost in all of these weasel words but the common term for “raw intelligence” that does not represent nor purport to represent credible or verified facts is called a rumor.

On the question of chain of transmission, we have the same problem as with the verifiability. When asked about his collection methods, Steele said:

Such intelligence was not actively sought; it was merely received.

This is a dream come true for every collection officer—a gift of priceless information with no strings attached, no risk, no clandestine work, it’s high-value actionable intelligence just tossed over the transom.

In late 2016, the FBI finally homed-in on the problem that they had when they used the dossier for the FISA applications and Steele’s lack of source credibility and verifiability. They allegedly offered him about $50K to corroborate the dossier. For reasons unknown, he didn’t, couldn’t, or wouldn’t do it.

The House of Cards
In intelligence analysis, there is a concept of a runaway feedback loop that occurs when information becomes re-iterated and rewarded in perpetual cycles. For example, “Analyst A” releases a bit of dubious intel. “Analyst B” reads the claim and puts it in his report.  “Analyst A” reads the intel in Analyst B’s report and decides that his intel may actually be true. “Analyst C” picks up “Analyst A’s” and “Analyst B’s” reports and expands on it creatively.  “Analyst A” and “Analyst B” now are certain that their original piece was accurate. Actually, none of it is accurate. The same applies to many of Steele’s briefs; they progressively build upon previous dubious intel using terms like “Continuing on this theme”.

Information or Disinformation
The general impression of the reports is that they contain threads of truth, but also spurious content. For example, report #080 describes the Miss Universe 2013 event but then it provides a dubious account of sexual activity that even the author claims can’t be verified (“all direct witnesses to this recently had been “silenced”). Almost all of the ‘valuable’ intelligence in the repots exhibits some hints of disinformation such as:

  • Fabricated content−Creating content that is completely false
  • Imposter content−Impersonating a genuine source with some made-up details
  • Misleading content−Misattributing valid information to a wrong topic or a person
  • Manipulated content−Doctoring genuine information

Syntax and Formulation
The briefs are inconsistent with Trump’s name. In some, they use the moniker “TRUMP”, in others, they uses lengthy titles like: Republican US presidential candidate Donald TRUMP”. Clearly, the target audience of the reports knows who Trump is, so why is it necessary to use a 4-5 word qualifier to identify him? One possible explanation is that the information came from some foreign intelligence repository where the details on each target were stored in a structured format like:

[Party affiliation]
[Political office]
[First Name] & [Last name]
[Incident Details]

The briefs also contain many poorly formed sentences. For example, the subheading of Company Intelligence Report 2016/080 title is: “Republican candidate Donald Trump’s activities in Russia and compromising relationship with the Kremlin.” The phrase is missing the word ‘his’ and should read: “Republican candidate Donald Trump’s activities in Russia and his compromising relationship with the Kremlin.”

One “Summary” phrase says: “…So far TRUMP has declined various sweetener real estate business deals…” The word that the author is looking for here is sweetheart.

Another sentence begins with “Speaking to a trusted compatriot.” After trying to make sense of the sentence, it’s clear that the writer meant “according to a trusted compatriot.” The “speaking to”  jumbles the meaning.

It is difficult to explain how Steele actually wrote this. “Chris Steele,” known in his early days as a reporter for the Versity Cambridge University student publication, also served as president of the Cambridge Union Society, a debating club. So the riddle is: how could a Cambridge University journalist and master English debater form such phrases and confuse a common figure of speech like sweetener with sweetheart?

Run-on Sentences and Poor Punctuation
Paragraphs like the following need no further discussion:

“Alpha held ‘kompromat’ on Putin and his corrupt business activities from the 1990s whilst although not personally overly bothered by Alpha’s failure to reinvest the proceeds of its TNK oil company sale into the Russian economy since, the Russian president was able to use pressure on this count from senior Kremlin colleagues as a lever on Fridman and AVEN to make them do his political bidding.”

Gilded and Sensational Language
There are many gilded passages that have no other purpose beyond creating indignation and outrage. For example, one paragraph states:

“Trump’s previous efforts had included exploring the real estate sector in St. Petersburg as well as Moscow but in the end Trump had had to settle for the use of extensive sexual services there from local prostitutes rather than business success.”

The writer could have simply noted that while in St. Petersburg on business, Trump allegedly engaged the services of prostitutes.

Besides the obvious contextual problem with this paragraph, it is difficult to logically balance “sexual services” and “business success”. So in lieu of business success, Trump settled for extensive sex? What is the significance of qualifier “extensive”? Does the writer mean to say ‘frequent’?  And what is the significance of the term “local” in the context of prostitutes? Does the source know these prostitutes personally and is vouching for the fact that they are from St. Petersburg or Moscow?

It also appears that some of the report headers were written in the style of sensational newspaper headlines like in: Further evidence of extensive conspiracy between TRUMP’s campaign team and Kremlin”.  This style doesn’t fit the succinct and factual standards expected in an intelligence report.

Finally, from literary point of view, this whole episode seems to be a revival of the 2009 story about Silvio Berlusconi spending the night with a prostitute in a hotel room in Rome on Putin’s bed.

Non-English Idioms
In writing about sex, the author is particularly byzantine. He says that Russian authorities had compromised Trump by catching him in his personal obsessions and sexual perversion.

In another instance, Trump was alleged to have gotten revenge on the Obamas by: “defiling the bed where they had stayed on one of their official trips to Russia by employing a number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ urination show.

These archaic terms hint that the writer had some classical training because it sounds like he/she is using phraseology from Suetonius’s The Twelve Caesars (see reference to Tiberius and his ‘licentious indulgences and sexual perversion’ and Nero’s ‘defiling’ acts).

The usage of “a number” with the plural form “prostitutes” seems forced and is designed to emphasize the ‘largeness’ of the event. As far as showers go, the phrase is “golden shower” singular. And what is the purpose of the explanatory ‘AKA’ term “urination show”? It’s redundant and suggests that the writer himself didn’t understand the original term.

Missing Articles
One expects to find definite and indefinite articles that are often omitted. For example, the phrase “to encourage splits and divisions in western alliance” is missing “the” before “western alliance.” The phrase “anchored upon countries’ interest” should read: “anchored upon the country’s interest“. The author frequently misuses the possessive form as well.

Sentences that begin with the word “however” without a comma as in: “However it has not as yet been distributed abroad.” In other instances, “however” is followed by a comma: “However, there were other aspects …“.  There is no consistency in the use of serial commas before or after conjunctions like ‘and’ and ‘but”.

Multiple Authors?
The briefs suggest that there were multiple authors, one perhaps Russian/Ukrainian and one British\American. At one point, the reader is told that the Trump campaign leaked the DNC documents to WikiLeaks “to swing supporters of Bernie SANDERS away from Hillary CLINTON and across to TRUMP.” The “Summary” section cleans up the language. Now the goal is to switch voters “away from CLINTON and over to TRUMP.” This stenographic sleight of hand is forced and artificial. Whoever was conducting the original interview or data collection would/should have corrected this at the moment of transcription.  

British English and Meaning
Steele is a Brit educated in British English. The document contains distinctly British spellings such as “programme,” “defence,” “authorised,” and “manoeuvre.” So, are we to assume that Steele’s deep intelligence assets in the FSB and Kremlin also attended Cambridge? Or perhaps these intelligence sources did attend Cambridge and like Steele were either current of former employees British foreign service.

There are other little details that bog the mind like when the author writes: “Things had become even ‘hotter’ since August on the TRUMP-RUSSIA track.” What does the term “hotter” mean? Does he mean busier? More complex? And what is the significance of the quotes?

Talking Points vs. Raw Intelligence
One point that repeats itself toward the end of the document is the notion of “Moscow’s interference in the US Presidential election campaign.” Another is Trump’s perceived “unfitness” for office. These statements read less like raw intelligence and more like some talking points for a political speech.

Writing Style
The dossier’s content and network graph are interesting, but what about the writing style? Can we find the author’s fingerprints? To perform this analysis, I needed writing samples of a few hundred words from each potential author.

I’ve managed to get writing samples for all three dossier musketeers. Nellie Ohr has a significant amount of book reviews and articles online. Baumgartner was little more challenging. Most of his writings are not on-line—which is quite an achievement for a person who claims to have been a reporter for several years. I found a depository with some of his commercial work and his Thesis. Steele’s was by far the most difficult to locate. Despite his working as a reporter for the Cambridge Varsity student newspaper, all of the digitized copies of his prose have disappeared without a trace from the Cambridge library. I was fortunate enough to be able to pull a few copies of his articles from another source (see sample below).

Heseltine heckled – STOP PRESS with Varsity 14th February 1986  – Chris Steele
An excited atmosphere prevailed at Michael Heseltine’s address to the C.U.C.A. last Friday. Speaking to a packed Union chamber, the ex-cabinet minister broached a wide range of defence issues whilst having to overcome some vociferous heckling.

This being his first public meeting since the Bristow knighthood allegations, Heseltine raised the question of unethical trading practices in the City of Westland share sales. The member for Henley declared his belief in the substance of Bristow’s account and quoted an uncharacteristic ally, when he used a ‘Guardian” story to allege that directors of Westlands have been encouraging premium share sales on the stock market for political reasons.

The television cameras then beat a hasty retreat from the meeting. A newfounded sense of humour was evident from Heseltine’s quip to the generally sympathetic C.U.C.A. audience, “I have never got rid of the press so easily”. The substance of the speech which followed developed familiar themes of the problems resulting from American technological dominance of N.A.T.O. and contained a veiled critique of Mrs. Thatcher’s brand of ideological Conservatism.

On the subject of the Tory Party, the ex-minister advocated a return to “pragmatic policies”. Heseltine state that he had never believed this party to be on of “monolithic intellectual commitment”, clearly a criticism of Mrs. Thatcher’s ideological stridency. Historically the Tory Party has proved “a remarkable achievement of political art”. The Henley M.P. claimed that aristocratic Conservative leaders had shown a commitment to political issue and possessed a laudable social conscience. According to Heseltine, the great challenge facing the party today is whether those wielding power in modern centres of influence, such as the City, would prove worthy heirs to their landed gentry forbears.

Despite Heseltine’s self-relegation to the backbenches his mythical power lives on. During the speech abuse and barracking was launched at him from the balcony. At one point this dyslexic M.P. was forced to curtail his address whiulst stewards evicted several protestors. Questions afterwards revealed Heseltine’s cynical attitude to arms negotiations. His speech also studiously avoided the thorny question of the danger of defence policy being dominated by the interests of what Eisenhower termed ‘the military-industrial complex’.

Yaacov Apelbaum - Christopher Steele Early Writings
Image 15:
Christopher Steele’s writing sample

Writer Baseline Profile
As can be seen from the analysis below, Steele, Ohr, and Baumgartner demonstrate a distinct writing style (images 16-18).

Steele's Writer Profile 
Image 16: Christopher Steele’s profile

Ohr's Writer Profile
Image 17:
Nellie Ohr’s profile

Baumgartner Writer Profile
Image 18:
Edward Baumgartner’s profile

The textual analysis of the reports comprising the dossier shows some interesting results. First, I created a ground truth baseline for each of the dossier team members. The ground truth seen in images 19-21 was based on writings they published prior to 2016.

Christopher Steele Writer Baseline
Image 19:
Steele’s writing style

Nellie Ohr Writer Baseline
Image 20:
Ohr’s writing style

Edward Baumgartner Writer Baseline
Image 21:
Baumgartner writing style

Once I had a good baseline and a stylistic fingerprint, I proceeded to analyze the individual reports.  From the sample below, we can see that despite Steele’s claim that he wrote the document, (images 22-25), it is almost certain that it was written by another person(s), likely a foreign source, possibly Baumgartner, or Ohr. The writing style fits their writer profile in multiple categories.

There are, however, a few anomalies in the data (image 26) that indicate that some of the content—especially the latter reports that are written in an American English and have ‘talking point’ style—have been written by another unidentified author(s).

Yaacov Apelbaum - Dossier report writer profoile 1
Image 22:
Dossier report sample 1

Yaacov Apelbaum - Dossier report writer profoile 2
Image 23:
Dossier report sample 2

Yaacov Apelbaum - Dossier report writer profoile 3
Image 24:
Dossier report sample 3

Yaacov Apelbaum - Dossier report writer profoile 4
Image 25:
Dossier report sample 4

Dossier report writer profoile 5
Image 26:
Anomalous dossier report

Baumgartner and Social Media
In addition to the writing style analyses, I’ve also correlated the content of the dossier briefs with various social media sources like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. The results reinforce the conclusion of the writing style results. As you can see below, Baumgartner’s tweets touch on many of the topics and phrases in the dossier such as: Mikhail (Misha) Fridman, The Alfa group, rigging the elections, divisive campaigning, US citizens of Russian (Jewish) origin, Kremlin buyer’s remorse, and others. They also closely match the dossier composition dates.

Baumgartner fridman

Baumgartner alfa group

Baumgartner rig US elections

Baumgartner divisive

Baumgartne russian jews 

Baumgartner buyers remorse
Image 27:
Baumgartner’s tweets with key dossier keywords

Baumgartner social media posting history is also noteworthy because it correlates directly with his work in Fusion GPS. For example, he is re-posting information about the dossier utilizing pre-public leaked information. He’s essentially betraying prior knowledge of the dossier by including these specific buzzwords in his tweets.

On October 31, 2016, Baumgartner was already retweeting the “dossier”. Of interest are the dates. According to the date stamp on the last dossier, report # 186, it was written on 13 December 2016. So if we to accept this chronology, then we must conclude that individual reports were leaked out as soon as they were written, indicating that the dossier was not released in a single final batch form.

Baumgartner Trump as a double agent 2

Baumgartner pimping the dossier
Image 28: Baumgartner’s tweets of the dossier publication

After his initial retweet of the dossier, he embarks on a regular publication schedule further discussing some of the core talking points in the document. This includes topic like “Trump is a Russian agent”.  He also makes a sheepish reference to “Christopher Steele, ex-British Intelligence officer, said to have repared [sic] dossier on Trump…”, and the rationale for why a private security firm (i.e. Fusion GPS and Orbis) had to do Clapper’s job.

Baumgartner Trump as a double agent

Baumgartner pimping steele

Baumgartner pimping orbis
Image 29: Baumgartner’s on-going dossier postings

As time goes on and the dossier story fails to create a groundswell, Baumgartner starts exhibiting signs of outrage. In addition to a lot of profanity, his posts also include calls for a coup against the “scumbag” elected president.

Baumgartner call for revolution 1

Yaacov Apelbaum - Baumgartner call for revolution 2
Image 30:
Comrade Baumgartner and the call to arms

Fusion GPS’s Role
We know that Simpson and Jacoby played a significant role in the dossier’s ‘architectural’, ‘editorial’, and ‘creative’ writing processes. In his testimony, Simpson confirmed sharing his investigative research with Steele. Obviously, he also directly supervised Ohr, Baumgartner, and several other resources. Fusion GPS’s involvement certainly went beyond just coordinating SMEs and acting as the general contractor for the law firm Perkins Coie who had commissioned the report and paid them over $1.2 million for it.

Simpson and Jacoby also acted as the sources (using their original research) and intakes for some of the US political material found in the dossier that shows up in phrases like “an American political figure” and “TRUMP’s associate”. This included communications with: Shailagh Murray, Lisa Holtyn, Cody Shearer (who was working on a ‘second Trump-Russia dossier’), and direct emails to and from Sidney Blumenthal, Jonathan Winer, and Scott Dworkin who managed the Democratic Coalition’s opposition research and publication (see samples below).

Trump Dossier Scott Dworking and Whit HouseDossier Scott Dworking II
Image 31:
Scott Dworkin’s links and dossier Tweets

Winer himself sheds light on this information pipeline. According to his own account, he and Steele met and became friends in 2009 when both were in the business of intelligence involving Russia. Winer went back to work at the State Department in 2013 but stayed in touch with Steele. He regularly shared Steele’s work with the State Department’s Russia desk.

Over the next two years, I shared more than 100 of Steele’s reports with the Russia experts at the State Department, who continued to find them useful.

Contrary to Simpson’s claim that Steele leaked the dossier content on his own initiative, Fusion GPS took a leading role in the publication process. In addition to coordinating a regular stream of social media postings, they also worked the ‘friendly’ commercial media outlets like CNN, MSNBC, NYT, WAPO, and Yahoo News, and published op-eds and expert reviews that supported the dossier’s credibility.

One thing worth noting is that just like in the case of the core dossier network, many of these ‘receptive’ reporters such, David Corn, Joe Palazzolo, David Cay Johnston, Scott Dworkin and Evan Perez (images 32-33) had long incestuous relationships with Fusion GPS and it’s team members.

Yaacov Apelbaum-Dossier Scott Dworking MSNBC
Image 32:
Dworkin on multiple MSNBC News investigative interviews defending the dossier

Joe Palazzolo, Aruna Viswanatha, Steve LeVine, and David Johnston worked for Jacoby as early as 2010 producing Russia and corruption related reports. Between 2016-2018, Palazzolo and Viswanatha, now writing for the WSJ wrote dozens of anti-trump articles. Their publications rate sometime reached one article a week.

LeVine, who now works for Axios delivering “trustworthy news”, wrote a lengthy apologetic article about Fusion GPS and its team, vouching for their credibility and professionalism. LeVine is just one of dozens of reports that have been promoting the dossier and collusion narratives on daily basis but never disclosing that they were affiliated with and were drawing a paycheck from Jacoby’s and Simpson’s business ventures.

Yaacov Apelbaum - Mary Jacoby Joe Palazzolo
Joe Palazzolo’s, David Johnston’s, and Jacoby’s Russia articles on the now deleted website

Yaacov Apelbaum - Mary Jacoby David Johnston and hugh scoop
David Johnston, and Aruna Viswanatha working for Mary Jacoby in 2010

Yaacov Apelbaum Mary Jacoby and David Johnston
David Johnston, an Al-Jazeera reporter and a Jacoby employee since at least 2009, is one of the leading anti-Trump authors/reporters. He has written six books, multiple articles, and participated in dozens of TV interviews that promote the dossier allegations. He and his social network also produce and distribute a large volume of Russian collusion related materials.

Yaacov Apelbaum-Fusion GPS CNN Link
Image 33:
Evan Perez pitching the dossier at CNN News. Perez FR matches at a Fusion GPS family event and Guys’ Night Out with Neil King Jr.

Yaacov Apelbaum - Tapper Perez Sciutto Karl
The CNN Trump Dossier and Collusion team: Jake Tapper, Evan Perez, Jim Sciutto, and Carl Bernstein receiving the Merriman Award from Jonathan Karl from ABC. Martha Ohr, was Karl’s news producer at ABC Television. Karl was also at Vassar College in 1990 with Martha Ohr’s Sister-in-law Nellie Ohr.

In a similar fashion to Baumgartner’s Twitter activity, Perez’s, Tapper’s, Sciutto’s, and Bernstein’s  tweets (see below) strongly suggest that they had direct access to the dossier team and content and were actively distributing it as it was being written.

Evan Perez Dossier Tweet 2Evan Perez Dossier Tweet 3Evan Perez Dossier Tweet 1

Jake Tapper Dossier Twitter

Trump Collusion Sciutto Tweet

Carl Bernstein Tweets

As far as the journalist’s motivation to publish content favorable to the dossier, its clear from the congressional records that this was certainly not due to concerns about the integrity of our democracy. In at least 3 cases, Fusion GPS paid reporters five digit figures for these publications. This can be deduced from image 34, where the length of redacted payment fields for transactions 198 and 205 are the same length as a visible $91K payment in transaction 171.

Fusion GPS Payments
Image 34:
Sample Fusion GPS payment records

What’s with the Ham?
There is a lot of buzz on-line about Nellie Ohr’s Ham radio license and her possible uses for it. On May 23rd, 2016, just as the dossier project was kicking into gear, (Steele was only hired in June), Nellie Ohr, at the ripe old age of give-or-take 55, got a Technician radio license.

Her registration information was:

Nellie H. Ohr,
all sign: KM4UDZ
6435 Tucker Ave
McLean, VA 22101

License Class: Technician
License Issue Date: May 23 2016
License Expiration Date: May 23 2026
FCC Last Transaction: LIISS
FCC Licensee ID: L02028239
FCC FRN Number: 0025607250
Latitude: 38.94,   38d 56m 24s N
Longitude: -77.19,   77d 11m 24s W
Grid: FM18
County: Fairfax

There are a number of curious things about Ohr getting an amateur radio license so late in her career.

  • Her professional profile does not show her to be the techie type. She doesn’t possess any hacker, computer, or engineering skills (which is what typically propels individuals to get an Amateur Radio license).   
  • She does not belong to any ARRL radio club in the Fairfax area 
  • The radio clubs in her registration area have no records of administering the exam (Ham Radio exams are typically administered by the local ARRL club).
  • Her call sign, KM4UDZ, shows no public activity which is odd, because new hams are typically very chatty and can’t stay off the air when they first get their license.

As can be seen in Image 35, her technician rating is the lowest class of amateur radio license and has limited privileges with regard to the available frequencies and transmitter power output.

Technician Class Frequency Privileges in Ham Radio
Image 35:
Technician Class Frequency Privileges in Ham Radio

So for all of the conspiracy theorists out there that believe that Ohr was engaged in OSS style night transmissions from a secret compartment in the barn to her controller in Moscow: she wasn’t. The radio class limits would only give her a line of sight range of 5-10 miles. In a repeater mode, she could push the range to 20-200 miles. If you don’t think that a 10-mile range is sufficient, think again. It is likely that Ohr’s rationale for using a Ham radio was a substitution for a cell and landline phones in order to communicate with person(s) nearby. As you can see from the map below, even with a 3-7.5 radius she was well within the range of the entire downtown Washington D.C. area.

Yaacov Apelbaum - Nellie Ohr Ham Radio Range
Image 36:
Nellie Ohr Ham radio broadcast range map

We know that Nellie Ohr was the dossier’s liaison to some other agencies. It’s not unlikely that someone versed in SIGINT told her that she had to use a Ham radio because if the project went south, the first line of investigation would have been to subpoena all of her cell and phone records and analyze them to completely re-construct her operational network.

Nellie Ohr’s husband, Bruce Ohr, was the Department of Justice’s contact for Steele and Fusion GPS and in fact held meetings with both about the dossier. We also know that Ohr headed a task force code named Cassandra and Operation Fast and Furious that among other things utilized cell phone tracking technology to identify money laundering, drugs, and weapon smuggling. So it makes sense that he was aware of the need for electronic surveillance countermeasures.

But what about tracing her Ham call sign during transmission, wouldn’t that eliminate her radio anonymity?

In theory, yes, but in practice, it can be circumvented. If Ohr was careful, this problem could have been solved with devices like the Harris XG-75P/100P.  Encrypted radio transmissions can also be used to obscure the identity of the sender/receiver of the message. For example, unencrypted HSMM uses a ping packet containing the station call sign to identify the station, similar to how a 2-meter repeater periodically announces its call sign. But if HSMM is operated using WEP encryption (available as a plug-in), those packets would be obscured and the call sign of the station licensee could not be received by anyone without the keys. So in addition to the message itself which can be any digital data such as audio and documents, the identity of the sender call signs would also be hidden.

So who researched and wrote the core parts of the dossier? It looks like it was a team effort. Most of the textual evidence points to Glenn Simpson and his wife Mary Jacoby as the architects of the dossier framework. This can also be gleaned from Jacoby’s June 24, 2017 Facebook posting (which was deleted promptly with most of her SM activity after the project derailed) where she brags about her husband’s leading role in its composition and vents her frustration about Steele monopolizing the limelight.

Mary Jacoby Trump Dossier Facebook Posting
Image 37:
Mary Jacoby’s Facebook post regarding the dossier

When it comes to the communications and distribution related work the linkage shows that a fair amount of the “staging” and “dissemination” activity took place in the UK and involved individuals such as Stefan Halper, Jonathan Clarke, Chris Burrows, Richard Dearlove, Charles Crawford, Iain Lobban, and Alexander Downer. interestingly, this activity dates to April-May 2016, almost 8 weeks before Steele’s official June 2016 contract with Fusion GPS. This strongly suggests that there was a proto-dossier in place and that there was a wider coordinated effort between the US and UK teams with Orbis Business Intelligence most likely acting as a front for Hakluyt & Co.

The dossier does not stand out as a unique document. Hakluyt used the same modus operandi before. In 2002, they were contracted by Medusa Oil and Gas Limited to do some opposition research and dig-up dirt on a Czech company. Hakluyt, used UK government back channels to deliver a dossier style brief to the UK Ambassador in Prague and to the First Commercial Secretary at the British Embassy in Prague who was also a principal representative in the Czech Republic of British Trade International. The purpose of the document was to pressure the Czech government to prosecute the Czech targeted company. The letter made some defamatory allegations and its structure closely resembled Steele’s dossier. It had a bulleted layout of allegations with an intro section and a detailed discussion. Contextually, It made a similar type of unverified claims of bribes, corruption, and sex.

Ohr’s and Baumgartner’s roles were likely to research specific Russian content and re-write the narrative in ‘Russian style’ in order to make it appear authentic. The ‘hard’ intelligence probably came from British and Ukrainian sources who may have also provided some of the juicy gossip. Nellie Ohr utilized DOJ and State Department documents that pertained to Russian organized crime, cybersecurity, corruption, and opportunistically incorporated them into the dossier briefs.

This careful mixture of partial truth and fiction explains all of the tidbits of information in the report that are marginally plausible and give the dossier a first person witness quality and a thin veneer of creditability. Simpson alludes to this when he said in the testimony:

We –you know, they  [Steeles network of resources] identified -one memo identified a Russian guy who worked for an NGO called Rossotrudnichestvo, which is –you know, I didn’t know it at the time, but I was able to learn from looking at it that the FBI considers that to be a front for the SVR. So, you know, either the people were extremely knowledgeable about a lot of obscure intelligence stuff or, you know, they –what they’re saying had some credibility.

When it comes to the bulk of the literary work, Simpson, Jacoby, Baumgartner and Ohr likely authored it and Steele—if he did any actual writing—just formatted the reports in order to tag them with his scent and make them look spyish.

Nellie Ohr’s, Shailagh Murray, and Mary Jacoby also played a secondary organizational role and acted as the liaisons between the Fusion GPS team, DOJ, and the White House, and possibly as a cut-outs to other agencies.

Yaacov Apelbaum - Christopher Steele Timeline
Image 38:
The Steele Timeline

Anyone who has ever worked in intelligence knows that a good debriefing and a report must answer the who, what, when, where, how, and why questions. Very little of the dossier does that. It is mostly based on platitudes, generalizations, and truisms. The writer of the dossier anticipated this criticism and countered it by building-in plausible deniability for most of his allegations through statements like:

but key witnesses silenced and evidence hard to obtain” or “all direct witnesses to this recently had been “silenced”…

It seems that the real dossier story is not the scandalous insinuations that it makes, but rather it’s the funding sources, the teams that worked on it, and its compilation and distribution channels. At peak capacity, the dossier team must have consisted of at least 25 individuals who worked on it for 18 months. Assuming a modest $200 per hour rate per person, some first/business class travel and accommodations, media, consulting, and legal services, this project most have cost an upwards of 20 million dollars. According to the GSA records Stefan Halper was paid about $500K and from Simpson’s testimony it looks like Fusion GPS was paid about a $1.2 million, which begs the question of what was Hakluyt’s cut and where did the rest of the money go to.

Simpson and Steele did far more than simply conduct sordid opposition research for the Clinton campaign. By various machinations, they successfully reached the most influential people in UK and US politics, the media, and Federal government agencies and shaped/influenced the narrative of the 2016 presidential elections. There is little doubt that Simpson/Jacoby and their political/media network and Steele/Burrows with their enablers in Hakluyt, the British media, and the Foreign Office successfully waged a full-scale influence operation campaign against the US and are continuing to do so even now.

In the end, Fusion GPS and Steele failed to deliver the goods and as the Elections of 2016 came to an end, Baumgartner posted this Tweet:

Baumgartner Après moi, le déluge

It is just this sort of Machiavellian comment that you might expect from a sleazy literary hitman. In response, I must point out that after you Mr. Baumgartner—indeed—did come the flood! And on the topic of French proverbs, I will defer to La Fontaine’s concluding line in the Cock and the Fox: “C’est double plaisir de tromper le trompeur”.

As far as the rest of the dossier cabal, they can be summed up in a quote from Antony Johnston’s Atomic Blonde:

To win, first, you have to know whose side you’re on. In our line of work, that’s right up there with black holes or “to be or not to be.” You fight the good fight, and then one day you wake up, and you realize that all you were was Satan’s little helper.

© Copyright 2018 Yaacov Apelbaum, All Rights Reserved.

So How Tall is the Staff of Ra?

Yaacov Apelbaum - 3 Amah

We were going over some Indiana Jones trivia during dinner recently and one of the questions that came up had to do with the lenght of an item that appeared in the Raiders of the Lost Ark called the “Head of the Staff of Ra”.  The discussion must have triggered some long lost memory in my brain because I suddenly remembered that in the movie, that object—which is a sort of a medallion—had an inscription on it.

Hoping that there was a quick way to figure out the math, I searched online for the phrase “head of the staff of Ra” and got an image of the original prop used in the movie. Sure enough, both sides had a clear and legible engraving in none other than ancient Hebrew script (also known as Paleo-Hebrew ).

Yaacov Apelbaum - Headpiece to the staff of Ra

Transliterations and translations of the inscriptions are as follows:

Obverse Side

Reverse Side

vamh aht mel kds kbd yhvh vhmskn

tt amh qmtw

ואמה אחת מעל קדש כבוד ה’ והמישכן

תת אמה קומתו

And one amah above holy to honor G-D and the Tabernacle

TT amah is its height

As soon as I translated the text, I realized that it had some glaring stylistic and contextual problems. First, the writer chose the word for “add” to be מעל which is most often used to mean above or from as in Kings 1:20:41.
וַיְמַהֵר–וַיָּסַר אֶת-הָאֲפֵר,מעל עֵינָיו; וַיַּכֵּר אֹתוֹ מֶלֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל, כִּי מֵהַנְּבִיאִים הוּא
And he hastened, and took the headband away from his eyes; and the king of Israel discerned him that he was of the prophets.
The proper form should have been a word based on the root יסף. Second, the form of קדש כבוד is never used together in reference to holy offerings. The more common form should have been קדש ל’ה as in Exodus28:36.
וְעָשִׂיתָ צִּיץ, זָהָב טָהוֹר; וּפִתַּחְתָּ עָלָיו פִּתּוּחֵי חֹתָם, קֹדֶשׁ לַ’ה
And thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and engrave upon it, like the engravings of a signet: HOLY TO THE LORD.
Also, from the paleography its clear that the author mixed several glyph styles when creating the inscription. As can be seen from the table below, the word “TT amah” uses letters Yaacov Apelbaum - Staff of Ra Text that are a mixture of 9th and 10th century BCE glyph styles. It should have been written using the 6th century BCE style. The reason for this is that the Temple of Salomon where the Ark of the Covenant was kept was built between 950-850 BCE and was destroyed in 586 BCE. If the medallion is a record of the secret location of the Ark, it should have been written in an alphabet style from the period of the temple destruction not its construction.
Yaacov Apelbaum - Early Hebrew Alphabet
Beyond the inscription itself, the script contains some artistic and contextual problems as well. The candelabra (Menorah) at the top of the medallion only has 6 branches, the biblical description of the temple Menorah as well all ancient depictions of it had seven branches like in these examples on coins, lamps, jewelry, mosaics, tombstones, monuments, and inscriptions:
Yaacov Apelbaum -Seven branch Menorah
The other obvious problems with the text and content are:
Problem 1 –  The movie script doesn’t jibe with the text in terms of translation.
Problem 2 – The height measurement unit used are inconsistent.
Problem 3 – The seared imprint on Major Toht’s right hand is the obverse side of the inscription.

Problem 1

When Imam translates the text for Indy (see scrip below), he says: “This is a warning not to disturb the Ark of the Covenant”, yet that warning doesn’t exist in the inscription. It’s also a puzzle why Indy can’t translate it himself considering that he is a professor of archeology who graduated from the University of Chicago with a major in linguistics. Also, contrary to Imam’s claim that Indy should “…take back one kadam to honor the Hebrew God whose Ark this is”, the obverse inscription clearly calls for exactly the opposite: to ADD one amah to the base value.

Problem 2
Imam further states that the base height of the staff is six kadam and according the Salah’s calculation, this is about 72” (it’s actually 69”). The problem with this calculation is that we don’t know where Imam is getting the 6 kadam figure from. The inscription uses the term amah on both sides of the medallion. Interestingly, Egypt abandoned the use of the kadam in favor of the metric system in 1891, 45 years before the timeframe of the scene in the movie. Technically, then, Imam should not even be using the term.

Assuming that the reverse side of the medallion is the form found in Kings 1:6:2 and it is following the formula ‘amount x cubit’:

וְהַבַּיִת, אֲשֶׁר בָּנָה הַמֶּלֶךְ שְׁלֹמֹה לַיהוָה–שִׁשִּׁים-אַמָּה אָרְכּוֹ, וְעֶשְׂרִים רָחְבּוֹ; וּשְׁלֹשִׁים אַמָּה, קוֹמָתוֹ
”And the house which king Solomon built for the LORD, the length thereof was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof twenty cubits, and the height thereof thirty cubits.”

than the height for the staff should be indicated in the first two letters of the word  HeMemAlephTawTaw(Hebrew is read from right to left). In Hebrew, each letter of the alphabet has an associated numeric value and the value of X (or ת value in post sixth century BCE Hebrew typography) is 400.  So XX could be read as 400+400=800 amah or 472 feet.  Even if we read the first two letters XX as the spelling of the letter Teth Teth which equals 9, it would make the staff about 13 feet. This doesn’t make any sense as we can see clearly from the movie that the staff is about 7 foot tall.

Length Measurements Used
Amah [aka cubit) = 48 cm. (18 in.)
Kadam = 29 cm. (11.5 in.)

So in the case of problem 2, either there is a special way to read the XX value as 69” or the value in the inscription is wrong and should have been written as HeMemAlephDaleth, i.e. 4 amah.

Problem 3
The seared imprint on Major Toht’s right hand is actually the obverse side of the inscription. This means that contrary to Indy’s statement, Belloq had no way of getting the base staff height because the reference is located on the reverse side. On the other hand, if Belloq managed to get the base height somehow, he than had all of the missing information to construct the right height staff and in fact his staff was not too long.

Yaacov Apelbaum Major Arnold Ernst Toht-

So how long is the staff or Ra? It’s impossible to tell using the inscription. One thing is for sure, just like in anything else in life, G-d is in the details. Creating a plausible fiction that relies on an actual ancient language, epigraphy, biblical scholarship, historical facts, and math, and then wrapping the whole thing up in a dramatic screenplay seems to be just too complex of an undertaking. To paraphrase Mark Twain “It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense”.

Movie Script
Imam: Come, come, look. Look here… look. Sit down. Come, sit down.
Indy:   What is it?
Imam: This is a warning not to disturb the Ark of the Covenant.
Indy: What about the height of the staff, though? Did Belloq get it off of here?
Imam: Yes. It is here. This was the old way,
this mean six kadam high.
Sallah: About 72 inches.
Imam: Wait! And take back one kadam to honor the Hebrew God whose Ark this is
Indy: You said their headpiece only had markings on one side. Are you absolutely sure?
Indy: Belloq’s staff is too long. They’re digging in the wrong place.
Indy and Sallah: They’re digging in the wrong place!!

Yaacov Apelbaum - ROLA Script

© Copyright 2017 Yaacov Apelbaum, All Rights Reserved.

Pack of Asses in Shangri-La

Yaacov Apelbaum - Asses in Shangri-La

A donkey pack in Shangri-La: The first dumb ass on left is the laziest, he slows down the pack because he is always looking for something to eat. The group of jackasses in the middle just stand there contemplating the concept that death is a cosmic opportunity. The big ass on the right is their enlightened guru. He imparts to the pack the consciousness that forms the foundation of their spirituality and growth.

In September 2011, while on photography assignment for a nature show called Frozen Planet to Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta, Canada, Chadden Hunter and his team captured some imagery of a wolf pack hunting bison. Hunter provided the following description of the image:

Yaacov Apelbaum - Pack of Wolves 1

Chadden Hunter’s Original Wolf Pack Photograph

“A massive pack of 25 timberwolves hunting bison on the Arctic circle in northern Canada. In mid-winter in Wood Buffalo National Park temperatures hover around -40°C. The wolf pack, led by the alpha female, travel single-file through the deep snow to save energy. The size of the pack is a sign of how rich their prey base is during winter when the bison are more restricted by poor feeding and deep snow. The wolf packs in this National Park are the only wolves in the world that specialize in hunting bison ten times their size. They have grown to be the largest and most powerful wolves on earth.”

Now, forward the clock by 4 years to December 17, 2015, a user named Cesare Brai publishes a post on an Italian-language FB page. He uses Hunter’s original image but provides this alternate verbiage:

“Un pacco di lupi: i primi 3 sono i vecchi o gli ammalati, danno il passo all’intero pacco. Se fosse l’altro, essi sarebbero stati lasciati indietro, perdendo il contatto con il pacco. Essere sacrificati, poi vengono 5 forti, la prima linea, al centro sono i restanti membri del paccho, poi i 5 più forti seguendo: l’ultimo è solo, l’alfa, controlla tutto dal retro, in quella posizione può vedere tutto, decide la direzione, vede tutto il pacco, il paccho si muove secondo i tempi più anziani e si aiuta reciprocamente, si guardano a vicenda “.

Cesare Brai’s post is interesting, for the following reasons:

– From the post’s grammar it is clear that he is not a native Italian speaker
– Shortly after publication the post was taken down and Brai disables his FB account
– Cesare Brai has no internet presence beyond the wrong photo credit attribution

Three days later, on December 20, 2015, the Italian Facebook posting is translated into English and is posted again on FB by Barbara Hermel Bach. The translation appeared as follows:

“A wolf pack: the first 3 are the old or sick, they give the pace to the entire pack. If it was the other way round, they would be left behind, losing contact with the pack. In case of an ambush they would be sacrificed. Then come 5 strong ones, the front line. In the center are the rest of the pack members, then the 5 strongest following. Last is alone, the alpha. He controls everything from the rear. In that position he can see everything, decide the direction. He sees all of the pack. The pack moves according to the elders pace and help each other, watch each other.”
Cesare Brai’s photo. — with Deb Barnes.

Ignoring for a moment the actual content of Bach’s posting, it is interesting to note that her verbiage is a reverse English translation of Cesare Bria’s Italian text which means that the text was most likely first written in English, then subsequently translated and posted in Italian under Brai’s name, and finally reposted in English under her name.

In her post, she attributed the photo credits to the mysterious Cesare Brai. It is a noteworthy mistake because her collaborator on this post is one Deborah Barnes, a professional animal photographer who judging from her multiple website notices is very sensitive to issues of copyright infringements.

Yaacov Apelbaum - Deborah Barnes

Deborah Barnes’s About Webpage

Barbara Hermel Bach - Pack of Wolves

Barbara Hermel Bach Facebook Post
In terms of memetic engineering, the post was a hit! Within a few weeks, it went viral and has since garnered close to 486K views and over 237K shares. As you can see from just a few of the comments below, Bach’s new age wolf pack narrative clearly struck a chord with her audience:

Yaacov Apelbaum - Wolf Pack Comments

Content Adaptation by Management Consultants and Corporate Trainers 
By 2016, the wolf pack leadership concept in Bach’s FB post took the recruiters, management coaches, and efficiency consultants world by storm. Many of them embraced the idea and were thenceforth using the bogus narrative in their online publications.

Of special interest is the marking algorithm used by each of the republishes to re-brand the image and idea as theirs. As you can see from the few variations below, each one alters the original image by using a simple variation on color, geometric shape, and/or arrow orientation.

Yaacov Apelbaum - Pack of Wolves 2

Yaacov Apelbaum - Pack of Wolves 3

Yaacov Apelbaum - Pack of Wolves 4

Yaacov Apelbaum - Pack of Wolves 5

Yaacov Apelbaum - Pack of Wolves 6

Copycat variations on Bach’s Posting
So why all of the subterfuge, stratagems, and ruses? Why go through all of the trouble to hide Hunter’s name as the original photographer? Why alter the real location of the shot and go through all of the trouble of creating a sock puppet called Caesar Brai? And even now, why not just come out and either remove the original posting (which is a blatant copyright violation) or just state for the record that the narrative is false? After all, even Hunter, the photographer who took the original shot publically posted on his Twitter account that he was being ripped off by Bach:

Yaacov Apelbaum - Pack of Wolves 7

Hunter’s Image Piracy Tweet
It’s hard to answer these questions with certainty. We know from the posting that both Barnes and Bach contributed to it. Using writing style analysis (I’ve used (JStylo-Anonymouth) suggests that Bach wrote the verbiage. If that was the case then what was Barnes’ share? It is possible that as a professional animal photographer, she stumbled on Hunter’s original image and felt that she could repurpose it by attributing it to the fictitious Cesare Brai. As the “animal expert”, she could have also provided the “new age” insight into the wolf pack behavior.

By 2015, four years have passed since this image was originally seen on Frozen Planet and the chance that anyone would remember it would be slim. So the rational must have been that changing the name of the photographer and withholding the location of the shot would help add two additional layers of obscurity to the image.

What I find the most interesting about this and her other posts is that it required a significant amount of effort in terms of planning and execution and that her network produces large amounts of these type of materials on regular basis.

Considering that Bach is a liberal activist with an aggressive political agenda and a member of a large community of similar minded individuals who distribute such high grade social propaganda, it’s plausible that these publications are part of some kind of an organized political media production line.

Yaacov Apelbaum - Resistance   Yaacov Apelbaum - Resistance

Yaacov Apelbaum - Resistance   Yaacov Apelbaum - Resistance

Samples of Bach’s Social Action Content

Out of courtesy and to give Bach and Barnes the benefit of the doubt, I reached out to both of them to inquire about their sources of the image and verbiage. Alas, I have not received a response.

As far as the spiritual and uplifting content of Bach’s posting is concerned, there’s good news. Now you too can generate similar materials, and no, you don’t have to spend 7 lost years in Tibet on a soul searching journey. You can do so effortlessly with a few mouse clicks!

Just do as I did it with the “Pack of Asses in Shangri-La”. Pick a random animal pack image, go to the the inspirational BS Generator or Corporate BS Generator and in no time, you will be the leading ass who manages the pack from behind. Or as the BS generator would put it:

“You would be seamlessly innovating new backend leadership paradigms”.

© Copyright 2017 Yaacov Apelbaum, All Rights Reserved.

The Mystery of US sUAS Airspace

Yaacov Apelbaum - sUAS FAA Regulations

If you feel like you are in thick fog and are struggling to decipher the mysteries of FAA Airspace regulations as they apply to sUAS operations, you are not alone. 

The following is a simplified poster version f the current FAA Airspace chart with some additional operational flight information and rules (click on image for full size).

US sUAS Airspace Chart

As for the operational part, here are my top 10 pointers:

  1. Don’t fly over people (§ 107.39)
  2. Stay below 400’
  3. Maintain a visual line of sight to the aircraft (§ 107.31), unless you have a BVLOS waiver 
  4. Don’t fly after sunset (§ 107.29) unless you have an night waiver
  5. Don’t fly in inclement weather
  6. Be mindful of privacy and the invasive nature of sUAS based photography
  7. Get permission before flying over public, private, or commercial spaces
  8. Obey the “8 hours bottle to throttle” law
  9. Consult and study your area sectional chart before flying
  10. Always perform a site survey and physical risk assessment before taking to the air

Safe flying!

© Copyright 2017 Yaacov Apelbaum, All Rights Reserved.

Poor Little Bobby Tables

Yaacov Apelbaum - Little Bobby Tables Crying

We are in the midst of a security review for one of our platforms and have been discussing data input sanitation, so I’ve used the “Little Bobby Tables” cartoon to liven up the text in the SQL Injection chapter. I love this illustration because it is so poignant but when I read it this time, I realized that it was missing something.

Bobby Tables

The problem is that Mrs. Roberts only tells the school representative about the data sanitation issue. The far bigger problem here is that the school DBA only seems to back up their DB once a year!

© Copyright 2017 Yaacov Apelbaum, All Rights Reserved.

Good day to you!

Khoroshiy den' dlya tebya!

The other day, I got this cryptic email. It read:

From: Wayne Millbrand <>
Date: 03/27/2017 2:23 PM (GMT-05:00)
To: ***
Subject: ***

Good day to you!

I have a rather delicate issue, which touches directly to you. Don’t be surprised how do I learned about you! The fact is that I have got already a second letter from the person, I do not know which asserts that you are fraud involved. He insists, that you forced him transfer funds on your PayPal account under fictional reason. However,with this information he pointed out your private data up to address:

First Last Name
Street Address
State (with capitalization error)
Zip Code

Now he is collecting information and planing to contact the police. I advise you to view the information that he sent to me. I have attached Fine.doc with a copy of all of his messages.

Document was password-protected – 4299
Please explain to me what’s happening.  I hope that all of this is a silly misunderstanding.

Best regards,

Wayne Millbrand

Based on the fake email address and the tell-tale Anguished English, I concluded that this was just another phish.

I usually delete these emails promptly, but this one had an interesting component to it: it came with a password protected MS Word document. This is somewhat unusual because they typically expect you to just launch the attachment and activate the payload immediately.

So it appears that the attack strategy was to:

  • Send a threatening email
  • Add some publicly available information about the recipient to make it look genuine
  • Encrypt the document in order to hide the payload from an anti-virus scanner
  • Provide the password in the email to allow the user to open and decrypt the file
  • Activate the payload in the MS Word document and infect the user’s machine
  • Inside the encrypted Word document, I found the following API declarations, variable names, and this code:

    Shell32.dll   ShellExecuteA
    Kernel32     GetTempPathA
    Kernel32     GetTempFileNameA
    URLMon”     URLDownloadToFileA

    Dim wyqud As String
    Dim zdwie As Long
    Dim rufhd As Long
    Dim bldos As Integer
    Dim mufid () As Byte
    Dim kmvbf As Long
    Dim dfety As Long
    Dim bvjwi As Long
    Dim wbdys As Long
    Dim dvywi (256) As Byte
    Dim wdals As Long
    Dim dwiqh As Long

    API Declarations and Variables
    Yaacov Apelbaum-Document OpenYaacov Apelbaum-Functions

    This seems to be a variation on an old theme where as soon as the user opens the file, the routine executes a URL file download from one of these two backup sources:

    h t t p://
    h t t p://

    The macro is quite sophisticated, it can even prompt the user to disable their firewall if the download fails. Both GIFs—despite having an appropriate header block and some image content bytes—actually carry the encoded malware.

    The macro uses a subroutine to extract the executable binary from the downloaded GIF. It stores the binary in a temp file, appends an “exe” extension to it, and then using the Explorer function ShellExecuteA, executes it in order to install additional malware. In this case, it was ransomware that encrypted the Documents folder.

    Yaacov Apelbaum-Ransomware e
    Image 1: The installed ransomware in action

    Interestingly, the first compromised URL used by the malware was website that belongs to, a Swiss accounting and corporate services firm that ironically advertises itself as providing “Privacy and secure Data storage” and:

      – Accounting services

      – Secure financial services

      – Data entry from paper to digital

      – Scanning paper data to digital

      – Archiving data anonymously 2


    Image 2: The before and after the breach websites


    Mafia Scripts
    Image 3: The website

    Another noteworthy strategy is that both, the repurposed Swiss financial site as well as the second German gaming site required a login. This provides an additional layer of security by preventing internet security scanners from tracking down the payload by trying to follow a link to the malware.

    From the variable naming convention and the language of the email itself, it seems that the writer is non native English speaker. The metadata from the Word document further supports this and suggest a strong link to a Russian origin. First, the author’s name was preserved as виньда (Vinda) and the company name came up as: SPecialiST RePack. 

    SPecialiST RePack Metadata

    SPecialiST RePack is a Russian digital publisher that is used for repackaging software.  According to Emsisoft malware database, they are a source of a large number of infected files and products.

    SPecialiST RePack

    SPecialiST RePack infected content
    As far as the unfortunate site, it seems that it was breached in the past few months as the Wayback Machine still shows them operational on October 4, 2016.

    I’ve tried to contact Adenzia and give them heads up that they need to have a look at their network. As of this date, I haven’t heard back from them. This could be an indication that either the site was a front for malware distribution from the get go or else it is no longer in business and has been abandoned.  

    © Copyright 2017 Yaacov Apelbaum, All Rights Reserved.

    Coincidence or Not?

    Coincidence or not

    You may have seen this motivational masterpiece. It’s a favorite among performance consultants.

    It goes as follows:


    A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26


    K N O W L E D G E
    11 14 15 23 12 5 4 7 5 96%


    H A R D W O R K
    8 1 18 4 23 15 18 11       98%

    Both are important, but fall just short of 100%


    A T T I T U D E
    1 20 20 9 20 21 4 5 100%

    So the moral of the story is that if you have the right attitude, you will achieve 100 percent of your potential. 

    It sure looks great on paper. To test the mystical value of this proposition, I’ve written a short script to first create words that are between 2-12 character long that add up to the value of 100 and then find which of these is found in a dictionary. 

    As might be expected, the script generated hundreds of valid words (see the short sample below just for the letter A). It turns out that many of them are not very motivational.

    A N E U R I S M
    1 20 20 9 20 21 4 5 100%
    B O Y C O T T  
    1 20 20 9 20 21 4   100%

    The problem with all of these leadership gimmicks is that they fail to understand the fundamentals of human performance, chiefly that nothing in nature functions at 100% efficiency. In actuality, anything that’s operational at the 70 percentile range is outstanding. 

    Anyone with doubts should consult Frederick Brooks’ Mythical Man-Month.


    Letter Values



    1 + 2 + 18 + 15 + 7 + 1 + 20 + 9 + 22 + 5



    1 + 3 + 18 + 15 + 13 + 5 + 7 + 1 + 12 + 25



    1 + 6 + 6 + 5 + 3 + 20 + 1 + 20 + 9 + 15 + 14



    1 + 12 + 9 + 14 + 5 + 1 + 20 + 9 + 15 + 14



    1 + 14 + 3 + 8 + 15 + 18 + 9 + 20 + 9 + 3



    1 + 14 + 7 + 12 + 15 + 16 + 8 + 15 + 2 + 9 + 1



    1 + 14 + 15 + 18 + 3 + 8 + 9 + 19 + 13



    1 + 18 + 25 + 1 + 14 + 9 + 19 + 13



    1 + 19 + 2 + 5 + 19 + 20 + 15 + 19



    © Copyright 2017 Yaacov Apelbaum, All Rights Reserved.