In two opinion articles this month, former C.I.A. officer John Sipher ’83, P’19 explores the likelihood of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, as well as the long-term fallout of special council Robert J. Mueller’s investigation into such collusion. Sipher, who has served in the C.I.A.’s clandestine service and executive ranks, was stationed in Moscow in the 1990s and served as the Deputy of the C.I.A.’s worldwide Russia program for three years.
In “Oh, Wait. Maybe It Was Collusion,” an Aug. 2 op-ed published in The New York Times, Sipher and Steve Hall, former C.I.A. chief of Russian operations and a CNN national security analyst, discuss the “goal of the Russian spy game…to nudge a person to step over the line into an increasingly conspiratorial relationship,” and how that strategy played out during the 2016 presidential election.
“The overall Russian intent is clear: disruption of the United States political system and society…,” they write. “What remains to be determined is whether the Russians also attempted to suborn members of the Trump team in an effort to gain their cooperation.”
In an article published later in the month on the security website Just Security — and picked up subsequently by Newsweek — Sipher reflects on whether Mueller’s investigation will “lead to satisfying results anytime soon,” Sipher writes. “It is just too hard to prove espionage (broadly defined here to include collusion with a foreign power) in a court of law.”
In “Why Manafort, Kushner, Donald Jr., Page and Cohen May Avoid Prosecution,” Sipher explains that there is “a natural friction between the legal system’s preference for openness and the imperative of intelligence professionals to protect sources and methods…Since the goals, tools and procedures of the [counterintelligence] professional do not lend themselves to swift, if any, justice via the courts…it is unlikely that the government will bring charges of espionage [against Trump associates] anytime soon. Instead, look for charges on a variety of different issues, and any evidence of collusion to come from leaks or the off-chance that one of the possible conspirators turns state’s evidence.”
Sipher retired from the C.I.A. in 2014, having served in the agency’s National Clandestine Service and Senior Intelligence Service. He served multiple overseas tours as Chief of Station and Deputy Chief of Station in Europe, Asia, Southeast Asia, the Balkans and South Asia, developing extensive experience working with foreign and domestic partners to solve national security challenges.
The recipient of the C.I.A.’s Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal, Sipher served as a lead instructor in the agency’s training school and as a regular lecturer at its leadership development program. He earned a B.A. from Hobart College and a master’s in international affairs from Columbia University, and has attended a variety of executive level courses at Harvard University, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Aspen Institute and the Intelligence Community’s Executive Leadership program.
Formerly project lead at the McChrystal Group, Sipher recently helped establish CrossLead, Inc., where he serves as director of client services for the company, which develops technology and software tools for corporate leadership and leadership development.