Steele’s Primary Sub-Source

Who is the “Primary Sub-Source” of the Steele Dossier?

Stephen McIntyre, Walker Henson, Hans Mahncke and “Fool Nelson”

The Steele dossier has upended U.S. politics for nearly four years. While the golden showers scene attracted the most attention, the dossier was the primary basis for allegations of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign and thus to the Mueller inquiry.

Yet remarkably little is known (or has been publicly disclosed) about the origin of the information/disinformation in the dossier. Did it originate from Russian intelligence services? Or from Fusion GPS operatives in the U.S.? Or from Ukraine?

The Horowitz Report (or “Horowitz”) recently stated that Steele’s information was provided to him through a single supplier (Horowitz’ Primary Sub-Source), who was said to have a “network of sub-sources”:

Steele himself was not the originating source of any of the factual information in his reporting.  Steele instead relied on a Primary Sub-source for information, who used his/her network of sub-sources to gather information that was then passed to Steele  (pdf,9)

The “network” supposedly included sub-sources at the highest level of Russian state apparatus and within the Trump campaign.

Although it is impossible to fully understand the structure and purpose of the Steele dossier without knowing the identity and motives of the Primary Sub-Source, his identity was not disclosed by Steele (either publicly or to the FBI).  Horowitz disclosed that the FBI identified the Primary Sub-Source (or, more neutrally, the “PSS”) during the period covered by the first Carter Page FISA warrant and interviewed the PSS three times, but, somewhat unusually, there have been no FBI leaks on his identity.

There has been considerable public speculation on possibilities, with speculation as diverse as Sidney Blumenthal or Cody Shearer on one extreme to Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska on another.

Today we propose a new candidate:

To be clear, this is speculation on our part. We base this speculation on key new information in the Horowitz Report, combined with prior details in public source reporting and previously unconsidered background information on Steele himself.

Prior known details

Although most individuals in the Horowitz Report are identified by anonymous nomenclature (Case Agent 2, Russian Oligarch 1, Source 3 etc), it seems almost certain that the Report avoided using two alter egos for the same individual. 

According to an apparently well-sourced New York Times article in April 2019[1], the PSS was “a Russian speaker from a former Soviet republic who had spent time in the West”.

According to the book by Simpson and Fritsch of Fusion GPS, the PSS was an “individual known to US intelligence and law enforcement” and a “remarkable person with a remarkable story who deserves a medal for service to the West”.  

In addition, the PSS was someone previously known to Steele and with whom Steele had worked in the past, including, most recently, his 2014-2015 memoranda on Ukraine and Russia that had been disseminated within State Department by Jonathan Winer and Victoria Nuland.

Finally, John Solomon, who appears to have had access to an unredacted version of Bruce Ohr’s handwritten notes memorializing his conversations with Simpson and Steele, wrote[2] that Ohr reported to FBI that, according to Simpson, “[m]uch of the collection about the Trump campaign ties to Russia comes from a former Russian intelligence officer (?not entirely clear) who lives in the U.S.” 

Key new details in Horowitz Report

The Horowitz Report provided key new details which both strongly indicated that the PSS was based in or a resident in the U.S., not Europe, and corrected previous false information that PSS was “Russian-based”.

The first interview with the PSS (on January 13, 2017) was attended by two FBI agents (Case Agent 1, Supervisory Intel Analyst) and two DOJ lawyers, after negotiation of terms with the PSS’ lawyer. The second interview (in March 2017) was with an FBI agent from the Washington Field Office. Although Horowitz did not explicitly locate the interviews in Washington DC, the context overwhelmingly suggests that the interviews took place in or near Washington.

The first interview took place a mere three days after Buzzfeed’s publication of the full Steele dossier. There is circumstantial evidence (from a previously released Jan 10, 2017 text message from FBI agent Peter Strzok text to FBI attorney Lisa Page[3]) that publication of the dossier gave a reason/pretext for interviews which had not previously been arranged (for one reason or another) and thus, that the interview with the PSS may have been arranged with only a couple of days of notice.

While it is possible that the PSS could have traveled to the U.S. for his FBI interviews, it is hard to contemplate circumstances under which he would have voluntarily traveled to the U.S. under short notice and on multiple occasions for an FBI interview.

In addition, the Horowitz report observed, in passing, (1) that the Carter Page FISA applications had referred to the PSS as “the Russian-based subsource” and, in a footnote,[4] (2) that, in March 2017, “the Supervisory Intel Analyst provided comments to the OGC Attorney [Clinesmith], including advising him that the Primary Sub-source was not [“Russian-based”] –  as stated in the FISA applications, and asking whether a correction should be made” (our interpolation, which fits exactly). Clinesmith failed to make the requested correction and this incorrect location descriptor was perpetuated in the last two Carter Page FISA applications, and subsequently in the Nunes Memo. Horowitz did not include this important failure by Clinesmith in his list of “seventeen” FISA errors, though it was arguably of more importance than many listed errors. Whether PSS was based in Russia or adjudging matters from far away would certainly have affected the perceived reliability of the source in the eyes of the FISC.

Locating the PSS in the United States, rather than Russia (or Europe or Ukraine), is decisive for winnowing down potential candidates, as well as placing an entirely new perspective on the role of the Steele dossier.

Litvinenko Inquiry

Summarizing: we’re looking for a former intelligence officer from a former Soviet republic who is now resident in the U.S., who has a past history with Christopher Steele, most recently in regard to Ukraine and Russia.

While there are no details on Steele’s associates for his 2014-2015 memos, there is rich documentation from the UK inquiry into the 2006 death of former KGB operative Alexander Litvinenko, for which, Steele, then head of MI6’s Russia desk, was designated[5]. by MI6 to investigate.

The Inquiry documents list several US residents, who had emigrated from former Soviet republics and who were associated with Litvinenko in the months prior to his death, and who would be known to Steele. The most prominent of these were Alex Goldfarb, Yuri Felshtinsky and Yuri Shvets.

Shvets is of particular interest because, at the time of Litvinenko’s death, he was subcontracting for Litvinenko in the preparation of due diligence dossiers using what he described to the Inquiry as a “network of sources” in former Soviet Union countries:

Due Diligence investigations are necessary as a direct result of widespread corruption and the activities of Organized Crime elements within the Countries of the former Soviet Union. I have been conducting such investigations, on behalf of clients, since 1997. I do this through my network of sources in the Countries of the former Soviet Union who conduct these investigations on my behalf. I am obviously paid by the client for these investigations, from which I fund my network of sources

On receiving each assignment, I requested inquiries to be made on the subject(s) background through my network. Roughly ten days later, I received a communication from my network detailing the results of the Due Diligence investigation.[6]

Documents from the Litvinenko Inquiry also included a 2004 report by Shvets on Igor Sechin, who, of course, makes a conspicuous appearance in the Steele dossier as the chairman of Rosneft who supposedly offered an enormous bribe to Carter Page in a secret meeting in Moscow in early July 2016.

Shvets’ Backstory

Shvets has an interesting history, to say the least. He is a former Soviet intelligence officer who sought political asylum in the U.S. in 1993. In 1995, he wrote a colorful chronicle entitled “Washington Station: My Life as a KGB Spy in America”[7].

In a 1995 book review[8], the late and lamented Christopher Hitchens panned Shvets’ book, stating that “every checkable allegation in the book turned out to be grotesquely false” – something that can also be said of the Steele dossier:

While I was still reading these books, and thinking about them, I chanced to have two annoying near-KGB experiences. A creepy individual named Yuri Shvets published a book called Washington Station: My Life as a KGB Spy in America, which was fully as lurid and preposterous as its title (put out by the ‘respected firm’ of Simon and Schuster) might suggest. Its central allegation was that an old personal enemy of mine had been a key ‘agent of influence’ in Reagan-era Washington. I could believe anything of this man except that his ‘controllers’ had awarded him the hilarious code-name of ‘Socrates’. And every checkable allegation in the book turned out to be grotesquely false.

Shvets’ background is Ukrainian, not Russian. He appears regularly on the popular online Ukrainian news program of Dmitry Gordon[9] to discuss intelligence matters, consistently advocating a very anti-Russian policy. Shvets claims to have attended KGB school with Putin, whom he despises. His commentary is laced with disparaging personal vindictiveness about Putin’s height and appearance.

 On October 13, 2016, Ukrainian politician Oleg Tsarov[10] (a member of the Party of Regions) published a previously unnoticed article[11] describing a curious meeting during the 2016 election campaign between Shvets and a member of the Ukrainian Party of Regions which had been arranged by the Ukrainian intelligence services (SBU[12]). In the article, Shvets was said to have been working “at Clinton’s headquarters”. The article (translated to English below) is excerpted in full below (emphasis added):

Today I talked with a former colleague in the Party of Regions. My friend worked at the headquarters of the Party of Regions and was involved in elections. 

SBU officers asked him to meet with a man who introduced himself as Yuri Shvets. Yuri said that he studied with Putin, was a lawyer for the polonium-poisoned Litvinenko, and now works at Clinton’s headquarters.

They got into a conversation. Yuri considers himself a Ukrainian, but the reason for the meeting was not in Ukraine, but in the United States. According to Yuri, the task of finding dirt on Trump and his team members is very urgent (since, according to Clinton’s headquarters, at the time of the conversation, Trump’s rating was higher than Clinton’s rating). In particular, Yuri was interested in any information on Manafort, the political consultant of the Party of Regions and its lobbyist in the United States. The fact is that although Manafort was forced to leave Trump’s headquarters after he was accused of working with Yanukovych and the Party of Regions for many years, anyway, if any incriminating facts were discovered, it would hit Trump.

What conclusions can be drawn from this meeting? It can be assumed that since the SBU helps Yuri organize meetings, then most likely this is a request from the CIA. And this proves that the Litvinenko case was originally under the control of the CIA. In addition, this meeting emphasizes once again that, despite the fact that the attention of the world media is mainly focused on the events in Syria, what is happening in Ukraine is still important and influences the formation of the world agenda.

According to a public affidavit[13] executed by Mr. Shvets in 2019, Shvets’ consultations with the Litvinenko inquiry were authorized by the U.S. intelligence community, with which he claimed to have worked since at least 2000.


While many names have been suggested for Steele’s Primary Sub-Source, none of the suggestions thus far work.

  • Stefan Halper, Cody Shearer, Sidney Blumenthal and/or Nellie Ohr are obviously not former Soviet intelligence officers or even from a former Soviet republic;
  • Oleg Deripaska was not interviewed by FBI in US in January, March and May 2017, is firmly identified with another alter egos in the Horowitz Report (Russian Oligarch 1) as well as being an employer of Steele, not a mere collector;.
  • Konstantin Kilimnik may or may not have been former Russian intelligence officer, but was definitely not interviewed by FBI in US in January, March and May 2017 (somewhat to the chagrin of Peter Strzok).

Thus far, open source researchers have tended to look for the Primary Sub-Source among the names already known in the controversy. 

But there is no reason to believe that the Primary Sub-Source will be among those names. We urge researchers to look more widely to include Shvets and other possibilities from the Litvinenko affair.

It is scandalous that the identity of the Primary Sub-Source has not been disclosed by the FBI, despite its central importance to the Russiagate hoax. But once again, Hitchens’ 1995 review[14] contains words of wisdom:

Mr Kalugin looked as if he had been dreamed up in an Ian Fleming nightmare. .. I found myself getting irrationally pissed-off. Here am I, a journalist and a free citizen of the Anglo-American world. But if I seek to know what was really done in the Cold War dark, I must attend upon someone who was a criminal in that war. My ‘own side’ has no intention of enlightening me, and the spook industry has built up such an oligopoly in journalism and publishing that no untainted rival – such as the old-fashioned idea of full disclosure – has been permitted to challenge the self-interested ghouls who pay out their ration of ‘secrets’ in a niggardly and mysterious fashion as a form of individual and collective welfare.

Twenty-five years later, our “own side” still has no intention of enlightening us on key details of the Russiagate hoax; “full disclosure” is nowhere on the horizon; and the collection of “self-interested ghouls” now envelopes nearly all U.S. news and cable news.

[1] Shane et al, Apr 19, 2019. (“according to a Justice Department document and three people familiar with the events”)

[2] An FBI 302 dated 12/12/2016, which appears to reference the notes which are the source of the Solomon quotation, contains a redaction that is the correct length to be consistent with Solomon’s quotation.


[4] Horowitz n389.


[6] In his 2007 statement to the inquiry,



[9]; Sometimes shown on television channel

[10] See