Former British spy Christopher Steele confessed that he used an unverified report submitted to a CNN website, where “random individuals” can post information, for his salacious anti-Trump dossier.
Steele made the awkward revelation during a deposition last year in a case involving Russian entrepreneur Aleksej Gubarev, who claims his companies Webzilla and XBT Holdings were defamed by Steele after the dossier was published by BuzzFeed.
Steele was asked during the deposition how he verified allegations about Gubarev's companies and whether he found “anything of relevance concerning Webzilla,” according to the newly released transcripts of the deposition.
“We did. It was an article I have got here which was posted on July 28, 2009, on something called CNN iReport,” Steele said.
But CNN iReport, which appears to be no longer active -- though archives remain accessible online -- states that it’s a “user-generated site” and warns that “the stories submitted by users are not edited, fact-checked or screened before they post.”
“The stories submitted by users are not edited, fact-checked or screened before they post.”
Even the site’s banner included the slogan “Unedited. Unfiltered. News.”
When asked whether the former British spy understood how the website actually worked, he confessed that “I do not have any particular knowledge of that” and noted he didn’t understand at the time that the site has “no connection to any CNN reporters.”
“Do you understand that CNN iReports are or were nothing more than any random individuals’ assertions on the Internet?” an examiner asked Steele.
He replied: “No, I obviously presume that if it is on a CNN site that it may has [sic] some kind of CNN status. Albeit that it may be an independent person posting on the site.”
“No, I obviously presume that if it is on a CNN site that it may has [sic] some kind of CNN status. Albeit that it may be an independent person posting on the site.”
According to the archive copy of the iReports site, the website specifically notes that none of the users who submit content can be described as working for CNN.
“Being an iReport.com user and creating and uploading content to iReport.com does not mean that you work for CNN, and you should never represent yourself as working for CNN,” the site’s FAQ section read.
The dossier authored by Steele alleged that Gubarev's companies “used botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data and conduct 'alerting operations' against the Democratic Party leadership” and that Gubarev himself played a “significant” part in the operation while “under duress” from the Russian security agency FSB.
The latest revelation of using unconfirmed sources put the dossier’s legitimacy further into question, especially since the FBI extensively relied on the dossier in its warrant applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court in seeking to surveil Trump aide Carter Page.
Steele and his company, Orbis Business Intelligence, were hired by Glenn Simpson's U.S. based company, Fusion GPS, to work on the dossier and promote its contents to journalists. Fusion GPS received $1.8 million via the law firm Perkins Coie, with the money paid by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Fox News' Catherine Herridge and Adam Shaw contributed to this report.