Possible Russian spy for CIA now living in Washington area

The former Russian government official, who had a job with access to secrets, was living openly under his true name.

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By Ken Dilanian and Tatyana Chistikova

A former senior Russian official is living in the Washington area under U.S. government protection, current and former government officials tell NBC News.

NBC News is withholding the man’s name and other key details at the request of U.S. officials, who say reporting the information could endanger his life.

Yet the former Russian government official, who had a job with access to secrets, was living openly under his true name.

An NBC News correspondent went to the man’s house in the Washington area and rang the doorbell. Five minutes later, two young men in an SUV came racing up the street and parked immediately adjacent to the correspondent’s car.

The men, who identified themselves only as friends of the Russian, asked the correspondent what he was doing there.

A former senior national security official said the men were likely U.S. government agents monitoring the Russian's house.

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Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, told a daily press conference on Tuesday, according to state news agency TASS, that a person identified in Russian media reports did work for the Russian government but was not a senior official and had been dismissed a few years ago.

"All these speculations in the American media about who extracted whom, who was rescuing whom and so on — this is, you know, a genre of 'Pulp Fiction,'" he said.

On whether Russia is now searching for this man, Peskov said: "No, I can't confirm that because I don't know if he was an agent or not. I can only confirm to you that there was indeed such an employee in the administration and that he was subsequently dismissed."

The discovery of the Russian’s presence in the U.S. came after a CNN report Monday asserting that the CIA exfiltrated one of its top spies from Russia after officials became concerned he was in danger of being caught.

The New York Times reported later Monday that the CIA’s Russian informant was instrumental to the agency’s conclusion that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered and orchestrated the campaign to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

The Times said the source was “the American government’s best insight into the thinking of and orders” from Putin, and was key to the CIA’s assessment that Putin favored Donald Trump’s candidacy and personally ordered the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.

The Washington Post previously reported that the source was considered so sensitive that then-CIA Director John Brennan had declined to refer to the person in the top secret Presidential Daily Brief during the final months of the Obama administration.

Brennan sent reports from the source to the president and a small group of top national security aides in a separate, white envelope to assure its security, the Times reported.

NBC News has not confirmed that the Russian living near the nation's capital fed the CIA information about Russian election interference. But for reasons that NBC News is withholding, he fits the profile of someone who may have had access to information about Putin’s activities and who would have been recruitable by American intelligence officials.

Two former FBI officials told NBC News they believe he is the source referred to in the CNN and New York Times reports.

The Russian will likely be moved from the place he is currently living in the interest of keeping him safe, current and former officials said.

CORRECTION (Sept. 10, 2019, 10:40 a.m.): An earlier version of this article misstated when Peskov spoke. It was Tuesday, not Monday.