Billionaire investor Peter Thiel snitched to the FBI after a diplomat working in Moscow at the Kremlin’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs approached him at a party in Vienna and proposed a private meeting between the former member of Donald Trump’s transition team and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
According to Business Insider, Thiel was introduced to Daniil Bisslinger by Christian Angermayer, “a gregarious German entrepreneur who had forged relationships with politicians across the world,” at Angermayer’s 40th birthday party on June 23, 2018.
Bisslinger “had previously been an attaché working at the Russian Embassy in Berlin and sometimes served as Vladimir Putin’s interpreter,” the outlet reports.
Bisslinger suggested that Thiel take a trip to Russia to attend the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Thiel later told the FBI. The diplomat said he would arrange for Thiel to meet privately with Putin — a casual invitation that would carry a lot of weight from a counterintelligence perspective, former FBI assistant director Frank Figliuzzi noted.
“If these facts are accurate, they would be of potentially significant counterintelligence interest,” Figliuzzi told Insider. “Anytime a Russian official is inviting someone to meet with Vladimir Putin, that has potential significance.”
And Thiel would be an attractive connection for the Kremlin to have.
Thiel’s “own companies were indispensable to the US national security establishment,” Insider explains. “He had founded Palantir, an analytics company used by the Pentagon and the CIA. He was on the board at Facebook (now Meta) and had been an early investor in prominent US defense startups including SpaceX and Anduril — access that could give the Kremlin a powerful vantage into US security networks and Silicon Valley.”
Thiel didn’t follow up on the invite, but he told the FBI that he believed Bisslinger when he said he could arrange the meeting with Putin.
More than three years after the Vienna soiree, Bisslinger again approached Thiel’s office and extended the same invitation.
“By then, Thiel, like the rest of the world, had seen the signs that Russia was about to invade Ukraine,” Insider reports. “He wondered if Bisslinger’s invitation was some kind of psy-op, a plot to make it appear as though the invasion wasn’t going to happen, that everything was normal. Again, he did not respond.”
But Thiel did reach out to the FBI.
Unbeknownst to Bisslinger, during the time since their encounter in Vienna, Thiel had officially become a confidential human source for the Feds.
The billionaire was now an informant, complete with an identification number and his own code name: “Philosopher.”
“Thiel reported Bisslinger’s two approaches to his bureau handlers, along with the names of two others: a German and a Russian,” according to Insider. “All three men, Thiel told the FBI, had tried to work their way into his circle in order to push the Kremlin’s interests.”
Thiel’s arrangement with the FBI was first disclosed by Insider last month. Citing three sources — “longtime Thiel associate [FBI informant Charles] Johnson plus two additional sources with knowledge of what Thiel reported to the FBI” — Insider revealed that Johnson recruited Thiel, who regularly met with Johnson’s handler, Johnathan Buma.
Those same three sources revealed Thiel’s discussion with the FBI about Angermayer and Bisslinger.
On behalf of Angermayer, two attorneys told Insider in a letter that Bisslinger “worked in Berlin in the Russian embassy and was pre-war a regular part of Berlin diplomatic circles.”
“Even if Mr. Angermayer did introduce Mr. Thiel and Mr. Bisslinger,” the lawyers stated in a separate letter, “Mr. Angermayer is not—and cannot be—responsible for whatever Mr. Bisslinger and Mr. Thiel may or may not have discussed.”
While Bisslinger was at the party, Angermayer is “very confident that he did not make any such introduction,” a spokesperson for the entrepreneur wrote.
“And, either way, Christian is not privy to anything that Mr. Thiel and Mr. Bisslinger may (or may not) have discussed,” the spokesperson stressed.
“If Putin had succeeded in forging a meaningful relationship with Thiel — and there is no evidence to suggest he succeeded — the biggest intelligence prize for Russia would have been Thiel’s influence at Palantir, where he’s served as chairman of the board since 2003,” Insider reports.
“The CIA, the NSA, and the FBI have all reportedly used its software,” the outlet explains. “Palantir recently won a $250 million contract to develop artificial intelligence for the Pentagon; another contract, worth as much as $463 million, is for battlefield-ready software to be used by US Special Operations Command. A proposed partnership between Palantir and Britain’s National Health Service could give the company access to the UK Biobank, one of the world’s largest troves of genetic data.”
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