US intelligence negotiating return of classified NSA documents

US intelligence negotiating return of classified NSA documents
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American intelligence officials have been conducting a top-secret operation to recover stolen National Security Agency (NSA) documents through meetings with Russian intermediaries, according to The Intercept

Top members of the intelligence community have met over the past year with a group of Russians trying to sell back highly classified NSA documents obtained by Russian intelligence. 

American and Russian intermediaries began meeting in Germany in early 2017. One Russian operator with connections to individuals in the country's intelligence sphere with access to top-secret information told The Intercept he is seeking payment for the information. 

The meetings began in early 2017 after a massive 2016 breach of top-secret cyber weapons from the NSA. U.S. intelligence authorities believe the Russians obtained the documents through a mysterious hacker group called the Shadow Brokers, who gained access to many of the hacking tools used in foreign espionage by the U.S. 

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The NSA is now trying to contain the damage after vital information on America's espionage tools was outed. 

Russians involved in the meetings have also begun offering to sell information on Trump campaign officials in connection with the concerted Russian government effort to influence the 2016 election. 

According to a New York Times report published Friday, U.S. intelligence officials said that they told a Russian offering both NSA cyber weapons and material related to President TrumpDonald John TrumpWSJ: Trump ignored advice to confront Putin over indictments Trump hotel charging Sean Spicer ,000 as book party venue Bernie Sanders: Trump 'so tough' on child separations but not on Putin MORE that they did not want the information about the real estate mogul.

U.S. spies agreed to a $1 million payout to obtain the NSA tools from the Russian, according to the report. They paid $100,000 as a first installment.

But the Russian never gave U.S. agents the NSA tools, the Times reported. Instead, they were handed salacious and unverified information about Trump. After that, the U.S. officials ended their deal with the Russian due to concerns about possible political fallout and fears of a Russian plan to stir chaos within the U.S. government.

The Russian operators' connections with the Russian government remain unclear. 

U.S. intelligence officials reportedly first approached an American with connections to the Russians to help them regain the documents in December of 2016. 

Russian operators worked to sway American voters in the election on social media through forged accounts and propaganda, and Russian hackers were behind a massive information breach at the Democratic National Committee that exposed the Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBernie Sanders: Trump 'so tough' on child separations but not on Putin Anti-Trump protests outside White House continue into fifth night Opera singers perform outside White House during fourth day of protests MORE campaign's ties to the party's finances. 

Law enforcement officials and several congressional committees are now investigating the extent of the Russian meddling, including whether Trump campaign officials were involved.

Updated: 8:22 p.m.