Selected Articles Review

Charles McGonigal

McGonigal joined the FBI in 1996. His first assignment was New York City, where he worked Russian foreign counterintelligence and organized crime matters. During his tenure in New York, McGonigal worked on the TWA Flight 800 investigation, was assigned to the task force investigating Wen Ho Lee, investigated the 1998 terrorist bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, and investigated the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. Interesting/controversial list of investigations.

He was also assigned to Cleveland, Washington field office, HQs, and Baltimore. He was moved to FBI HQ to stand up a Cyber-Counterintelligence Coordination Section working in Bill Priesap’s area who headed the Counterintelligence area at HQ. McGonigal worked Counterintelligence and Cyber threats, specifically working and managing Espionage, Economic Espionage and Insider Threat investigations. In other words, McGonigal would have understood exactly what happened to the DNC server. When DNC claimed Russia had hacked the email system of the Democratic National Committee, McGonigal was serving as chief of the cybercrimes section at FBI headquarters in Washington. As a cyber expert he would have known a hack could not have extracted the data at the rate at which it was downloaded.

Interestingly, in 2010, McGonigal was in charge of the WikiLeaks Task Force at HQ FBI, the task force  identified Pfc. Bradley Manning as the leaker. Manning was later convicted for espionage related violations and pardoned by Obama. If you’re following along, McGonigal can find Manning but not the breach in the DNC? Or the foreign interference in the 2020 election?

By Jun 2016 he was transferred to the NYC field office and appears in a video forum: Foreign Influence Ops and Counterintelligence.

McGonigal, along with William Evanina (who is a career FBI and CIA guy (ODNI worked for Coates, NCSC)). McGonigal leads off the forum with the announcement that Director Comey had just been fired by Trump. He refers to Comey as “most loved leader” of FBI. He goes on to discuss how he works with foreign governments all over the globe. He says there are 150 agents focused on counter intelligence. One interesting comment was him saying resources are allocated based on threat. While that may sound benign to non government folks, inside the government it is well known that the threat is often embellished to increase the amount of resources available. The threat of white supremacy is a good example. He defines espionage as access to classified and sharing it w/o authority. He goes on to say that the FBI has sole jurisdiction in these matters.

William Evanina describes his duties as driving policy and interfacing with the White House and Congress; chairs NATO panel; 5 I’s panel chair once a month. He briefly talks about how often, early in his career, he heard about Russian propaganda; but that it had been driven home for him when they interfered in the 2016 election. “We know for a fact they did.” When someone asked if because Russia was involved in the 2016 election should we go back to paper voting, his response: there was quite a bit of spin in the media. He said emphatically that it was a fact “no voting machine was hacked during 2016 election.”

Evanina said there was an assessment of voting machines and that no voting machine hacked. He went further, stating even if someone wanted to hack a machine, the precincts were not connected to each other or the internet. He then makes the point that someone couldn’t get to all the machines; which we know makes little difference if you know what precincts makes the most impact. Then he falsely claims each state has different systems so no one could effectively hack them all.

McGonigal tells the audience “We don’t just run out and open investigations into someone without the appropriate predication.”  “We have all kinds of legal review processes” While this is technically correct, the real question is do they use the legal review processes? We know they do not use them every time; when they do use them they are not always truthful; and, in general, the fact that they have them means nothing.

With all of this as background material, we recently found out McGonigal was the subject of a grand jury. US attorneys secretly convened a grand jury that examined his conduct while assigned to the FBI field office in New York City (his last assignment). Specifically “McGonigal’s business dealings with a top aide to Oleg Deripaska, the billionaire Russian oligarch who was at the center of allegations that Russia colluded with the Trump campaign to interfere in the 2016 election.”

According to Business Insider “The subpoena, issued in November, requests records relating to McGonigal and a shadowy consulting firm called Spectrum Risk Solutions. A week after the subpoena was issued, a Soviet-born immigrant named Sergey Shestakov said in a separate filing that McGonigal had helped him “facilitate” an introduction between Spectrum and Deripaska’s aide. The filing also states that McGonigal helped introduce the aide to Kobre & Kim, a New York law firm that specializes in representing clients who are being investigated on suspicion of “fraud and misconduct.” Shestakov, who has been identified on TV panels as a former Soviet foreign ministry official and former chief of staff to the Soviet ambassador to the United Nations, reported receiving $33,000 for the referrals.”

McGonigal is not registered as a foreign agent. Therefore any work done on behalf of foreigners is a crime and punishable by the Foreign Agents Registration Act and carries a $250,000 fine and up to five years in prison. It just so happens Deripaska was found guilty by the Treasury Department in 2018 for acting as an agent for the Kremlin. The leaked grand jury document covers Apr 1, 2017 to present.

Business Insider states “According to the witness subpoena, prosecutors are also looking into whether McGonigal has ties to the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as any “payments or gifts” he was provided by the governments of Kosovo, Montenegro, and Albania.”

McGonigal has appeared at several forums, panels, and interviews to discuss counterintelligence. In 2020, after his alleged assistance to Deripaska’s aide, he appeared on a panel at the Atlantic Council, where he discussed the corruption of Russia’s security services. “You are seeing an erosion in any rule of law as it relates to the FSB,” he said. “It would be akin to having in the United States the FBI as a rogue element, operating at the behest of the highest bidder.” (You just can’t make this up)

“McGonigal’s profile on LinkedIn says he is the senior vice president of “global security and life safety” at Brookfield Properties, a multibillion-dollar real-estate company in New York. But that information, apparently, is inaccurate. “Charlie McGonigal is no longer with Brookfield,” Andrew Brent, Brookfield’s head of communications, told Insider. McGonigal left the company, he added, in early January — just as witnesses were scheduled to appear before the grand jury.”

During an interview with a Brazilian reporter in Jun 2018, Charles McGonigal tells the Brazilian reporter “Anything on line has inherent risk” when discussing electronic voting systems.” He goes on to say the “FBI doesn’t want to infringe on anyone’s rights”. He tells the reporter there are so many levels of scrutiny internal to the FBI, referring to individuals rights during investigations, that there is no way anyone’s rights are violated. He said the FBI is always mindful of the legal process.