A former top counterintelligence official in New York, Charles F. McGonigal, was indicted last month for allegedly selling access to Russian and Albanian officials in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash.
After retiring from the FBI in 2018, McGonigal was accused of illegally working for one of Russia's most notorious oligarchs, Oleg Deripaska, who was linked to the FBI's Russia investigation through his ties to former Donald Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.
Former FBI officials who worked with McGonigal said they were shocked, disappointed and angry when they learned of the news. One called the allegations appalling. This guy was well respected and considered a professional counterintelligence specialist. He was one of those rock stars in counterintelligence who, when the tough jobs came up when the very sensitive assignments came up, were on the short list of people that you looked at and said, Hey, where is Charles, what is he doing for the next six months? A former FBI official said he worked with McGonigal.
There is speculation about the potential damage that McGonigal could have caused, including whether he exposed sensitive information that could harm the U.S. national security. McGonigal was a senior counterintelligence official, which had access to some of the most sensitive information held by the FBI, as well as information from the CIA and other agencies.
He was familiar with FBI's collection techniques, operations against Russian diplomats in the U.S. and more, according to former officials familiar with his work.
There are questions about his proximity to several high-profile investigations, including those involving Hillary Clinton and associates of Donald Trump.
Nearly two years before his retirement in 2018, the Justice Department alleges that McGonigal effectively sold his access to senior U.S. officials, trying to broker meetings for individuals from Bosnia and Herzegovina BiH on behalf of a person previously associated with Albanian intelligence.
McGonigal allegedly accepted 225.000 dollars for his help, while lying to the FBI about his activities, including multiple trips to Europe paid for by his Albanian contact, as well as a secret relationship he maintained with the prime minister of Albania.
After retiring in 2018, according to the New York indictment, McGonigal violated U.S. sanctions by accepting illegal payments to help Deripaska try to get U.S. sanctions lifted and investigate a political rival in Russia.
McGonigal's behavior was more appalling for some current and former officials while still at the bureau, than the Deripaska-related allegations against him that occurred after he retired. A troubling claim is that McGonigal led the FBI to open a criminal investigation against an American citizen, in which a person with ties to Albanian intelligence was expected to act as a human source but didn't reveal his financial dealings with that person, Avaz reports.