(…) Researchers, including British political analyst Chris Blackburn, have used open sources to show that Mifsud was a well-known figure in Western academic, diplomatic, and intelligence circles. Blackburn, whose research has previously focused on Islamic terrorist groups, has worked with senior leaders within global intelligence agencies. He told RealClearInvestigations that Mifsud’s known contacts suggest he’s not a Russian spy – or he is one of the most successful in history.
“Shortly after the FBI opened its counterintelligence probe based on the Papadopoulos information on July 31, the lead agent on the case, FBI Deputy Director of Counterintelligence Peter Strzok, went to London to investigate.
“A counter-intelligence officer would first look at someone’s most frequent contacts,” says Blackburn. “So when Strzok gets to London in early August to look into the Papadopoulos meeting with Mifsud, he would’ve found that one of his most notable contacts is Claire Smith.”
Smith is a prominent British diplomat whose biography describes her as an envoy with 25 years of experience and “expert in managing the complexities of global business practices.” Her postings included Beijing and Islamabad.
She worked with Mifsud at three different institutions—the London Academy of Diplomacy, University of Stirling, and Link Campus University in Rome. Blackburn believes that Smith’s working relationship with Mifsud is an important piece of evidence. “She was on the United Kingdom’s Joint Intelligence Committee,” says Blackburn. “It’s a very significant institution in the UK’s intelligence community, answering directly to the prime minister.”
For eight years, until April 2017, Smith was also a member of Britain’s security vetting appeals panel, which, according to its website, is “an independent avenue of appeal for Civil Service staff and contractors whose security clearance has been refused or withdrawn.”
“Smith was vetting UK government employees,” says Blackburn. “So how could she have missed that her colleague Joseph Mifsud was actually a Russian spy? She continued to work alongside him. She got her picture taken with him.”
If it’s true the professor was working with Russian intelligence, says Blackburn, “he was in place to recruit anyone he was training, in Rome or London. Effectively, Mifsud would have been a talent spotter for Russian intelligence.”
Moreover, explains Blackburn, if Mifsud proved to be a spy, he would’ve compromised a number of high-level European intelligence and diplomatic officials the professor worked with in London and Rome. They include Gianni Pittella, an Italian senator who was previously a member of the European Parliament, where he headed the Socialists and Democrats alliance, one of the Parliament’s most important left-wing blocs.
“Joseph is my dear friend,” Pittella told the Italian press in November after news of Mifsud’s alleged involvement in the Russiagate scandal spread. Pittella was a visiting lecturer when Mifsud was director of the London Academy of Diplomacy and is on the Link Campus Foundation’s board.
Link offers degrees in strategic studies and “diplomatic science.” Blackburn says that among the students who attend Link are police officers from around Europe, especially Italy, Malta, and eastern European countries, as well as a large contingent from Brazil. Link’s president is the former Italian interior minister, Vincenzo Scotti, who is alleged to have told Mifsud to hide. (Read more: RealClearInvestigations, 5/26/2018) (Archive)