Nov 20, 2021 • 57M

Theory of Change #027: Barry Meier on the 'Steele Dossier' and private spy agencies

How the ‘Steele Dossier’ confused the public and ended up helping Donald Trump


Appears in this episode

Matthew Sheffield
Lots of people want to change the world. But how does change happen? History is filled with stories of people and institutions that spent big and devoted many resources to effect change but have little to show for it. By contrast, many societal developments have happened without forethought from anyone. And of course, change can be negative as well as positive. In each episode of this weekly program, Theory of Change host Matthew Sheffield delves deep with guests to discuss larger trends in politics, religion, media, and technology.
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Episode Summary

Five years after it was written, the so-called Steele dossier, a collection of memos compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, alleging extensive ties between Donald Trump and various Russians, is still one of the most heavily discussed pieces of writing about the ex-president.

The document has come under intense scrutiny by American law enforcement and intelligence officials. And most of its sensational allegations about Trump have collapsed under examination. It’s also become increasingly apparent that Russia’s own intelligence officials became aware of what Steele was doing and began trying to manipulate him as he did it.

And the document has become the locus of a passel of far right conspiracy theories, alleging all kinds of strange and fanciful things, even more bizarre and intricate than anything that Christopher Steele ever imagined.

How much truth is in the Trump-Russia dossier will likely never be known, but the document is actually part of a larger issue that has received almost no attention. And that is that the Steele memos were the product of multiple private intelligence services, a growing and very secretive industry that is built on the premise of collecting information at the behest of clients. And then using that to generate news coverage without disclosing to the public where it came from. In recent years, many media outlets have been slashing their budgets for independent investigative reporting. Are private spy agencies filling this gap? And what does it mean if they are?

Joining me in this episode to discuss is Barry Meier. He’s the author of “Spooked: The Trump Dossier, Black Cube, and the Rise of Private Spies.”

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