E is for Espionage
Probably our two favorite spy stories of 2013
(Reuters) – Turkish authorities detained a bird [kestrel] on suspicion it was spying for Israel, but freed it after X-rays showed it was not embedded with surveillance equipment, newspapers said on Friday. (26 July) and (HuffPost) Egypt Spy Bird: Authorities Detain Migratory Bird Citizen Deemed Suspicious … a wildlife tracker used by French scientists to follow the movement of migrating birds … the device stopped working when the bird crossed the French border, absolving it of being an avian Mata Hari. (31 August)
Secrets of Modern Spies
From James Bond to Jason Bourne, the fictional world of spying is a world of danger and deception, glamour and lies. As the world prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the James Bond film franchise, The Passionate Eye presents a 2 part series of revealing documentaries investigating the 21st century world of espionage. It features rare interviews with current British intelligence officers and key figures from the CIA, FBI, and Israeli intelligence. How does the world of agent 007 compare with reality?
Today spies are in demand as never before and the job has changed dramatically since the Cold War. But what makes a modern spy? What are 21st century spies like, how are they recruited and trained? What’s it like to work inside MI5 or MI6? How do spies operate? What are their targets? And what are the risks that agents and their handlers run? With unrivalled access to the players in this shadowy and dangerous profession and with gripping firsthand accounts from agents, informers and handlers, the series investigates some of the most important and controversial spy stories of today. (23 September 2013)
Remarks by Jim Judd, Director of CSIS, at the Global Futures Forum Conference in Vancouver – April 2008
John le Carré: The Madness of Spies, A Secret Service secret
(The New Yorker) The trouble is that the reader, like the general public to which he belongs, and in spite of all the evidence telling him that he shouldn’t, wants to believe in his spies: which, come to think of it, is how we went to war in Iraq (September 2008) [Related Wikipedia entry for James Jesus Angleton]
John le Carré Has Not Mellowed With Age
(NYT) The legendary editor Robert Gottlieb, who worked on many of le Carré’s novels while at Alfred A. Knopf in the 1970s and ’80s, laughed when I proposed that some still consider him a genre hack. “He’s a brilliant writer for whom spies are merely subject matter,” Gottlieb said. “Calling him a spy writer is like calling Joseph Conrad a sea writer, or Jane Austen a domestic-comedy writer.” (21 April 2013)
Canada’s new ‘spy palace’ damaged by overnight fire
Billion-dollar headquarters of CSEC still under construction, set to open in Ottawa next year
Glenn Greenwald’s Next Spy Leak Target: Canada
(Atlantic Wire) The now-independent journalist Glenn Greenwald hinted which country would be the next target of his carefully orchestrated document leaks exposing the massive, intrusive spying operations, and it’s our loveable, hapless neighbors to the north.
Canada has so far kept a low profile on the Snowden spy leak front. The U.S., France, Britain Germany, Brazil and a handful of other countries have all had their day in the spying sun. A minor report about Canada spying on Brazil’s mining and energy ministry angered Brazilians, but otherwise Canucks have avoided embarrassment from the endless trickle of documents released by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
That will change, Greenwald cautioned in a recent interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The leaks are coming. “The documents are quite complex. There are a lot of them. There is enormous amounts of reporting to do in Canada, one of the most active surveillance agencies in the world, because of how closely they work with the NSA,” Greenwald told CBC Radio’s Day 6.
Et Tu, UK? Anger Grows over British Spying in Berlin
(Spiegel) First it was the US — and now it turns out the UK might have been spying from its embassy in Berlin, too. Officials at Germany’s Foreign Ministry responded Tuesday by inviting Britain’s ambassador for a lecture.
The revelations about further alleged spying have rocked the political establishment in Berlin this week. The London-based Independent newspaper revealed Monday that British intelligence had established a “secret listening post” in the British Embassy like the one recently revealed by SPIEGEL to be in the US Embassy on the same large block.
Anne Applebaum: Spying for the sake of spying
(WaPost via National Post) Information technology — metadata databases, cellphones, cyberwarfare — has definitively outrun our ability to control it
Neil Macdonald: NSA spying: The faux outrage of America’s bugged allies
Will the U.S. curtail its electronic spying? Don’t bet on it
(CBC) … this particular whistle is one America and its allies are anxious to leave unblown.
Snowden has laid out the stark difference between what the U.S. and most countries say in public and what they do behind a vigorously enforced curtain of secrecy.
Yet the whole uproar rests on a ridiculous notion: that there is, or should be, some sort of morality governing the way nations deal with each other. …
Fortunately for Canada it is part of the so-called Five Eyes network, along with the U.S., Britain, Australia and New Zealand. These nations are in fact so integrated that they effectively comprise a single colossal listening organization, the most powerful in history, with America in charge.
Inside Canada’s top-secret billion-dollar spy palace
New intelligence headquarters has soaring atriums, grand staircases and filtered drinking fountains
(CBC) While the Harper government is preaching government austerity, it is spending almost $1.2 billion on a new Ottawa headquarters for a little-known military spy agency.
It’s the most expensive Canadian government building ever constructed…. a development even National Defence apparently thinks is so grandiose that the department dubbed the project “Camelot” in official documents.
When completed next year, the facility in suburban Ottawa will house the roughly 2,000 employees of the Communications Security Establishment Canada, a federal agency that spies mainly on foreigners by hacking into their computers, reading their email and intercepting their phone calls.
The Spies Inside Damascus : The Mossad’s secret war on the Syrian WMD machine.
(Foreign Policy) While the threat of an American attack on Syria — and a possible Syrian counterattack on Israel — has subsided for the moment, the Israeli-American efforts to penetrate the Assad regime continue. This is a history of those efforts.
‘Key Partners’: The Secret Link Between Germany and the NSA
(Spiegel) Chancellor Angela Merkel has repeatedly said she knew nothing about American surveillance activities in Germany. But documents seen by SPIEGEL show that German intelligence cooperates closely with the NSA and even uses spy software provided by the US.
Keeping the NSA in Perspective | Stratfor
The problem with the war on terror is that it has no criteria of success that is potentially obtainable. It defines no level of terrorism that is tolerable but has as its goal the elimination of all terrorism, not just from Islamic sources but from all sources. That is simply never going to happen and therefore, PRISM and its attendant programs will never end. These intrusions, unlike all prior ones, have set a condition for success that is unattainable, and therefore the suspension of civil rights is permanent. Without a constitutional amendment, formal declaration of war or declaration of a state of emergency, the executive branch has overridden fundamental limits on its powers and protections for citizens.
Listen carefully: bugging foreign embassies is nothing new
So well documented are efforts to bug embassies that diplomats must know better than to discuss real secrets in their own offices
(The Guardian) Peter Wright, the former MI5 officer, described in his memoirs, Spycatcher, how “we bugged and burgled our way across London at the state’s behest, while pompous, bowler-hatted civil servants in Whitehall looked the other way”. … Ten years ago, decades after Wright described his exploits, it was reported, and not denied, that British security and intelligence agencies tried to bug the Pakistani high commission in London when it was being redecorated. Shortly afterwards, Britain accused Pakistan of bugging its high commission in Islamabad. (11 July 2013)
Back in Time: Russian Agency Seeks Typewriters for Secret Documents
With the NSA spying scandal still making headlines, a Russian paper reports that agencies in that country have turned to typewriters to help keep their documents secret.
Senseless Spying — The National Security Agency’s Self-Defeating Espionage Against the EU
(Foreign Affairs) … old battles over privacy have recently given way to close cooperation on intelligence and counterterrorism.
If the United States wants to tamp down this controversy, it must recognize that, for Europeans, privacy is political. It will need to institute its own system of credible and independent privacy oversight and integrate it with existing transatlantic security arrangements. Doing that would allow the United States to rebuild relations with its friends and allay the suspicions of its skeptics.
… Transatlantic controversies from 2002 to 2004, over airline passenger data, and from 2006 on, over the U.S. TFTP, led to intense negotiations between the EU and the United States. Privacy advocates were sidelined from these negotiations, which were rapidly dominated by security officials on both sides of the Atlantic. These security officials developed a thick web of diplomatic channels, including working groups and other semiformal contacts, to smooth over their different regulatory approaches.
This has not only transformed relations between European and American officials but has given new clout to European security officials, who always preferred the American approach to their own.
BUT when leaked documents revealed that the United States was also spying on EU officials — on matters entirely unrelated to terrorism — Europe’s political pendulum swung back in favor of privacy advocates. This spying has no possible benefits for European citizens, and is politically highly offensive.
France Intelligence Agency Spies On Phone Calls, Emails, Social Media Activity: Report
(Reuters) – France’s external intelligence agency spies on the French public’s phone calls, emails and social media activity in France and abroad, the daily Le Monde said on Thursday.
It said the DGSE intercepted signals from computers and telephones in France, and between France and other countries, although not the content of phone calls, to create a map of “who is talking to whom”. It said the activity was illegal.
“All of our communications are spied on,” wrote Le Monde, which based its report on unnamed intelligence sources as well as remarks made publicly by intelligence officials.
Ecuador Finds Hidden Microphone At London Embassy Really not surprising [See Listen carefully: bugging foreign embassies is nothing new] .
Ecuador cools on Edward Snowden asylum as Assange frustration grows
President Correa revokes Snowden’s temporary travel document amid concerns WikiLeaks founder is ‘running the show’
Assange appears to have had a strong role in obtaining the travel document for Snowden, dated 22 June which bore the printed name, but not signature, of the London consul, Fidel Narvaez, a confidante. By mid-week Narvaez was reportedly in Moscow.
Snowden spy row grows as US is accused of hacking China
Whistleblower charged with espionage reportedly claims US authorities accessed millions of private text messages in China
(The Guardian) Edward Snowden, the former CIA technician who blew the whistle on global surveillance operations, has opened a new front against the US authorities, claiming they hacked into Chinese mobile phone companies to access millions of private text messages.
His latest claims came as US officials, who have filed criminal charges against him, warned Hong Kong to comply with an extradition request or risk complicating diplomatic relations
GCHQ intercepted foreign politicians’ communications at G20 summits
Exclusive: phones were monitored and fake internet cafes set up to gather information from allies in London in 2009
(The Guardian) There have often been rumours of this kind of espionage at international conferences, but it is highly unusual for hard evidence to confirm it and spell out the detail. The evidence is contained in documents – classified as top secret – which were uncovered by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and seen by the Guardian. They reveal that during G20 meetings in April and September 2009 GCHQ used what one document calls “ground-breaking intelligence capabilities” to intercept the communications of visiting delegations.
U.S. spy agency paper says fewer than 300 phone numbers closely scrutinized
(Reuters) – The U.S. government only searched for detailed information on calls involving fewer than 300 specific phone numbers among the millions of raw phone records collected by the National Security Agency in 2012, according to a government paper obtained by Reuters on Saturday.
A person familiar with details of the program said the figure of fewer than 300 numbers applied to the entire mass of raw telephone “metadata” collected last year by the NSA from U.S. carriers – not just to Verizon, which is the only telephone company identified in a document disclosed by Snowden as providing such data to the NSA.
The paper repeats assertions by administration spokesmen that NSA email and telephone data-collection programs contributed to the disruption of “dozens of potential terrorist plots here in the homeland and in more than 20 countries around the world.”
NSA Leaks Show Low-Level IT Worker as Secrecy’s Weak Link
(Bloomberg) In the vast, secretive world of U.S. intelligence — a realm of clandestine agents, voracious supercomputers and eagle-eyed satellites — the IT guy was the weakest link.
While top-secret data is protected by high-level security clearances and hidden in a maze of “compartments,” it’s not unusual for low-level systems administrators such as Snowden to have access to multiple databases, said Dale Meyerrose, a former chief information officer for U.S. intelligence agencies.
Ministers to meet to review NATO’s cyber defenses
(Reuters) – NATO defense ministers hold their first review of cyber defense next week in a sign the issue is making its way to the top of the alliance’s agenda as fears grow that Western infrastructure and military secrets are vulnerable to hackers.
Daily reports about government and private firms’ computer systems coming under attack have highlighted the importance of defending NATO computer networks, particularly systems which are used to coordinate military actions among the 28 allies.
The Pentagon accused China this month of using cyber espionage to modernize its military, which Beijing denied. The Washington Post said this week that Chinese hackers have gained access to designs of more than two dozen major U.S. weapons systems.
National archives reveal MI5 bugged Edward VIII’s phone calls
(The Independent) Newly unearthed papers reveal a shocking extra dimension to the constitutional crisis over monarch’s abdication … The material is contained in a remarkable cache of documents kept in a locked safe room in the Cabinet Office detailing the difficult decisions faced by successive Cabinet Secretaries … between 1936 and 1951.
Apparently also in the same cache were documents related to Double agent: The two faces of Lt Col Dudley Clarke
Attired in a floral dress with a white handbag and a turban, the British intelligence officer would have made a striking sight on the streets of wartime Madrid. All the more so since “she” was one Lieutenant Colonel Dudley Clarke whose fascinating career is detailed here.
Russia Expels Former American Embassy Official
(NYT) The former official, Thomas Firestone, had been living and working in Moscow as a lawyer for an American law firm, and had extensive contacts in the Russian government. … Before leaving government service last year, Mr. Firestone served two tours of duty at the American Embassy in Moscow, where his title was resident legal adviser. When he went into private practice, he joined the Moscow office of Baker & McKenzie, a global law firm. Since then, much of his work has been on anticorruption matters, an area that does not always win robust support in Russian government or business circles.
Alleged CIA officer arrested in Moscow in Russian sting operation
(Intelews.org) Russia has accused an American diplomat of secretly working for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) following his arrest during a sting operation in Moscow. The diplomat, who was expelled from Russia on Tuesday, is Ryan Christopher Fogle; he held the post of Third Secretary of the Political Department of the United States embassy in the Russian capital. He was detained on Monday evening by counterintelligence officers of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). Fogle’s arrest marked the first time in nearly a decade that espionage charges were leveled against an American government employee in Russia.
The Spy Novelist Who Knows Too Much
(NYT) Last June, a pulp-fiction thriller was published in Paris under the title “Le Chemin de Damas.” Its lurid green-and-black cover featured a busty woman clutching a pistol, and its plot included the requisite car chases, explosions and sexual conquests. Unlike most paperbacks, though, this one attracted the attention of intelligence officers and diplomats on three continents. Set in the midst of Syria’s civil war, the book offered vivid character sketches of that country’s embattled ruler, Bashar al-Assad, and his brother Maher, along with several little-known lieutenants and allies. …
The book was the latest by Gérard de Villiers, an 83-year-old Frenchman who has been turning out the S.A.S. espionage series at the rate of four or five books a year for nearly 50 years. The books are strange hybrids: top-selling pulp-fiction vehicles that also serve as intelligence drop boxes for spy agencies around the world. De Villiers has spent most of his life cultivating spies and diplomats, who seem to enjoy seeing themselves and their secrets transfigured into pop fiction (with their own names carefully disguised), and his books regularly contain information about terror plots, espionage and wars that has never appeared elsewhere.
Gwynne Dyer: Israel’s spies doing a disservice
When Mossad occupies itself in gathering intelligence and doing strategic analysis, it does good work. For example, it has been successful so far in talking Binyamin Netanyahu’s government out of launching an extremely ill-advised attack on Iran over its alleged nuclear weapons ambitions. But Mossad’s assassination programme is a long-running disaster.
Sometimes it kills the wrong person, as when it murdered an innocent Moroccan waiter in Norway whom it mistook for one of those responsible for the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. But what enemy of Israel was deterred, what further attack was prevented, by Mossad’s success in hunting down and killing more than a dozen other people whom it suspected of being involved in that atrocity?
When five Mossad agents, travelling on Canadian passports, poisoned Hamas political chief Khaled Meshaal in Amman in 1997 it nearly wrecked Israel’s peace treaty with Jordan. Mossad had to come up with an antidote for the poison.
And when it murdered Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai three years ago it put a promising detente between the two countries into the deep freeze indefinitely.
Chinese cyber-attacks — How to steal a trillion
(The Economist|Babbage) Mandiant, a security firm, released a report alleging that hackers from a Chinese military outfit known as Unit 61398 were probably behind attacks against more than a hundred companies and government agencies around the world. Without delving into the geopolitics of the the incident, involvement in which the Chinese authorities vehemently deny (and which we write about here), Babbage decided to examine what is known about the hackers’ methods. If China wants respect abroad, it must rein in its hackers
China revealed as source of internet hacking
(RCI) For years, Canada’s Security Intelligence Service has been warning government and business to be wary of hackers. CSIS and other security agencies, have joined a chorus of security services from other western countries hinting that the attacks are coming from China, with the underlying hint that the Chinese government and military are likely either well aware of these activites, or actively persuing them.
The attacks are not only to gather technical secrets from business, and military, but also to gain entry and potentially disrupt critical infrastructure.
Chinese Army Unit Is Seen as Tied to Hacking Against U.S.
(NYT) … While Comment Crew has drained terabytes of data from companies like Coca-Cola, increasingly its focus is on companies involved in the critical infrastructure of the United States — its electrical power grid, gas lines and waterworks. According to the security researchers, one target was a company with remote access to more than 60 percent of oil and gas pipelines in North America. The unit was also among those that attacked the computer security firm RSA, whose computer codes protect confidential corporate and government databases.
Tinkering, Taylor, soldiers, spies
Former Canadian diplomat says Argo’s Hollywood script writer ‘had no idea what he’s talking about’
While recognizing that Argo’s primary goal was entertainment, Taylor says an upcoming documentary will present a more balanced picture of his role and the situation in Iran. the documentary will offer more context, a greater sense of Canada’s role abroad and the true nature of an embassy, he said.
“It’s not only a story about diplomats, about my colleagues and myself, but it’s also a chance to look at Iranian society in some depth,” he said, adding he hopes to have it ready for a fall release.
Producer Elena Semikina said it will include interviews with former prime minister Joe Clark and former U.S. president Jimmy Carter.
” … The story should be told from a historical perspective,” said Semikina
Israel’s ‘Prisoner X’ was Australian Mossad agent, documentary claims
(The Guardian) Israel has never acknowledged prisoner’s existence and has gone to extraordinary lengths to stifle media coverage of case Mossad and Australian spies: how Fairfax reporter homed in on Zygier
Tip-off for journalist Jason Katsoukis led to espionage trail of Australian-Israeli spies, false passports and Zygier interview
Dr. Charles Cogan: Still in the Dark
(HuffPost) Torture was not the key element of information in the operation that led to the killing of bin Laden. But we still don’t know the whole story. We’re still in the dark. And there may be good security reasons for that to remain so.
Montreal home of self-described Israeli spy ‘gutted’ in alleged firebombing
(National Post) Mr. Ben-Menashe’s an Iranian-born Jew, raised in Tehran. He claims to have worked as a globe-trotting Israeli intelligence officer until his 1989 arrest in the U.S., on charges that he had attempted to sell three military transport airplanes to Iran. He was tried in New York and acquitted, and then moved to Montreal, where he … opened a consultancy shop, Dickens & Madson (Canada) Inc.
He was thrust into the international spotlight in 2002, after taking on as a client Morgan Tsvangirai, the main political rival to Zimbabwean strongman Robert Mugabe. In a twist, Mr. Ben-Menashe soon revealed a purported plot hatched by his new client to assassinate Mr. Mugabe, another Dickens & Madson customer. … Back in Montreal, … Mr. Ben-Menashe negotiated a string of political consulting deals in Africa, including a May 2010 proposal to create a private militia for the president of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo. … In June 2010, Mr. Ben-Menashe negotiated an agreement with Arthur Porter, then director general of the McGill University Heath Centre, … Dr. Porter was also chairman of Canada’s Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), which oversees CSIS, the national spy agency.
A National Post investigation revealed that Dr. Porter had wired $200,000 in personal funds to Mr. Ben-Menashe; a private company he controlled was to receive from the Russian government a $120-million aid package. The money was to be spent on projects in Dr. Porter’s native Sierra Leone. And it goes on
Charles Cogan: “We Must Have the Greatest Immorality, and We Must Have the Greatest Morality”
… if you didn’t want to manipulate people you didn’t belong in the Operations Directorate of the CIA
(HuffPost) … we must exercise immorality (for what can otherwise be immorality than persuading a person to betray his country), but in our personal life we must exhibit the highest standards of morality.
This meant particularly when it came to finances, since money is a CIA stock in trade and must be managed with probity (which is why, perhaps, that Mormons seemed to proliferate as finance officers in the Agency); or when it came to love, which in all the wrong places could lead to embarrassment or worse, blackmail. (In this regard, some CIA officers, like those in other métiers, have proven unequal to the task of overcoming the force of nature, without which society falls apart).
Was an affair just a pretext for Petraeus’ resignation as CIA chief?
(Debka file) Does all this mean that Al Qaeda scored a double coup in Benghazi? Knocking over the American chief of intelligence and stalling the career of a brilliant US diplomat? Or is there quite a different story behind the abrupt Petraeus exit?
CIA chief’s resignation shocks Washington
(AFP) … Obama chose not to promote Petraeus to the US military’s top job as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as White House officials remained wary of the media-savvy general who had pushed for more troops and more time in the Afghanistan war.
His military background, however, sometimes clashed with the intelligence agency’s culture and there was some friction with the congressional committees that oversee the spy services. Each report adds another tantalizing bit to the story.
Petraeus resigns over affair, as criticism grows of CIA response in Libya
(CSM) Officials will want to know if there was any link between David Petraeus’s extramarital activities and what has been increasingly criticized as the CIA’s weak performance during the Benghazi attack.
David Petraeus Resigns As CIA Director, Citing Extramarital Affair
(HuffPost) Petraeus’s resignation came at a time when his office was under extraordinary pressure over its role in the attack in Benghazi, Libya, when four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, were killed.
For many weeks the White House had come under intense pressure for the attack, before it finally emerged that the CIA had actually played a central role in the episode. Two of the Americans killed were identified as undercover agents for the CIA, and the vast majority of Americans on the ground that night turned out to be with the agency.
In a Wall Street Journal article a week before the election, several administration officials pointed to Petraeus specifically and accused him of mishandling the controversy, by appearing to be aloof and delivering misinformation to the White House in the early days after that attacks.
Speaking on CNN, former CIA operative Bob Baer noted that while resignations from extramarital affairs are not unheard of at the agency, they are almost never the announced reason for giving up the post. “I think there’s a big story behind it,” Baer said.
The True Spy Story Behind Argo
The internal CIA account of how the Iran rescue really went down.
(Foreign Policy) In the final scenes of the “nail-biting political thriller” Argo — the true story of how the CIA safely whisked six U.S. Embassy staffers out of Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis — a group of Americans disguised as a film crew safely survives three passport checks, the canceling and uncanceling of plane tickets, and a runway car chase by the Revolutionary Guard. But according to the insider account published in 1999 by the CIA’s in-house journal, Studies in Intelligence, the actual exit was much less dramatic. The Iranian customs official stamping passports at Tehran’s Mehrabad International Airport “could not have cared less” when he stamped the fake passports and exit visas of “six Canadians, a European, and a Latin American” as they snuck out of the country and onto Swissair Flight SR 363.
Canadian diplomats spied on Cuba for CIA in aftermath of missile crisis: envoy
In a little-known chapter of the Cold War, Canadian diplomats spied for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in Cuba in the aftermath of the 1962 missile crisis – and for years afterward.
A major part of that story is told in a forthcoming memoir by retired Canadian envoy John Graham. Mr. Graham was one of a series of Canadian diplomats recruited to spy for the CIA in Havana. The missions went on for at least seven years, during the 1960s.
Naval intelligence officer sold military secrets to Russia for $3,000 a month
A Canadian naval intelligence officer has pleaded guilty to spying for Russia, a public admission of an embarrassing espionage scandal that has damaged Canada’s reputation among allies and will likely reverberate for years.
Axing CSIS watchdog ‘huge loss’ for Canadians, says former inspector general
(The Tyee) The Conservative government’s decision to abolish the CSIS inspector general’s office is a “huge loss” to the important task of keeping an eye on Canada’s spy service, says the woman who held the job for the last eight years.
Eva Plunkett retired last December and the Conservative government subsequently scrapped her watchdog role, saying it would save money and eliminate duplication.
She had a staff of eight and a budget of about $1 million.
The government says the Security Intelligence Review Committee — a panel of federal appointees — will take over the inspector general’s functions. [Ed. note: refer to Arthur Porter!]
Requiem for a Russian Spy
A CIA veteran remembers his Soviet counterpart.
(Foreign Policy) On the second-to-last day of March, Leonid Vladimirovich Shebarshin, the former head of the KGB’s foreign intelligence arm and chairman of the KGB — for a single day in the turmoil of the August 1991 coup attempt against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev — died in his central Moscow apartment, apparently taking his own life.
His death marks the end of an era, the passing of one of the most thoughtful, cultured, and effective leaders of the redoubtable Cold War KGB. He was a master spy, a central figure in the tumultuous half-century contest between the CIA and the KGB, and a true believer in the Soviet dream until the very end. He never wavered; he never apologized.
For much of the last decade of my CIA career, Shebarshin was the closest thing I had to a main adversary in the Soviet spy apparatus. (For you John le Carré fans out there, he was my Karla.)
China Vice Minister Aide Arrested On Suspicion Of U.S. Spying
(Reuters) A Chinese state security official has been arrested on suspicion of spying for the United States. … The official, an aide to a vice minister in China’s security ministry, was arrested and detained early this year on allegations that he had passed information to the United States for several years on China’s overseas espionage activities … The aide had been recruited by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and provided “political, economic and strategic intelligence”, one source said, though it was unclear what level of information he had access to, or whether overseas Chinese spies were compromised by the intelligence he handed over.
Maybe not quite in the espionage category, but certainly intrigue
Leaks and power plays in Vatican City
(BBC) A book reproducing the private correspondence of Pope Benedict XVI has angered the Vatican and forms part of a series of leaks revealing allegations of corruption and internal conflicts.
Pope Benedict complained bitterly at his latest general audience about the international media. He said they had unfairly latched on to the admittedly very unusual story of the arrest of his butler, to distort the truth about recent goings-on at the Catholic Church’s power centre here in Rome. (CBC) Inside the Vatican’s power struggles — The latest on the ‘Vatileaks’ scandal, as the Pope fights back and all this on top of the firing of the head of the Vatican Bank. CBC takes us back to the 20th century Sidona and Calvi stories – fascinating read.
Banker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
An accusation of espionage led to the United States heading not the International Monetary Fund, but the World Bank.
(NYT) … on Jan. 23, 1946, Harry S. Truman nominated [Harry Dexter White, the Treasury Department’s key representative at the Bretton Woods conference] to be the first American executive director of the I.M.F. (such directors representing the major member countries). Truman was also widely expected to nominate White for the fund’s top post of managing director.
But trouble soon arose in the form of J. Edgar Hoover, the F.B.I. director. White had been under surveillance for two months, suspected of being a Soviet spy. For more on Harry Dexter White, see Treasonable Doubt: The Harry Dexter White Spy Case
Goodspeed Analysis: Vladimir Putin’s support of spying is of Cold War calibre
“The British, quite recently, said that the Russian intelligence presence in the U.K. is greater than and not less than the Cold War,” said Martin Rudner, a counter-intelligence expert and professor emeritus at Carleton University in Ottawa.
From their point of view, Canada is no less important than Britain. We have a strategic interest in the Arctic; we are a competitor in the energy field; we are an active NATO member in areas very close to Russian core interests – in Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean.”
He believes targets are “our sensitive technology, our civilian and military secrets and our own political and economic intelligence.”
Man charged with dishing Canadian secrets abroad described as ‘loner, geek’
A clearer picture is emerging of the 40-year-old naval intelligence officer who was charged on Monday with passing government secrets to foreign interests, and who one military expert says was likely under police surveillance for months or years.
Iran’s intelligence penetrates the wall of China
(Al Arabia News) … China was a major cause for the disagreement between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Minister of Intelligence Heyder Moslehi, who criticized the manner in which agents were being recruited in the Far East, and gained the support of the Supreme Leader.
For nearly a month, Moslehi has been supervising a “mission” in China that incorporates Chinese agents who began work for the Iranian regime in early 2011, and are providing Tehran with significant intelligence information. Iran’s long-term objective is to “impose” a shift on Chinese political stances and learn how China determines its relations with “arrogant and aggressor states” (Western states, mainly the US), with regards to the West’s standoff with Iran over nuclear weapons.
False Flag: A series of CIA memos describes how Israeli Mossad agents posed as American spies to recruit members of the terrorist organization Jundallah to fight their covert war against Iran.
(Foreign Policy) Buried deep in the archives of America’s intelligence services are a series of memos, written during the last years of President George W. Bush’s administration, that describe how Israeli Mossad officers recruited operatives belonging to the terrorist group Jundallah by passing themselves off as American agents. According to two U.S. intelligence officials, the Israelis, flush with American dollars and toting U.S. passports, posed as CIA officers in recruiting Jundallah operatives — what is commonly referred to as a “false flag” operation. … While many of the details of Israel’s involvement with Jundallah are now known, many others still remain a mystery — and are likely to remain so. … What has become crystal clear, however, is the level of anger among senior intelligence officials about Israel’s actions.
The End of the Innocents
(FP) How America’s longtime man in Southeast Asia, Jim Thompson, fought to stop the CIA’s progression from a small spy ring to a large paramilitary agency — and was never seen again.
Espionage and the UN
It is a “well-known, yet seldom spoken truth” that the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly ushers in a frenzy not only of speech-making and diplomacy, but of spying. In fact, the gathering is the “Super Bowl” of UN spy games, reports the Associated Press. ABC News/The Associated Press (10/4)
China’s Growing Spy Threat
(The Diplomat) The Chinese government’s ‘vacuum cleaner’ approach to espionage is worrying foreign governments, companies and overseas dissidents. They’re right to be concerned.
John le Carré: The spy master
An acclaimed big-screen adaptation of his best-known work is bringing Britain’s eminence grise of espionage fiction a new generation of admirers.
(The Independent) From the time of his first proper espionage novel in 1963, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, the author born as David John Cornwell began to build a twilit house of mirrors. Inside his fiction, doubles, distortions and delusions trapped apparent enemies into a mutually dependent system of organised duplicity.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: John Le Carré and reality
The new film adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has been praised for its atmospheric depiction of 1970s London. But how firmly is John Le Carré’s novel rooted in reality?
(BBC) Trying to establish the precise relationship between John Le Carre’s fictional depiction of British intelligence in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and its real life counterpart is a task requires the investigative skills of George Smiley.
And even Le Carré’s fictional spymaster might be left wondering if he had unpeeled all the layers of mystery to get to the real truth.
It is not unusual for writers to draw on the real world and their own experiences and then shape it into fiction. But Le Carré is different. He draws on his own experience of the secret world for his work.
New Biography Claims Coco Chanel Was a Nazi Spy
(TIME) A new book says that Coco Chanel, in addition to running one of the world’s most influential fashion empires, also spied for the Nazis. Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War was written by a Paris-based American journalist who asserts that the fashion icon was an agent for Germany’s Abwehr military intelligence organization and a “fierce” anti-Semite.
CIA eyed Trudeau, Canadian economy
The CIA secretly painted Pierre Trudeau as a politician torn between being a leader of the Third World and a genuine player with global industrialized nations, declassified records show.
The January 1982 assessment of the Liberal prime minister’s ambitions is among several detailed, and until now virtually unknown, analyses of the Canadian economy by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
Through the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, The Canadian Press obtained more than a dozen CIA reports that explore various aspects of Canadian commerce, industry and technology during the Cold War era.
Exhibition Unmasks the Art of the East German Spy Disguise
(Spiegel) What did East German spies wear to work? Archival photographs uncovered by a Berlin-based artist reveal disguises that included fur hats, upturned collars, and, naturally, sunglasses. The images from the Stasi secret police course on the ‘art of disguising’ provide a sometimes absurd perspective on what the Cold War era spies considered inconspicuous.
Revealed: The CIA mastermind who cornered Bin Laden
He has never been photographed, and his surname is unknown. But ‘John’ led an extraordinary 10-year mission
MI6 hackers swapped al-Qaida bomb instructions with cupcake recipes
When followers tried to download the 67-page colour magazine, instead of instructions about how to “make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom” by “the AQ Chef” they were greeted with garbled computer code.
The code, which had been inserted into the original magazine by the British intelligence hackers, was actually a Web page of recipes for “the best cupcakes in America” published by the Ellen DeGeneres Show. BRILLIANT!
Guerre d’espions étrangers à Ottawa
(La Presse) Des Chinois, possiblement diplomates, auraient été surpris à plusieurs reprises en train d’espionner l’ambassade des États-Unis à Ottawa. De plus, la Chine et l’Iran auraient recours à des entreprises paravents pour tenter de se procurer des technologies protégées.
C’est ce que l’on apprend à la lecture de milliers de pages de câbles diplomatiques américains classés «secrets» que WikiLeaks a remis à La Presse.
“Eleanor Rigby” death reveals British war heroine
(Reuters Life!) – A reclusive old lady [Eileen Nearne] who died alone in her flat in southwest England and had no one to pay for her funeral has posthumously shot to fame after it emerged she was an intrepid World War Two secret agent. The Independent
WWII knicker spy Margery Booth photos to be auctioned
A photo of a little-known World War II spy who sang for Adolf Hitler while concealing secret documents in her knickers is to be sold at auction.
Spies, secrets and smart-phones
(The Economist) SOME sort of a deal seems to have been thrashed out over the weekend, according to reports from Saudi Arabia, under which its spooks will be able to snoop to their heart’s content on messages sent over BlackBerrys within the kingdom. All last week, as it negotiated with the Saudi, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Indian authorities over their demands for monitoring, the smart-phones’ Canadian maker, Research In Motion (RIM), was dodging journalists’ demands for proper explanations about what exactly is negotiable about the phones’ security.
How RIM rubs spies the wrong way
Of BlackBerrys, geopolitics and shadowy intelligence agencies
David Jones offers this interesting view of the Russian spy story in an article he wrote for the Hill Times: There is, however, another explanation. They were designed to act as a “sanity check” on the information developed by Russian diplomats in Washington and New York, and other Russian official visitors. Such officials live very restricted lives; Russians are constantly monitored by U.S. security agents. Consequently, their views of U.S. society, economics, politics, and culture are filtered—and it can be remarkably easy to miss important developments. These agents in place provided balance to the official reporting. And anyone who believes that Moscow concentrated its agents only in Washington-New York, neglecting the rest of the U.S., believes Lenin will be resurrected from his Red Square tomb on October 25, 2010.
Clues Suggest Amiri Defection Was an Iranian Plant
Nina L. Krushcheva: The Spy Who Came in by Amtrak
Why is Russia spying on Khrushchev’s great-granddaughter?
I speak from my own experience with a spy who came in from the cold — from the chilly streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that is. For three years, Richard Murphy (a.k.a. Mikhail Kutzik, a.k.a. Vladimir Guryev), a part-time student of International Affairs at the New School, came to visit me in my offices there. We weren’t exchanging state secrets or whispering in corners about “ferrets,” “wheel artists,” or other long-forgotten spy jargon — instead, I was his academic advisor. We discussed his courses, his progress, and his interests. At first, I thought of him as a student like any other, but there was something odd about this man, with his strong Russian accent and his Irish-American name.
Russian Spies and Strategic Intelligence – good analysis of espionage methods, objectives and weaknesses
Russia interrogates agents deported from US
Reports say 10 ‘sleepers’ being held at secret facility while Russian intelligence finds out whether they were betrayed by double agent
Intrigue and Ambiguity in Cases of 4 Russians Sent to West in Spy Swap
Vienna is still a favourite playground for spies
(BBC) Speculation is mounting that the Austrian capital, Vienna, might be the venue for a cloak and dagger prisoner exchange straight out of a Cold War thriller. (NYT) Vienna Still a Spot for Cloak-and-Dagger Work
Steps Point to Possible Swap of Spy Suspects With Russia
The tune changed pretty quickly Russian experts scoff at alleged spy ring
(CSM) Russian spies: Three remaining mysteries
U.S. rolls up Cold War-style Russian spy network
American authorities have arrested 11 people connected with what U.S. intelligence services are calling a high-level Russian espionage ring consisting of individuals living in deep cover across the U.S. The New York Times 4 Russian spies posed as Canadians: U.S. CBC (6/29) Suspect in Spy Case Cultivated Friends Made at Harvard (6/30)
U.S. Is Still Using Private Spy Ring, Despite Doubts
Top military officials have continued to rely on a secret network of private spies who have produced hundreds of reports from deep inside and , according to American officials and businessmen, despite concerns among some in the military about the legality of the operation.
One of the great stories of World War II recounted again and in more detail – far more subtle (and efficacious?) than the methods described above
How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory
By Ben Macintyre
The Man Who Never Was
In February of 1943, a cast of colorful oddballs developed and carried out one of the most elaborate deceptions of World War II, a plan to disguise the impending Allied invasion of Sicily, framed around the body of a dead man. The deceased, who would wash up on the Spanish coast, was a complete fraud, but the lies he would carry from Room 13 of the British Admiralty all the way to Hitler’s desk would help win the war. “The defining feature of this spy would be his falsity,” Ben Macintyre writes in “Operation Mincemeat.” “He was a pure figment of imagination, a weapon in a war far removed from the traditional battle of bombs and bullets.”
To flesh out the corpse’s fictional identity, a truly eclectic group of talents was assembled, including a brilliant barrister, an eccentric 25-year-old Royal Air Force officer, a future thriller writer, a pretty secretary and a coroner with the implausible name of Bentley Purchase. And that’s just the beginning.
In Pakistan, ex-spy Khalid Khawaja’s killing is surrounded by mystery
(WaPost) The answer, according to emerging clues and security analysts, is that North Waziristan, once a hub of Taliban fighters with links to Pakistan’s military, has evolved into a stewpot of militant groups, each with different loyalties. Old Taliban ties may have meant little to the Asian Tigers, the group that said it killed Khawaja and is thought to be a Punjab-rooted organization battling the Pakistani state.
A Dagger to the CIA
(GQ.com April 2010) On December 30, in one of the deadliest attacks in CIA history, an Al Qaeda double agent schemed his way onto a U.S. base in Afghanistan and blew himself into the next life, taking seven Americans with him. How could this have happened? Agency veteran Robert Baer explains, offering chilling new details about the attack and a plea to save the dying art of espionage
Glaring intelligence lapse exposed in Anat Kam espionage case
(DebkaFile) This soldier’s ability to photocopy and filch 2,000 top-secret documents from an army facility over a two-year period ranging from 2005 to 2007 demonstrates the vulnerability of the highest command levels in the IDF to infiltration by hostile elements and the free availability of their most secret documents.
THE SPY WHO DISAPPEARED: THE CURIOUS FATE OF LIONEL CRABB
The story begins on April 19, 1956, when a man named Lionel Crabb dived into Portsmouth harbour on a highly secretive mission.
Crabb was an agent working for MI6 and the apparent target of his mission was a Soviet cruiser at anchor in the harbour. The cruiser – Ordzhonikidze – had brought Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev on a diplomatic visit to Britain.
The ship’s presence in British waters presented military intelligence with a unique opportunity to study the capability of Soviet weaponry.
The mysterious disappearance of Lionel Crabb will eventually be solved, for all the relevant documents are in still in existence.
But they are not scheduled for release into the public domain until 2057.
See also Lionel (Buster) Crabb
Contractors Tied to Effort to Track and Kill Militants
Under the cover of a benign government information-gathering program, a Defense Department official set up a network of private contractors in Afghanistan and Pakistan to help track and kill suspected militants, according to military officials and businessmen in Afghanistan and the United States.
P.O. Box 1142
From July 1942 to November 1946, the U.S. military shepherded more than 4,000 prisoners of war (POWs) through Fort Hunt, housing, interrogating, and surreptitiously listening to the highest-ranking enemy officers, scientists, and submariners. Notable members of the Third Reich questioned here include rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, spymaster Reinhard Gehlen, and Heinz Schlicke, inventor of infrared detection.
The intelligence that American military personnel uncovered primarily focused on the Germans’ rocket and submarine technology, which was superior to the Allies’. It may have played a role in the decision to bomb Hiroshima and the subsequent victory for the Allies, helped rocket the United States to the top of the space race, defined Cold War strategies, and was a forerunner to the Central Intelligence Agency. Amazingly, the site’s historical significance might have been lost forever had it not been for a serendipitous moment between a park ranger and a park visitor three years ago.
Philip Knightley: The History of the Honey Trap
Five lessons for would-be James Bonds and Bond girls — and the men and women who would resist them.
MI5 is worried about sex. In a 14-page document distributed last year to hundreds of British banks, businesses, and financial institutions, titled “The Threat from Chinese Espionage,” the famed British security service described a wide-ranging Chinese effort to blackmail Western businesspeople over sexual relationships.
Hamas Killing Exposes Dubai’s Dark Side
(WSJ) Mr. Mabhouh’s death is being blamed on Israel but his assassination in Dubai highlights the ongoing problems the sheikdom faces with money laundering and the influence of Iran within its borders.
New Questions About Dubai Assassination
by Jacob Laksin
For those familiar with the stellar reputation of Israel’s clandestine services, the recent hit on a Hamas operative and arms dealer in Dubai seems oddly atypical. It was, to the outside observer, an embarrassingly sloppy effort: The agents who allegedly carried out the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh (pictured above) in his luxury hotel room made what appear to be a series of rookie mistakes, for instance allowing themselves to be caught on video surveillance cameras and using the stolen passports of Israeli citizens. Hardly the kind of work one would associate with the Israeli Mossad, whose efficiency in covert operations is the stuff of cloak-and-dagger legend.
Dubai killing shines unwelcome spotlight on Mossad
(BBC) “It was so stupid, it couldn’t be Israel”
Some commentators have since gone so far as to question whether it was even a Mossad hit, citing contradictions in the initial reports of Mr Mabhouh’s death, the large number of suspects, their inability to evade detection, and the apparent decision by two of them to travel by boat to Iran last year. … A former Mossad agent, Rami Igra, also dismissed its involvement due to the assassins’ failure to disable CCTV cameras at key moments and their use of passports belonging to foreign nationals living in Israel.
My British Passport and my theory.
Of course, another explanation was that the identity of the British passport holders was obtained from the disc that was lost or stolen from a British Government official last year.
You may remember this incident. It made all the headlines and was a major security breach.
My theory is that this disc was sold to an Arab Government, maybe even Dubai, who used forged British passports as part of their plot to eliminate a Hamas nuisance who was using their territory to do terror business with Iran.
Dubai also succeeded in implicating Israel for a double-whammy of slick intelligence work.
It also explains how they managed to trot out identities in record time.
This theory is as plausible as fifteen disguised Israeli agents running round a Dubai hotel corridor.
Britons had passport details stolen by ‘Mossad death squad’
(Times Online) British authorities are investigating how six British nationals apparently had their identities stolen by suspected Mossad agents to cover their tracks on a mission to assassinate a top Hamas leader in Dubai.
Sarkozy puts woman in charge of ‘spy school’
Academy designed to stop infighting between rival intelligence chiefs
(The Independent) President Nicolas Sarkozy is to create a “school for spies”, whose principal job will be to discourage French intelligence chiefs from spying on, and fighting against, one another.
The Spies Who Got Left in the Cold
Robert Grenier spent 27 years with the C.I.A.’s National Clandestine Service
Rather than admit to the hard fact that we must always rely on someone’s subjective assessment of tolerable risk, politicians are vilifying those who put together our terrorism watch lists, who are simply following threat protocols. Meanwhile, intelligence analysts who are charged with making subjective judgments as to which of the hundreds of thousands of possible terrorists lurking in their databases merit their focused scrutiny to “connect the dots” are being accused of dereliction for having underestimated the threat from a single African college student.
6 January 2010
Spooked – The troubles of American intelligence
(The Economist) In the wake of the attempted Christmas attack, further attempts to shake up intelligence methods and organisation will follow.
Less reported, but causing more devastation, was the bomb attack on the CIA’s base in Khost, in Afghanistan. A Jordanian suicide bomber killed seven American employees and a Jordanian spy, the worst CIA death toll since a 1983 bombing in Beirut. It emerged on Monday that the CIA had not only been bloodied but duped. An Islamic extremist had pretended to be turned by Jordanian intelligence and apparently fed American and Jordanian handlers enough reliable information to make himself trusted. When he claimed to have urgent intelligence, he was whisked through security into the base.
This is a new kind of threat to the CIA. Few had suspected that al-Qaeda would be sophisticated enough to develop a double agent who could fool both the Jordanians and the CIA. Jordan’s intelligence service is one of the most professional and trusted partners of the CIA. The agency depends strongly on other friendly spy services for cultural, linguistic and other kinds of expertise. The CIA will now have to add countering al-Qaeda’s spy activities and worrying whether its allies are doing the same to its already daunting list of tasks. The government of Yemen, in particular, has become an important, if somewhat dubious, ally in the fight against al-Qaeda. Its security forces have claimed victories against al-Qaeda, but some worry that these too have been penetrated by the terrorist group.
Consultant with suspicious footprints ends up on Harper’s agenda
Over the past month, [Tahawwur Hussain] Rana’s footprint has appeared in more and more places, as international investigators discuss overlapping conspiracies spanning three continents. The globetrotting immigration consultant first made the news when he was arrested last month on suspicion of supporting a plot: To kill a Danish newspaper cartoonist who had mocked Islam.
23 Americans convicted in Italian court in renditions case
An Italian judge convicted 23 former agents of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in the first trial testing the legality of so-called extraordinary rendition in which terror suspects were picked up by U.S. agents operating secretly on foreign soil and transported to interrogation sites. The Americans were tried in absentia. The CIA’s Milan station chief Robert Seldon was sentenced to an eight-year prison term, and the other 22 defendants received five-year terms. The U.S. has steadfastly refused to extradite the former agents. Reuters (11/4) , Google/The Associated Press (11/4)
Lifting the cover on Canada’s spy files
(AdviceScene) John told the court that the Americans wanted to render Khadr to a U.S.-run foreign prison – perhaps Guantanamo Bay or one of the undisclosed “ghost sites” – but that the Canadians and Pakistanis refused to consent to his transfer.
He testified about the $500,000 bounty the CIA paid the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, and gave detailed answers about the delicate dance that went on between Ottawa, Islamabad and Washington. It seems everyone wanted information from Khadr but no one had the evidence to charge him – until Khadr confessed – which is the crux of the case. Was his abusive treatment (which the prosecution conceded took place after his arrest in Pakistan) enough to render anything he said about purchasing weapons for Al Qaeda inadmissible (even when he repeated these claims in Canada?)
C.I.A. Is Still Cagey About Oswald Mystery
For six years, the agency has fought in federal court to keep secret hundreds of documents from 1963, when an anti-Castro Cuban group it paid clashed publicly with the soon-to-be assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. The C.I.A. says it is only protecting legitimate secrets. What motive could C.I.A. officials have to bury the details of Mr. Joannides’s work for so long? Did C.I.A. officers or their Cuban contacts know more about Oswald than has been revealed? Or was the agency simply embarrassed by brushes with the future assassin — like the Dallas F.B.I. officials who, after the assassination, destroyed a handwritten note Oswald had previously left for an F.B.I. agent?
Benito Mussolini was MI5′s man in Italy
(Times Online) Historians in Cambridge have uncovered details of a lucrative deal struck between a young Benito Mussolini and MI5 in 1917. For at least a year, the young socialist was paid £100 a week by the UK government — around £6,000 today — to write pro-war propaganda for his newspaper Il Popolo d’Italia, one of the slickest media machines the country, and keep Italian troops fighting at the front.
Top secret: A century of British espionage
(The Independent) In October 1909, Britain’s intelligence services were born – and for a century since, they’ve inspired myths, half-truths and glamorous fiction. The Secret Service Bureau’s Foreign Section should have opened for business on 1 October 1909, but records show payments for staff and the premises only began 10 days later. Keen to make his mark, Cumming started work on time. He wrote in his diary: “Went to the office and remained all day but saw no one, nor was there anything to do there.”
Missing Mexican island fuels mystery
Lawmakers in Mexico are trying to determine the whereabouts of island central to the country’s oil claims, which appears literally to have dropped off the map about 10 years ago. Bermeja island in the Gulf of Mexico — a strategic marker defining US and Mexican maritime and subsea rights — has disappeared along with documents backing up a bilateral treaty on major oil reserves in the area, fueling rumors of a CIA plot. [Response from our Washington correspondents: Of course the reality is that the island was a total fabrication, created by the Mexican national petroleum company to advance their seabed oil claims. However, that appears a bit glib given that "It appears on maps as early as the 1500s and as late as 1941. Mexican Islands, a book published in 1946 by the country’s Institute of Geography, lists Bermeja’s coordinates; so do publications by the distinguished Mexican Society of Geography and Statistics. The longitude and latitude of Bermeja are given on Google Earth and in a CIA atlas."]
Who watches CSIS?
The McDonald Commission in 1977 recommended the creation of a civilian agency to better accommodate democratic values in intelligence gathering. This was eventually enacted after a very lengthy debate over the appropriate types of oversight and review. The amazing thing is that, despite this lengthy discussion, the new intelligence agency, CSIS, has virtually no oversight outside of Cabinet.
There is need for the Federal Court to authorize some domestic activities, including deporting non-citizens currently in the country who are deemed threats. But as Nathalie Des Rosiers from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association notes, this judicial review relies completely on information provided to the judges by CSIS, with limited or no opportunity for the accused to defend themselves.
Intelligence services fall under extreme scrutiny because their operation must always be in the national interest, and never subsumed to any other personal, political or partisan interest. Robust disclosure mechanisms ensure that programs aimed at foreign threats do not get used against domestic challengers.
Blackwater Hit Squads: What Was the CIA Thinking?
(TIME) It’s one thing, albeit often misguided, for the agency to outsource certain tasks to contractors. It’s quite another to involve a company like Blackwater in even the planning and training of targeted killings, akin to the CIA going to the mafia to draw up a plan to kill Castro. Brief History: Secret CIA Missions 7/27 ; Spies and Spooks: The (Mis)Adventures of the CIA Photo gallery
My grandfather, the Russian spy
The release of Anthony Blunt’s papers brought the memories flooding back to Charlotte Philby. She recalls the experience of growing up in the company of Kim Philby, the Third Man
Memoirs of Anthony Blunt, British Spy, Offer No Apology
After keeping it sealed in a steel container for 25 years, the British Library made public on Thursday a 30,000-word memoir in which Anthony Blunt, one of Britain’s most renowned 20th-century art historians, described spying for the Soviet Union, beginning in the mid-1930s, as “the biggest mistake of my life.”
How Poles cracked Nazi Enigma secret
It has taken a long time to establish the historical facts, but the picture is much clearer now, in the run-up to the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II. “This event is tremendous – we’re very pleased that the British remember the Poles,” said Derek Celinski, a Polish army veteran who survived the Nazi destruction of Warsaw. One of the lessons the British learned from the Polish experience was the importance of engaging the country’s best mathematicians in the code-breaking project. While British code-breakers were undoubtedly bright – Knox was a translator of ancient Greek poetry – they were not necessarily mathematicians.
The FBI’s Least Wanted
(Mother Jones May/June) Special agent Bassem Youssef was one of the FBI’s up-and-comers—fluent in Arabic, ambitious, with a record of spotting threats and cracking terrorist cells. So of course the bureau sent him to rot in a desk job.
Major cyber spy network uncovered
(BBC) An electronic spy network, based mainly in China, has infiltrated computers from government offices around the world, Canadian researchers say. They said the network had infiltrated 1,295 computers in 103 countries [including] those linked with the Dalai Lama.
(Telegraph U.K.) A vast Chinese cyber-espionage network, codenamed GhostNet, has penetrated 103 countries and infects at least a dozen new computers every week, according to researchers.
By Malcolm Moore
The discovery of GhostNet, which is designed to infiltrate sensitive ministries and embassies – and is known to have succeeded in many cases – is the latest sign of China’s determination to win a future “information war”. A ten-month investigation by the Munk Centre for International Studies in Toronto has revealed that GhostNet not only searches computers for information and taps their emails, but also turns them into giant listening devices.
Swiss files on rogue nuclear ambitions, CIA dealings destroyed
Switzerland destroyed computer records documenting the business dealings of a family of Swiss engineers with suspected ties to Libya and Iran. Both Swiss prosecutors and international atomic inspectors hoping to discover the full activities of Pakistani nuclear scientist and black-market engineer Abdul Qadeer Khan desired to see the records of Friedrich Tinner and his two sons, who had connections with both Dr. Khan and the rogue nations who sought his services. The U.S. urged that the files be destroyed, ostensibly to ensure that terrorists never received the files but also to hide evidence that the CIA paid the Tinners tens of millions to discover details about Libya’s bomb program, Iran’s nuclear program and Dr. Khan’s dealings. The New York Times (8/25/2008)
This is an extraordinary story. We will watch for more on it.
(Ottawa Citizen) One man’s China crusade
… the FBI has named China as the biggest intelligence threat to the U.S., says Mr. McAdam. And Canada, he says, is now known as “one of the world’s centres for Chinese organized crime and espionage.”
Last year, CSIS director Jim Judd testified before the Senate that nearly half of all spies from 15 countries who operate in Canada work for China — and consume half his counter-espionage resources.
Clamour grows to save Bletchley Park [Editor's Update: The campaign was successful, see: Bletchley Park]
(The Independent) Large parts of the park are in a state of advanced decay, with its iconic wooden huts – in which the elite recruits worked – rapidly deteriorating. It is estimated that £10m is needed to save the site for future generations – and transform Bletchley into a world-class visitor centre to immortalise one of the most extraordinary episodes in Britain’s history.
The country’s most brilliant minds – from mathematicians to crossword experts – were recruited to work at the centre located on the “Varsity Line” railway between Oxford and Cambridge universities, from where many of the code-breakers came.
The team, led by the cryptographer Alan Turing, eventually cracked the Enigma code, thought to be unbreakable by the Nazis. After the war, Winston Churchill had all records of Bletchley destroyed in order to prevent the Soviet Union from gaining its intelligence.
Julia Child: The OSS Years
(WSJ) First as senior typist in the Office of War Information (August 1942), then as junior research assistant in the office of OSS Director “Wild” Bill Donovan, Julia joined America’s novice intelligence team: the Ivy Leaguers, the Martini-drinking best and brightest, many of whose names have only recently been revealed, including Allen Dulles, later head of the CIA, and future Supreme Court Justice Arthur J. Goldberg.
Julia “rose through the ranks” from senior clerk to administrative assistant, organizing a large office. She lived in the Brighton Hotel.
When she heard in 1943 that the OSS wanted volunteers for service in India, she applied; bored and in search of adventure.
Documents: Julia Child part of WWII era spy ring
WASHINGTON (AP) — Famed chef Julia Child shared a secret with Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg and Chicago White Sox catcher Moe Berg at a time when the Nazis threatened the world. They served in an international spy ring managed by the Office of Strategic Services, an early version of the CIA created in World War II by President Franklin Roosevelt.
The secret comes out Thursday, all of the names and previously classified files identifying nearly 24,000 spies who formed the first centralized intelligence effort by the United States. The National Archives, which this week released a list of the names found in the records, will make available for the first time all 750,000 pages identifying the vast spy network of military and civilian operatives.
They were soldiers, actors, historians, lawyers, athletes, professors, reporters. But for several years during World War II, they were known simply as the OSS. They studied military plans, created propaganda, infiltrated enemy ranks and stirred resistance among foreign troops.
Among the more than 35,000 OSS personnel files are applications, commendations and handwritten notes identifying young recruits who, like Child, Goldberg and Berg, earned greater acclaim in other fields — Arthur Schlesinger Jr., a historian and special assistant to President Kennedy; Sterling Hayden, a film and television actor whose work included a role in “The Godfather”; and Thomas Braden, an author whose “Eight Is Enough” book inspired the 1970s television series.
Other notables identified in the files include John Hemingway, son of author Ernest Hemingway; Quentin and Kermit Roosevelt, sons of President Theodore Roosevelt, and Miles Copeland, father of Stewart Copeland, drummer for the band The Police.