On Jan. 11, former CIA officer John Sipher ’83, P’19 joined a PBS NewsHour panel to discuss alleged reports that Russian intelligence compiled kompromat, or compromising files, on President-elect Donald Trump during his visits to Moscow. Sipher was interviewed by the show’s co-host Judy Woodruff L.H.D.’07, who holds an honorary degree from Hobart and William Smith Colleges and delivered the 2007 Commencement address.
Sipher, who has served in the CIA’s clandestine service and executive ranks, was stationed in Moscow in the 1990s and served as the Deputy of the CIA’s worldwide Russia program for three years.
Regarding the alleged dossier on Trump, Sipher said, “I think the question is, is this real? On the positive side, for those of us who have lived and worked in Russia and against the Russians, it does feel…like the kind of thing that Russians do. A lot of those details fit. Also, I think, the author has some credibility, which is on the positive side.”
On the other hand, he continued, “it really is hard to make a distinction if we don’t know who [the author’s] sources are…In the CIA, before we would put out a report like that…there could be…hundreds of pages of information on that person’s access, on their suitability, on their personality. We don’t have that. And, secondly, the fact that a lot of this reporting is the presidential administration in Russia and the Kremlin is a little bit worrying, because, I mean, that’s essentially a hard nut to crack. And U.S. intelligence agencies have been trying to do that for years, and the fact that he has this much data about them does put it into question a little bit.”
On CNN later in the week, Sipher discussed Christopher Steele, the MI-6 spy who gathered details of the alleged Russian dossier on Trump, Steele’s credibility and future geopolitical implications.
Sipher retired from the CIA 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 CIA’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 is director of client services for the company, which develops technology and software tools for corporate leadership and leadership development.