What seems to be slowly emerging from the murky background of the Russia Hoax--or perhaps I should be saying The Great Russia Hoax--is that Christopher Steele was more of a frontman for the "dossier" than an actual author. While his writing skills are not in doubt, honed as they were in his days as a student Leftist at Cambridge, it's becoming clear that his true usefulness to the Clinton Campaign had to do with his credentials. The FBI and DoJ couldn't very well go in front of the FISC with an application and attached affidavit and tell the judge, This is something that Nellie and the boys or, as might be, Sid and the boys, came up with. No, much better to be able to talk about a former Spook from an allied country with experience of Russian matters, who has Russian sources, who knows their tradecraft, methods, and goals. Who is familiar with their desire to sully the purity of our political processes. And perhaps best of all, conservatives and Republicans tend to be an Anglophilic bunch, and thus less inclined to question the representations of a source from "British Intelligence."
On closer examination, that narrative didn't hold up well to closer examination. Assuming the truth of what we've been told about Steele, he hadn't been in Russia for many years, hadn't even been in MI-6 for quite a few years. His "sources," such as they were and given the tumult of Russian politics since the end of the Cold War, could be regarded as stale at this point, without further authentication. And, importantly, since he admits at the very least to have been dealing with these sources through intermediaries, verification of any of their assertions would be problematic--to say the least.
As it is, what we are now learning from House investigations is that the primary authors of the "dossier" appear to have been long time Clinton operatives: Sid ("Sid Vicious") Blumenthal and Cody Shearing. With assistance from Nellie Ohr--Fusion GPS employee and wife of associate deputy attorney general Bruce Ohr (since, twice demoted), who seems to have been the liaison between the Clinton Campaign and FBI/DoJ. Or, perhaps more accurately, that liaison was a sort of cooperative, spousal, affair.
No wonder Steele has been so reticent to testify under oath. Especially since, if he retains ties to British Intelligence he could be prosecuted for espionage under British law for simultaneously working as a source for the FBI.
As a sidenote to these British connections, it's interesting still to watch the interactions between Trump and Theresa May. Public consciousness of the precipitate resignation of the head of GCHQ has receded (he resigned for "personal reasons" giving only three days notice, not at all coincidentally, immediately after the inauguration of President Trump). Perhaps the Brits will think better of "meddling" in US politics the next time the likes of a John Brennan comes calling.
BRIEF ADDENDUM RE INTEL REPUTATIONS: Christopher Steele was regarded within British Intelligence circles, as well as within American intelligence circles, as a Great Expert on things Russian--especially Russian intelligence matters. But such reputations in the intelligence world need to be taken with a large dose of salt. They are easily gained and difficult to refute, in the ordinary course of events. To offer just one example, the FBI "handlers" (both metaphorical and literal) of Katrina Leung over a period of about 20 years were no doubt regarded as Great China Experts. Their reputation as experts was maintained over the course of two decades, and vanished in the relative blink of an eye. As James Comey might say,
All flesh is like grass,UPDATE: Senator Grassley's memorandum makes interesting, if understated, reading. For example, regarding the subject of this post, we read on page 8 (of 10):
and all its glory like a flower of the field ...
Mr. Steele admitted that he received and included in it [the dossier] unsolicited--and unverified--allegations.Oh my! How ... promiscuous! And in the next paragraph we learn that these "unsolicited--and unverified--allegations" [emphasis in original] were provided, not to put too fine a point on it, by "Clinton associates." Senator Grassley finds that Steele's use of this material "raises additional concerns about his credibility." Indeed! And thus Steele's notable reticence to speak of these matters under oath.
In defense of Mr. Steele, he was being paid by the Clinton Campaign. One could hardly expect him to refuse material from his benefactors just because it consisted of "unsolicited--and unverified--allegations." Mr. Steele is, no doubt, a man of honor who felt obliged to give his paymasters their money's worth.