Mar-a-Lago – the Palm Beach resort and residence where Donald Trump allegedly stored nuclear secrets among a trove of highly classified documents for 18 months since he left the White House – is a magnet for foreign spies, former intelligence officials have warned.
The Washington Post reported that a document outlining the defenses of an unspecified foreign government, including its nuclear capabilities, was one of several top secret documents Trump removed from the White House when he left office in January 2021 .
There were also documents marked SAP, for Special-Access Programs, which often relate to US intelligence operations and whose circulation is severely restricted, even among administration officials with higher security clearances.
Potentially most disturbing of all were papers stamped HCS, Humint Control Systems, involving human intelligence collected from agents in enemy countries, whose lives would be in danger if their identity were compromised.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is conducting a damage assessment that focuses on the sensitivity of the documents, but US officials said it is the job of FBI counterintelligence to assess who may have had access to them.
It is a vast area. The home of a former president with a history of being fascinated by foreign autocrats, suspicious of US security services and touting his knowledge of secrets, is an obvious target for foreign intelligence.
“I know that national security professionals in government, my former colleagues, [they] shake their heads at the damage that could have been done,” John Brennan, former CIA director, says MSNBC.
“I am on Mar-a-Lago was targeted by Russian intelligence and other intelligence services for the past 18 or 20 months, and whether they were able to get individuals into this facility, access the rooms where these documents were located and make copies of those documents, that’s what they would do.
Last month the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project reported that a Russian-speaking immigrant from Ukraine was able to mingle with family and friends of the former president at Mar-a-Lago, posing as Anna de Rothschild, posing as an heir to the banking dynasty.
Inna Yashchyshyn, the daughter of a truck driver who emigrated to Canada, regaled those around her with stories of vineyards and estates and growing up in Monaco, and even met the former president in person, having her picture taken with him on a golf green.
There is no evidence that Yashchyshyn was a spy, but the episode highlighted how easy it is to enter Mar-a-Lago. During Trump’s presidency, two Chinese women were caught entering it several times.
One of them, Yujing Zhang, was in possession of four cell phones, a laptop, an external hard drive and a USB flash drive were later found to carry malware. In his hotel room, investigators found nine USB sticks, five SIM cards and a “signal detector” device to locate hidden microphones or cameras. She was convicted of unlawfully entering a building with restricted access and making false statements to a federal agent, and deported to China in 2021.
Guests, guests or not, aren’t the only security concerns. In 2021, the Trump Organization sought 87 foreign workers for positions at Mar-a-Lago, with wages starting at $11.96 an hour.
“All relevant foreign intelligence services, whether from China, Iran, Cuba, including certainly Russia, are…and were interested in gaining access to Mar-a-Lago,” he said. said Peter Strzok, former deputy deputy director of counter-intelligence at the FBItold MSNBC.