A former CIA analyst says it's likely that foreign spies are targeting Fox News on-air talent and other employees for monitoring or recruitment, due to the network's out-sized influence and contact with President Donald Trump and others in his administration.
Writing in The Washington Post today, Aki Peritz said the assumption wasn't a knock on Fox News -- he praised his experiences on the network -- but an acknowledgement that it would be a prime target for "exploitation" by America's adversaries. Peritz says he's seen no evidence of any foreign infiltration of the network, but in the column advised Fox employees to "be careful."
"A truly aggressive intelligence effort would not just monitor what’s being said on the network," Peritz writes. "It would target the on-air talent, as well as the folks behind the scenes who make the network’s programming possible: producers, bookers, associate producers, production assistants and the like. This might range from opening friendly contacts with these employees to outright recruitment. Another avenue for exploitation: Trump reportedly calls Sean Hannity after his show. If hostile foreign services compromise Hannity’s phone (or place a listening device in the room where Hannity takes his private calls), that could provide real-time intelligence on the American president and his thoughts."
Peritz notes that infiltrating news organizations would not be a new trick for intelligence services, but could be especially valuable today. Trump is believed to watch Fox News' morning show "Fox and Friends" regularly, often praising the show and tweeting on the topics covered. Peritz argues that the show and the network's other popular opinion shows can influence the White House agenda of the day -- meaning it would pay to be able to influence them.
"So if I were a spymaster in the employ of a hostile foreign service, I’d devote some significant effort to penetrating" the news channel, Peritz said.
"Compared to government workers, Fox employees would make easy targets. That’s because they aren’t public officials -- they’re news and entertainment people," Peritz writes. "Also, it’s television -- full of trade secrets, big personalities and titanic egos. Most wouldn’t expect to be compromised by a hostile intelligence power, especially on American soil. Few, if any, have the sort of counterintelligence training the U.S. government administers to people in sensitive positions, because Fox employees are not the usual targets for intelligence operations. But the president’s continuing, very specific interest in the channel heightens their risk of being approached by a hostile government."
[Do you have a tip or question for Code and Dagger? Reach us at CodeAndDagger@protonmail.com. And if you like what you read and want to help keep the site running (kind of) smoothly, click here to learn how you can support the site. ]