Another vacancy opened on the National Security Council (NSC) over at the White House when the senior director for European and Russian Affairs, Andrew Peek, was walked out of the White House last week. The rationale for this abrupt and unceremonious departure was attributed to “security-related investigation.”

Anytime “security-related” and the White House appear in the same sentence ears perk up, yet the White House is quiet about what incident(s) involving Peek were of sufficient significance to warrant being placed on administrative leave and escorted from the building. Readers will remember when the personal assistant to the President, John McEntee was walked out of the White House and for “security concerns” in March 2018.

In McEntee’s case his interim clearance was canceled when it became known that he was the subject of a Department of Homeland Security investigation for serious financial crimes.

What about Andrew Peek?

Peek is no slouch; the man has chops when it comes to international affairs, including an excellent educational pedigree, military service and ever-increasing positions of responsibility within the political realm, as well as the administration. A review of Peek’s bio from his time at the Department of State (DoS) shows us he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs from December 2017 through October 2019.

He was then selected to replace Tim Morrison, who had replaced Fiona Hill – both of whom were thrown into the spotlight when they were asked to testify in the House impeachment inquiry.

Why was Peek removed?

His position at the White House was substantive. What could have occurred to have him unceremoniously removed?

No one is talking directly from the White House, so one must rely on indirect revelations and do a bit of connecting of the dots, which indicate he may have fallen victim to a “honey trap” and lost his government device (or minimally the information within).

Do hostile intelligence services really use prostitutes to compromise individuals, or gain access to their quarters/hotel room in order to access their devices?

Regularly.

As former head of the East German intelligence service Markus Wolf said in his autobiography, “as long as there is espionage, there will be Romeos seducing unsuspecting Juliets with access to secrets. After all, I was running an intelligence service, not a lonely-hearts club.”

Rest assured, there are also Juliets trolling for unsuspecting Romeos, even in 2020.

Connecting the dots

  • On January 5, former DoS officer, Reza Marashi, who served within the Office of Iranian Affairs, and who has kept his finger in the mix of national security affairs involving Iran, noted how he had learned that a top advisor within the White House had lost his laptop/iPhone when he was “suckered into a honey trap.”
  • Then on January 19, national security journalist, Jeff Stein shared how his sources are attributing Peek’s departure from the White House and the NSC due to his having “had relations with Russian hookers and could not locate his government cell phone.”
  • CBS News joined the fray on January 21 when national security journalist, Catherine Herridge, shared how two sources had confirmed that “allegations involving Peek were under investigation before he was detailed to the White House in November.”

honeytraps or not – he’s out

Peek may or may not have fallen victim to a “honey trap”. In due time we may know for certain. What appears to be the common thread among these separate snippets is that Peek lost his government issued device, in a way which caused a security investigation to be initiated at DoS. This investigation no doubt was being conducted by the Diplomatic Security Service within DoS prior to Peek being detailed as Morrison’s replacement on the NSC. In mid-January it appears the investigation provided grist for the counterintelligence wheel to turn and Peek was removed from his position and placed on administrative leave pending conclusion of the investigation.

Like McEntee, Peek appears to have brought with him the baggage of a current security investigation which called into question his suitability to continue to serve in a position of trust. When the investigation concludes, we may learn precisely what occurred and the level of damage to the nation’s security, if any.

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Christopher Burgess (@burgessct) is an author and speaker on the topic of security strategy. Christopher, served 30+ years within the Central Intelligence Agency. He lived and worked in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central Europe, and Latin America. Upon his retirement, the CIA awarded him the Career Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the highest level of career recognition. Christopher co-authored the book, “Secrets Stolen, Fortunes Lost, Preventing Intellectual Property Theft and Economic Espionage in the 21st Century” (Syngress, March 2008). He is the founder of securelytravel.com

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