16 may 2013
TIT FOR TAT IN MOSCOW - MAYBE
On Tuesday, May 14, the Russian security service (FSB) announced it had arrested a US diplomat in Moscow for spying. According to the Russians, Ryan Fogle, a third secretary at the the US Embassy, was caught with "technical equipment," disguises, written instructions for an agent he was allegedly trying to recruit, and a large sum of money.
Not likely. First of all, the CIA rarely if ever tries to recruit Russian turncoats on home base. It's standard policy to carry out recruitment operations in third countries, where Russian counterintelligence coverage is less robust. And while CIA operatives might well attempt to alter their appearance by switching in and out of hats, wigs, various styles of sun glasses, reversible jackets, etc., while "dry cleaning" - that is, making sure they aren't being followed or actually ditching a tail - there is simply no way they would be carrying written instructions for a prospective spy or large amounts of cash. Once a spy is actually recruited, face-to-face meetings are rare or non-existent; documents and money are transferred by way of "dead drops."
The absurdity of the Russian claims and the "evidence" they produced for reporters inevitably raises the question of what they are up to. A common theory in Washington is they are playing a game of tit-for-tat: The FBI and, apparently, the CIA have implied the Russians are responsible for the Boston Bombing because they failed to provide the US with sufficient data to stop it. Angry with what they believe are unfair aspersions, the Russians struck back by embarrassing the United States. Or so the theory goes...
Or perhaps they are playing a more clever game: By providing US intelligence/security with enough information to initiate an investigation, but not enough to nip the plot, the Russians were able to have their cake and eat it, too. The United States was hit hard, while the Russians shifted the blame onto the FBI and the CIA - a twofer, by any standards.
They are clever...
8 May 2013
A NEW DIRECTOR
FOR THE CLANDESTINE SERVICE
CIA Director John Brennan has passed over the acting director of the National Clandestine Service, and appointed a 57-year old officer who had served tours in Pakistan and Africa and was most recently in charge of the Agency's Latin America division.
The choice surprised many, as the acting director, a woman, had been considered a strong candidate for the post. Although Agency sources have denied it, one possible reason she was passed over was her involvement in the "enhanced interrogations" visited upon terrorist suspects. Had she been selected, she would have been the first female chief of the Clandestine Service.
For more on this story, please click on the link below:
A NEW HEAD FOR THE CLANDESTINE SERVICE
THE NEVER ENDING STORY
It's often said that prostitution is the world's oldest profession. But on the theory that someone must have put the first working girl up to it, intelligence officers claim their's is even older.
Whatever the actual case, the war of the intelligence services has raged for thousands of years - and now, in an era of formal peace between the Great Powers, it has become even more intense. According to the Pentagon, China's massive and ongoing military build-up is being fueled by high-tech secrets looted from the United States and other advanced countries. Much of this espionage is being carried out by "cyber spooks" hacking into US Government and military contractor networks.
For more on this important subject, please click on the link below:
ESPIONAGE FUELS CHINA'S MILITARY BUILD-UP
23 APRIL 2013
THE SPY YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF
During her 17-year career as a spy for Cuba, former Defense Intelligence Agency intelligence analyst Ana Montes inflicted extraordinary damage on the United States. But strangely, few Americans have ever heard of her or her treason.
For more on this latter day Mata Hari - and the harm she did - please click on the link below:
AN UNKNOWN TRAITOR
1 APRIL 2013
A TRENCH COAT AND HEELS
Women have always played a significant role in espionage - and not just as the femme fatales of that inevitably appear in popular fiction. But until recently, they rarely occupied leadership roles in major intelligence services.
Now word has leaked out that a woman is serving as the acting director of the CIA's National Clandestine Service - that is, the portion of the Agency that gathers human intelligence and runs covert actions around the world. Although her name is still officially secret, press reports indicate she provided the template for the fictionalized character Maya, in Zero Dark Thirty, the recent film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
As Acting Director of the NCS, "Maya" has emerged as a controversial figure in behind-the-scenes Washington - but not because she is a woman.
For more on this story from the Shadows of Power, please click on the link below:
A WOMAN TO HEAD THE CLANDESTINE SERVICE?
29 MARCH 2013
THE NEW GUY:
ANDREW PARKER TAKES OVER AT MI5
A British counterspy who helped to thwart an al Qaeda plot to blow up planes with explosives hidden in soft drink bottles and led the response to the 2005 London transport bombings will be the new head of Britain's domestic intelligence agency, the U.K. government said on Thursday.
Andrew Parker has three decades' experience at the Security Service, known as MI5, countering Islamist militants, violent Irish republicans and organized criminals. He has been deputy chief since 2007, and once served as a British security liaison in the United States.
For the full story from Reuters, please click on the link below:
PARKER TO HEAD MI5
20 MARCH 2012
A PROBLEM AT NASA
NASA has a security problem. Last year, an employee was arrested for attempting to sell US technology to Israel. Now, apparently, a Chinese national by the name of Bo Jiang has been taken into custody for violating American export restrictions. Pulled off a fight to Beijing, Mr. Jiang was found to be carrying a laptop computer that apparently contained US technological secrets, a flash drive, and other unspecified electronic devices.
MI5 TAKES DOWN A TRAITOR
According to public source accounts, Liang was a "research scholar" at NASA's Langley Research Center in Langley, Virginia.
Commenting on the arrest, Virginia Congressman Frank Wolff said, "What they did here [i.e., Chinese intelligence] potentially could be a direct threat to our country...The Chinese have the most comprehensive spying program in Washington that has ever been seen. They make the KGB look like they were the junior varsity or freshman team."
One reason for this is that Russian and Chinese intelligence employ a different modus operandi: the KGB has traditionally - but not always - engaged in highly targeted espionage; the Chinese, in contrast, employ the "vacuum cleaner" approach. Simply put, the Chinese suck up every piece of information they can find in order to create a comprehensive map of the United States, its technological capabilities and its military prowess.
8 FEBRUARY 2013
A TOUGH TIME ON CAPITOL HILL
President Obama's nominee for CIA Director, John Brennan, had a tough time on Capitol Hill. Appearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on February 7, as part of the confirmation process, Brennan admitted he didn't try to stop the Agency from waterboarding captured terrorists to obtain information, because he wasn't in charge of the interrogation program.
Brennan will probably face even more difficult questioning when hearings resume regarding the use of aerial drones in the "targeted killing" of terrorist leaders.
For more on this important story, please click on the link below:
CIA NOMINATION HEARINGS
A CIA OFFICER GOES TO JAIL
Former CIA officer John Kiriakou has been sentenced to 30 months in prison for leaking classified information.
For more on this unfortunate story, please click on the link below:
FORMER CIA OFFICER SENTENCED
10 JANUARY 2013
THE SPY WAR IS HEATING UP
Foreign governments and foreign corporations stepped up their efforts last year to steal sensitive American technologies.
For more on this growing problem, please click on the link below:
PENTAGON REPORTS A BIG INCREASE IN ESPIONAGE
23 DECEMBER 2012
THE KGB SCORES
It turns out that previously denied reports that the KGB successfully bugged Britain's Royal Family are true after all. During an official visit to Denmark in 1964, the Soviet spooks planted listening devices in Princess Margaret's bedroom, and monitored the telephone conversations of other Royals.
A ROYAL VULNERABILITY
2 DECEMBER 2012
SPOOKS IN COMBAT BOOTS:
THE PENTAGON TO DOUBLE THE NUMBER OF
INTEL COLLECTORS ABROAD
The CIA is about to get some badly needed assistance from the Defense Intelligence Agency. According to The Guardian, the Pentagon intends to double the number of its intelligence officers abroad, and share the take with the Agency. When the build-up is complete, the total number of new officers deployed abroad may reach 1600; and in a departure from past practices, many of them may be civilians.
For more on this important development, please click on the link below:
PENTAGON TO DOUBLE THE SIZE OF ITS SPY NETWORK
Royal Navy Petty Officer Edward Devenney has admitted has admitted in court that he had engaged in a plot to pass military secrets to men he believed were Russian spies. Although the British government has declined to identify the men Devenney conspired with, there is little doubt they were members of the British security service, MI5.
UK SUBMARINER TRIED TO PASS SECRETS
A RUSSIAN SCIENTIST CATCHES A BREAK
A Russian court has released scientist Valentin Danilov from prison. Although convicted of spying for China in 2004, the information Danilov passed to the Chinese had been declassified a decade earlier.
RUSSIAN COURTS PAROLE CONVICTED SCIENTIST
6 NOVEMBER 2012
At the time, human rights activists had loudly condemned his conviction as an illustration of Russian President Vladimir Putin's abuse of the legal system to intimidate his political opponents.
Since returning to office this year, President Putin has intensified his campaign of judicial intimidation by prosecuting and jailing members of Pussy Riot, a popular all girl punk rock band.
MUSINGS OF A SPY:
THE YANKS ARE A BIT ROUGH AT THE EDGES
The personal diaries of former British security chief (MI5) reveal a great deal of trans-Atlantic tension.
For a fascinating glimpse of his private musings, please click on the link below:
NOT QUITE READY FOR PRIME TIME
22 October 2012
Spies are an odd lot. Although once considered a gentlemen's profession in Britain, the spooks, code-breakers, half-mad scientists, covert ops adventurers and security types that make up a modern intelligence service have traditionally hailed from every conceivable background.
But in recent decades - and for reasons that remain hard to fathom - a university degree came to be considered a necessary prerequisite for a career in espionage. Having at long last realized that other traits, characteristics, and natural abilities are more useful than an advanced education, the British have now established an apprenticeship program for aspirant, non-credentialed spooks.
According to the Associated Press, British intelligence has designed a two-year program combining university-level classes, technical training, and hands-on experience for promising 18-year old youths who are not, necessarily, academically inclined.
In some respects, this marks a return to tradition: for centuries, British naval officers were trained in sea-going apprenticeship programs; and British military officers in a land-based equivalent. Until quite recent times, it was not unusual to find lads of 12 learning their trade on Royal Navy warships, and slightly older youths apprenticing as sub-lieutenants in the British Army.
For more on this interesting - and perhaps long overdue development - please click on the link below:
SPY KIDS: UK STARTS SECRET AGENT APPRENTICESHIPS
8 July 2012
THE FIVE AMIGOS TAKE A HIT
The July arrest of Canadian naval intelligence officer Jeffery Paul Delisle has sent shock waves through the signals intelligence services of Britain, Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.
Sometimes referred to as "The Five Eyes" - or less seriously, as "The Five Amigos" - allied signals intelligence services routinely share highly classified information, and co-operate in joint projects and operations. As a practical matter, the breach of one is a breach of all.
Charged under Canada's Security of Information Act, Delisle is alleged to have passed top secret signals intelligence to an as yet unnamed foreign power, for at least five years. But even though the Canadian government has not yet publicly identified his paymaster, the hurried departure of four Russian diplomats from Ottawa suggests Delisle was working for the KGB. The damage his treason inflicted n the allies has been described as "catastrophic" - far worse than than the disclosures to Wikileaks by U.S. Army turncoat Bradley Manning.
30 July 2012
ANOTHER PENETRATION IN GERMANY
Just weeks after a Canadian naval intelligence officer was arrested for espionage - presumably for Russia - a German civilian employed at NATO's air command headquarters near Ramstein, Germany, has been taken into custody for "obtaining state secrets" with the intent of providing them to a foreign power.
Approximately 500 people are employed at the air force facility, which co-ordinates NATO air operations and provides a headquarters for NATO's still-in-development European-based ballistic missile defense system.
For more on this story, please click on the link below:
GERMAN CIVILIAN CHARGED WITH SPYING FOR RUSSIA
NOT EXACTLY THE BEST OF FRIENDS
In the run up to the election, politicians are falling all over themselves pandering to pro-Israeli voters. At stake are critical swing states such as New York and Florida - and if traditional contribution patterns hold, upwards of 60% of the GOP's presidential campaign chest.
24 July 2012
Given the pro-Israeli rhetoric emanating from both parties, one would think that country is America's most important and beloved ally. In actual fact, the relationship between the United States and Israel is so deeply cynical that to call it one of mutual exploitation is to understate the case by orders of magnitude. The reality is that American politicians and policymakers don't like Israel very much, sentiments which are privately returned in kind by their Israeli counterparts.
Relations are especially tense between American and Israeli intelligence and security services. Although they co-operate on a routine basis, it is a marriage of convenience rather than love.
For more on this difficult and sometimes hostile relationship, please click on the link below:
STRUCTURES AND OTHER PROBLEMS
Prior to 9-11, the US Intelligence Community was structured like a mega-mall: the four national intelligence services were like "anchor stores," and the smaller and more specialized intelligence agencies, departments and bureaus were like the small shops that line the corridors that connect the major outlets.
The post 9-11 reorganizations changed that. Today, the Intelligence Community is analogous to a Walmart: once in the door, the entire range of goods is there, assembled under the one roof.
The upside to the Walmart Model is a free flow of information that enables the United States to respond quickly and effectively to emergent threats. The downside is that a single penetration - such as WikiLeaks spy Pfc. Bradley Manning, who exposed millions of pages of classified documents - can compromise the entire US intelligence effort. Simply put, the time-honored practice of compartmentalization has been abandoned in favor of "rapid response."
The Walmart Model is a security and counterintelligence nightmare - one that is compounded by the practice of over-classification. Due to the inconsistent application of Community-wide classification standards, almost everything the national security apparatus does is now classified. But as the old adage warns, "He who defends everything, defends nothing."
According to former classification czar J. William Leonard, the classification system has become so deeply dysfunctional that it is now a threat to American democracy. Indeed, Leonard is so concerned about the deleterious effects of over-classification that he was prepared to testify at the trial of former NSA employee Thomas A. Drake, who was charged with ten counts of espionage for leaking some apparently innocuous materials to a reporter.
The case against Drake collapsed in June of 2011 when federal prosecutors withdrew key documents they claimed were so sensitive that they would damage the national security if presented in open court. Former classification czar Leonard is skeptical: in preparation for the trial, he saw at least one of the documents, which he said contained no information that met "the standard of the classification system." In other words, the information it contained was trivial.
According to Leonard, he had never seen "a more willful example" of inappropriately classified information.
The upside to all this is that hostile intelligence services and terrorist organizations that succeed in penetrating US intelligence may find themselves spending years analyzing silly stuff that has no bearing on America's national security.
Maybe. We hope...
19 July 2012
The Internet Revolution has transformed the world. Among many other things, it has led to an entirely new approach to "outsourcing" - that is, the practice of hiring or engaging independent contractors to perform specific tasks. Called "crowdsourcing," this new approach has enabled small companies to conduct major research projects with minimal staff, by posting technical problems on the Internet and offering a relatively small prize to the first person or group that provides the correct solution or answer.
18 July 2012
Now it seems crowdsourcing is being applied to intelligence analysis and evaluation as well: the CFIS has learned the organization WikiLeaks has sent out e-mails inviting people to help analyze millions of e-mail files pilfered from STRATFOR, a privately-owned firm which publishes articles and papers related to intelligence issues.
Iranian Vice President Hassan Mousavi has publicly expressed his suspicion that the persistent drought in the southern portion of the country is part of the "soft war" the United States, Europe and Israel are waging against it.
The idea is not entirely far-fetched: the US military has been researching "weather control" for decades, and may have manipulated weather for strategic purposes on several occasions. After Cuba was struck by repeated hurricanes in the early 1960s, US News & World Report speculated that the storms had been caused by the US; and there are persistent reports that "weather war" was used on at least two occasions in Viet Nam: first, against the Viet Cong stronghold in the "Iron Triangle" south of Saigon, and then against the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
1 July 2012
Given the profound strategic advantage that would accrue to the first country to master weather control, the Pentagon's research program is well justified. But so far, there is no credible public evidence that they have succeeded.
When it comes to the loss of high technology to China, espionage isn't our only problem: American companies have been more than happy to trade critical secrets for either cash or access to the Chinese market.
The most recent culprit is United Technologies. Last week, that firm and two of its subsidiaries - Pratt & Whitney Canada and the Sundstrand Corporation - pleaded guilty in federal court to illegally selling software to China that enabled that country to build its first modern attack helicopter.
According to U.S. Attorney David Fine, "Pratt & Whitney Canada exported controlled U.S. technology to China, knowing it would be used in the development of a military attack helicopter in violation of the U.S. arms embargo with China...
"P&WC took what it described internally as a ‘calculated risk,' because it wanted to become the exclusive supplier for a civil helicopter market in China with projected revenues of up to $2 billion."
As a result of the plea bargain, United Technologies will pay a fine of $75 million.
At the corporate level, selling secrets ins not new. In the run yup to World War two, major American companies sold production rights to critical technologies in exchange for access to German and Japanese markets. Many also built dual-use manufacturing facilities in Germany, which were later used to support the German war machine.
Incredibly, the practice continued throughout the war. Standard Oil, for example, delivered more aviation fuel to the Portuguese air force than it did to the U.S. Army Air Corps.
Apparently, all three of Portugal's military aircraft were gas guzzlers.
22 June 2012
RUSSIA AND CHINA: THE BEST OF FRIENDS
Russia and China have been episodic allies since the Chinese Communists seized power in 1949. Although presently bound together by the Shanghai Pact, relations between the two countries remain uneasy. Millions of Chinese have illegally emigrated to Siberia, a territory once claimed by China - and given the ongoing demographic calamity that is Russia, the Kremlin is justifiably concerned that China is engaged in a de facto re-annexation.Within this context, a shadow war of espionage rages - the most recent example of which is the sentencing of two Russian professors to lengthy prison sentences for passing nuclear secrets to the Chinese.
18 June 2012
CONDOTTEIRE IN TRENCH COATS
Last October, President Obama sent 100 troops drawn from U.S. special operations forces to Central Africa, to help friendly governments hunt down and destroy a brutal Ugandan terrorist movement. But unknown to the press, privately-owned American military contractors had been on the ground for almost two years, as part of a clandestine intelligence collection program codenamed Tusker Sand.
Private contractors attract less attention than regular intelligence officers, and providing them with credible cover stories is a snap. The same team of geologists mapping obscure areas in beat up bush planes can also collect intelligence on infiltration routes and insurgent or terrorist campsites without drawing attention to themselves. And if captured, any connection to the U.S. government can be easily denied.
The use of private contractors to conduct espionage operations is fast becoming a boom industry. In many instances it is cheaper and easier to subcontract intelligence missions to private firms - but it is also fraught with peril in the near term, and dangers that are potentially far more serious downstream. In the near-term, the great danger is that contractor personnel will be captured, thereby exposing a practice not clearly governed by either international law or by the sort of unspoken agreements that exist among national intelligence services. It is far more likely that civilian contractors might be tried and executed as spies, rather than regular intelligence officers who would most likely be traded or ransomed.
But an even greater danger looms downstream: what happens to for-profit intelligence operations - and operators - when the contracts dry up? Will they fold their operations - or spin them off from the parent company, and relocate them offshore as Spies for Hire?
An event which occurred at the end of the 100 Years War may be instructive: at the conclusion of hostilities, demobilized English troops who had been fighting in France formed themselves into private companies, and marched south into Italy. There they informed the terrified Italians that they had come to protect them - for a generous fee, of course. The Condotterie, as they came to be called, exacerbated the already chaotic situation in Italy, and helped keep the Italian peninsula in turmoil for centuries.
More recently, former French, British and Belgian troops did a brisk business in Africa as soldiers for hire.
Given the growing role of private, for-profit firms in intelligence collection, analysis and covert operations, something very much like that could happen in the murky world of espionage as well.
3 June 2012
A BUST IN CHINA
A senior Chinese security official has been arrested for allegedly spying for America's Central Intelligence Agency.
Although both the U.S. and the Chinese governments sat on the story for months, a Taiwanese-American publication entitled the World Journal managed to get wind of it.The still unnamed agent is said to have been an assistant to a Vice Minister of the Chinese State Security service. According to Reuters, the spy provided his American handlers with "political, economic and strategic intelligence," in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Citing another source, Reuter's stated the spy inflicted "massive" damage on China's security.
Although few details are available at this writing, the case is nonetheless instructive as it points to the true nature of Chinese-American relations and - indeed - the nature of state relations in general.
States interact on three levels: the Overt, the Covert, and the Clandestine. The Overt consists of public actions, which are routinely reported by the press. The Covert consists of visible acts that carefully crafted to disguise their authorship. The Clandestine consists of acts that are intended to be completely invisible. In theory, at least, they are neither seen nor acknowledged nor reported.
Clandestine actions are where the rubber meets the road. They are the Real Deal, the Gold Standard by which a state's true policy and intentions may be measured.
If nothing else, this case should remind us that the present international system is one of semi-organized anarchy, characterized by a Hobbesian war of all against all - an unfortunate fact that finds expression in the Twilight War of the Intelligence Services.
21 May 2012
THE CHINESE ESPIONAGE OFFENSIVE
Amid one of the largest military build-ups of all time, Chinese intelligence operations against the United States continue apace.
According to the Pentagon, China spent approximately $180 billion last year on its military - and much that figure went to purchase high tech weapons systems designed and built with stolen American technology.
But the problem extends far beyond military considerations: according to the Pentagon's annual report to Congress, "Chinese actors are the world's most active and persistent perpetrators of economic espionage." The Chinese theft of American trade and technological secrets is so severe that it threatens America's economic, as well as military, security.
Part of the problem is style: unlike the tightly focused collection activities carried out by traditional intelligence services, the Chinese employ the "Vacuum Cleaner Approach" - that is, a comprehensive collection effort that seeks to obtain virtually everything. Their goal extends far beyond developing an understanding of potential adversaries' military capabilities and intentions - the Chinese are attempting to develop a comprehensive understanding of their societies, economies, and governments as well.
To this end, almost every Chinese citizen permitted to travel abroad is expected to act as an auxiliary agent, by bringing back something of value to Chinese intelligence. Most of the information they are tasked with obtaining is not classified, and their efforts are generally not illegal: a Chinese exchange professor spending a year at a major American university may be required to obtain a faculty roster; a Chinese scientist employed by a major U.S. corporation may be tasked with obtaining an internal directory of the company; an engineer touring a U.S. factory may be tasked to report on production or management techniques; a Chinese banker may be required to provide personality assessments of prominent individuals they may meet. The list goes on and on.
In and of themselves, very few of these collection activities are sinister. But when added together, they pose an enormous and perhaps unprecedented threat to America's security. Given the number of Chinese that visit the U.S. each year, effective counterespionage is almost impossible. At best, the FBI is able to defend a small number of high-value targets.
Protecting high tech and military manufacturers from the Chinese has long been a critical challenge - and in light of the Chinese military buildup, it has become even more urgent. Of particular concern are technologies and techniques pertaining to blue water ships and naval systems, especially aircraft carriers. In June of 2011, the Chinese military confirmed it had begun construction of a domestically produced aircraft carrier, and two months later announced they had finished refitting the medium-sized carrier they had purchased from the Ukraine in 1998.
Neither the newly recommissioned medium-sized carrier or the one or more carriers presently under construction in Chinese shipyards pose an immediate threat to the U.S. Pacific Fleet or to allied naval forces. Aircraft carriers are so complex that it can decades to fully master the skill sets required to operate them effectively.
Nonetheless, they pose a significant long-term threat to American domination of the Pacific Ocean, the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. The United States is historically a sea power rather than a land power, and China the reverse. The fact that China is now pursuing an offensive, blue water naval capability has set off alarm bells in Washington, for it not only poses a threat to core American interests - but suggests as well that China is pursuing a global agenda far more ambitious than previously believed.
For this reason, protecting American naval technologies and techniques has emerged as one of the most important tasks for U.S. counterespionage.