E is for espionage /2 2016-18

Written by  //  December 12, 2018  //  Geopolitics, Security  //  1 Comment

The Guardian Cambridge Analytica Files

While deep state has different meanings to different people, AlterNet’s Jefferson Morley offers a good description for its most common use in America:
The deep state is shorthand for the nexus of secretive intelligence agencies whose leaders and policies are not much affected by changes in the White House or the Congress. … [It] includes the CIA, NSA, Defense Intelligence Agency and components of the State Department, Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security and the armed forces. The ‘deep state’ goes mainstream: Trump, Nixon — and Bob Woodward

12 December
Blood and bureaucracy: Inside Canada’s panicked response to ‘Havana syndrome’
(Globe & Mail) In early March, a group of frustrated staff travelled to Pittsburgh for testing at their own initiative and cost (Global Affairs Canada later reimbursed them). The lab’s specialized MRI scans and other tests showed brain damage, and evidence of the similarity of the Canadians’ injuries to those of their U.S. counterparts was described by the chief neurologist as “rock solid.” However, no further testing was done in Pittsburgh – the Canadian staff say this was because Ottawa never provided UPenn with authorization.
In the spring of 2018, Global Affairs Canada ended family postings to Cuba and withdrew all staff with families as more cases materialized (as of now, nine Canadian adults and four children have been diagnosed with the brain injuries). The Canadians who were affected in 2017 are all in Canada and still employed by Global Affairs, although several are unable to work because of their symptoms.

22 November
Interpol’s new chief: the ‘bulldozer’ with a taste for tackling cybercrime
Kim Jong-yang likely to refocus organisation and popularise South Korean police tactics known as ‘K-cop wave’
The election of South Korea’s Kim Jong-yang as president of Interpol after months of scandal will likely see the organisation return to its core mission, as delegates chose a career cop over Kremlin insider Alexander Prokopchuk.
While the role is largely ceremonial and day-to-day operations are handled by the general secretary, Kim will be tasked with salvaging the organisation’s reputation after the sudden departure of the previous president, Meng Hongwei of China, who was detained over allegations of corruption. Meng’s wife, Grace Meng, insists he is innocent, and says the charges are driven by a vendetta at his security ministry that has cast a spotlight on China’s authoritarian system.

Criticism mounts as Interpol set to elect Russian as president
(Reuters) – International police body Interpol is expected to elect a senior Russian official as its next president on Wednesday, in a move that has provoked alarm in Europe and the United States about the risk of Kremlin meddling. There are two official candidates, and write-ins are still possible, but the vote is widely expected to lead to Russia’s Alexander Prokopchuk, a police major-general and currently one of Interpol’s four vice-presidents.
Bill Browder: The world can’t let Russia run Interpol. My experiences show why.

11-12 November
Exploding Mojitos: The First “Sonic Attacks” Targeting American Diplomats in Cuba May Have Taken Place Thirty Years Ago
(The New Yorker)  It was Christmas week, 1987, thirty years before American spies and diplomats reported coming under “attack” in Havana last year from what some investigators and doctors believed was a type of directed-energy device that caused injuries similar to concussions.
A very long, fascinating, read
Letter from Cuba: The Mystery of the Havana Syndrome
Unexplained brain injuries afflicted dozens of American diplomats and spies. What happened?
By Adam Entous and Jon Lee Anderson
The New Yorker November 19, 2018 Issue
In Cuba and in the U.S., the advocates of diplomatic opening are no longer in office. In April, Raúl Castro stepped down as President, and was replaced by Miguel Díaz-Canel, a longtime loyalist. Raúl remains the head of the Communist Party, but Alejandro Castro suffered in the transition. He was not nominated as a deputy in the National Assembly—a prerequisite for the Presidency—and his department at the Interior Ministry was reportedly dissolved. Several former American officials who dealt with him during the normalization say that he is no longer returning their messages. They have heard that he is isolated, appearing rarely in public; in the Cuban expression, he is stuck at home, on plan pijama—the pajama plan. “He worked with us, and it would send a terrible message if he suffered for that because of the shift in U.S. policy,” one official said. A former associate of Fidel Castro suggested a darker possibility: Alejandro could have been fired because he was responsible for the sonic episodes. “Either he ordered them or covered up for those who did—but acting on his own, without his father’s knowledge,” he said. “That is the only possible explanation for Raúl taking action to punish him.”

8 October
A knife emoji, then silence: The strange story of how China detained the head of Interpol
(Quartz) Oct. 7: Confirmation, resignation
Meng was supposed to be in his post until 2020. On Sunday evening local time, the Communist Party’s internal graft investigation body and a national anti-corruption agency said in a one-sentence statement that Meng was under investigation. Not long after, Interpol said that the 64-year-old had resigned.

5 October
South China Morning Post: Missing Interpol president Meng Hongwei ‘under investigation’ in China
Vice-minister of public security ‘taken away’ after arriving in China by plane from France last week, source says
Head of Interpol, Meng Hongwei, missing after China trip
French police are investigating the apparent disappearance of the head of Interpol, Meng Hongwei. His wife reported him missing after a trip to China in late September.

Russia hack attacks: Revelations from ‘spy mania’
From Berlin to Washington, Western governments have accused Moscow of staging all kinds of cyberattacks. DW examines the revelations about Russia’s counterintelligence operations on foreign soil.
Moscow has denied any involvement in the cyberattacks. Russia’s foreign ministry said the allegations amount to “Western spy mania,” and warned that it “is gaining momentum.”
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned Washington and its allies of “intentionally fueling tensions … between nuclear states,” saying it is a “dangerous road” in comments carried by the TASS news agency.
“Canada and those European countries that are loyally servicing American claims to global hegemony should also think about this,” Ryabkov said.

19 July
Novichok poisoning: police identify Skripal suspects – report
Russian suspects spotted on CCTV, as inquest opens into death of Dawn Sturgess
Police are believed to have identified the suspected perpetrators of the novichok attack on the Russian former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia.
Detectives think several Russians were involved in the attack in Salisbury in March and are looking for more than one suspect, the Press Association reported.
On Thursday an inquest was opened into the death this month of Dawn Sturgess following exposure to novichok.
Suspects in Novichok case flew out of UK in wake of attack, source says
(CNN) Police have identified two suspects in the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, a source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN on Thursday.
The pair left the UK in the wake of the attack on what is believed to have been a commercial flight, the source added.
Their departure was revealed in a coded Russian message to Moscow sent after the attack, which was intercepted by a British base in Cyprus, the source said.

18 July
Alleged Russian Spy Was Working to Infiltrate Religious Right As Well As Gun Groups
(New York Magazine) … So there is a U.S. religious constituency that very self-consciously supports Trump’s apparent interest in forming a new world order based on a Washington-Moscow axis, outflanking the decadent, secular, tolerant globalists of Western Europe.

5 July
Sonic weapons
(Quartz) Britain is reeling this week from the mysterious poisoning of a couple by the same nerve agent that sickened a former Russian spy and his daughter in March, which sparked a massive diplomatic crisis.
That was only the latest in a series of increasingly bizarre and unsettling spy games. One of the most baffling mysteries—as yet unsolved—began unfolding two years ago in Cuba, when US intelligence operatives under diplomatic cover in Havana began reporting strange “auditory events” linked with hearing loss, headaches, dizziness, and other symptoms typical of concussions.
In total, 24 Americans and eight Canadians have been injured in Cuba. This spring, the plot thickened when an American diplomat stationed in China was diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury after experiencing “subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure.”

27 March
A new spy museum perfectly captures how boring espionage has become
(Quartz) Gone are the shoe phones. Homing pigeons, sexy poison-tipped umbrellas, and trick briefcases are also all sleeping with the fishes. Compared to the tuxedo-filled tales of yore, spying today has become, well, banal.
Instead of using clandestine gadgetry hidden inside of domestic objects, intelligence operations have become a passive game of data transactions and digital tracking. In attempting to highlight all the high-tech marvels 21st-century snooping has introduced, a new museum in New York City’s Times Square district exposes surveillance’s screen-based drudgery.

17 March
Ivor Gaber: I don’t know who attacked Sergei Skripal, but my work with Litvinenko makes me think that we’re also to blame
(The Independent UK) The Russian state, its agencies, big business and organised crime are intertwined – something I witnessed first hand when I found myself involved with the murdered Russian spy
[London] was, and is, a place where successive British governments have allowed – indeed almost encouraged – fabulously wealthy Russians, many with very dubious backgrounds, to settle. London property offers a safe and lucrative place to hide ill-gotten gains.
Following the recent attempted murder of Skripal in Salisbury, Buzzfeed listed 14 people, identified by US spy agencies as being linked to Russia, who had died in mysterious circumstances, and in all cases the UK police had shut down inquiries.
The news that the police will now investigate the suspicious death of Nikolai Glushkov, a close friend of Berezovsky, is in marked contrast to the time when, under former Home Secretary Theresa May, it took 10 years to get a public inquiry into the death of Litvinenko.

13-14 March
The spy story has escalated to levels of a global crisis
By Wesley Wark, executive in residence at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa
(Globe & Mail) The world is on the edge of something momentous here. This is not just a spy story with Cold War trappings. It is not just something that happened to a former Russian spy (and his daughter, and a police sergeant). It bears the ominous hallmarks of the fracturing of a rules-based international order: The first use of a military nerve agent against a Western power since the Second World War; the first act of state aggression by Russia directly against a Western power since the end of the Cold War; and it is a potential spark for a spiral into unrestrained cyberattacks. To make matters worse, this is all taking place amid an unsettling isolationist moment in U.S. global policy.

(NYT) Prime Minister Theresa May suspended high-level contacts with Russia and expelled 23 Russian diplomats over the poisoning of a former Russian double agent on British soil.
She vowed to crack down on Russian spies, corrupt elites and ill-gotten wealth in Britain.
Our correspondent explains why Moscow will never apologize for the attack on its former spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter.

President Trump picks Gina Haspel as first female CIA director. She is known for running a CIA ‘black site’
Trump will nominate career CIA officer Gina Haspel to be the agency’s first female director.
Haspel’s Senate confirmation process will be complicated by her role in the CIA’s black site program, in which terrorism suspects were extrajudicially detained and tortured.
(CNBC) In February 2017, Trump named Haspel to be the CIA’s deputy director, prompting Democratic senators to write a letter protesting her appointment. The public version of the letter from Wyden and Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico said only that Haspel’s “background makes her unsuitable for the position.” Their reasons for saying this were detailed in a separate, classified letter that has not been made public. In a statement Tuesday, Haspel said that, if confirmed, she looks forward “to providing President Trump the outstanding intelligence support he has grown to expect during his first year in office.”

The Economist: Theresa May has given Russia until the end of today to prove that it was not involved in the poisoning of a former spy living in Britain. Sergei Skripal, who relocated after a spy swap, should have been off-limits. Under an informal cold-war rule, spy agencies do not attack the other side’s intelligence officers. If Russia was, as suspected, involved, it would signal a shift from the stark certainties of the cold-war spy world into murkier territory

12 March
British spy drama echoes through Washington
“The bottom line is there is somebody lying in a hospital bed who might die … Has he become a pawn in this global game? It’s almost like the Cold War all over again.”
(The Hill) The reverberations of an attempted murder of a Russian double agent in Britain are reaching American shores, sharpening questions yet again about President Trump’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. British Prime Minister Theresa May told the U.K. parliament on Monday that it was “highly likely” that Russia was responsible for an attack that has left Sergei Skripal and his daughter critically ill.
… The defector, Boris Karpichkov, said that Christopher Steele, author of a now-famous dossier alleging that the Kremlin held compromising information on President Trump, was among the other names targeted for assassination.

10 March
Russian spy: What we know so far
(BBC) Police are conducting an attempted murder investigation after a former Russian spy and his daughter were exposed to a nerve agent in Salisbury, Wiltshire.
Sergei Skripal, 66, and Yulia Skripal, 33, remain in a critical condition after being found slumped on a bench near the Maltings shopping centre on Sunday afternoon. Home Secretary Amber Rudd described the attack as brazen, reckless and cruel and promised to “act without hesitation as the facts become clearer”.
Russia has denied any involvement. UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says the country will respond “robustly” if Moscow is found to have been behind the incident.

6 March
Christopher Steele, the Man Behind the Trump Dossier
How the ex-spy tried to warn the world about Trump’s ties to Russia.
By Jane Mayer
(New Yorker 12 March edition)) John Sipher, the former C.I.A. officer, predicts that Mueller’s probe will render the final verdict on Steele’s dossier. … “It will take professional investigators to run it to ground.” He believes that Mueller, whose F.B.I. he worked with, “is a hundred per cent doing that.”
Until then, Sipher said, Steele, as a former English spook, is the perfect political foil: “The Trump supporters can attack the messenger, because no one knows him or understands him, so you can paint him any way you want.” Strobe Talbott, a Russia expert who served as Deputy Secretary of State in the Clinton Administration, and who has known Steele professionally for ten years, has watched the spectacle in Washington with regret. Talbott regards Steele as a “smart, careful, professional, and congenial” colleague who “knows the post-Soviet space, and is exactly what he says he is.” Yet, Talbott said, “they’re trying to turn him into political polonium—touch him and you die.” It will take professional investigators to run it to ground.” He believes that Mueller, whose F.B.I. he worked with, “is a hundred per cent doing that.”
A former Russian spy’s collapse could signal a rewriting of cold-war rules
Sergei Skripal had been pardoned by Russia and arrived in Britain as part of a sanctioned swap
(The Economist) If his current misfortune does prove to be a poisoning, it reflects “more cracks forming” in the rules governing the murky world of espionage, says Mark Galeotti, an expert on the Russian security services at the Institute of International Relations Prague, a research outfit. Rather than being a defector like Litvinenko, Mr Skripal arrived in Britain as part of a sanctioned swap. And rather than being a visible critic, he had faded, as old spies tend to, into quiet obscurity. To target him now would be a breach of cold-war etiquette.

3 March
Clive Irving: What Would Le Carré’s Master Spy Think of Trump and Russia?
John le Carre’s most lethal mole-hunter unpacks the plot of Putin’s attack on America – and the roles of Flynn, Nunes and the Steele dossier.
(Daily Beast) … when the Berlin Wall came down late in 1989 it was lamented that le Carré’s chosen theater, the contest in Europe between Western intelligence and the Soviet KGB, was closing down, leaving Smiley (and le Carré) without work in a new golden age of amity. Well, that didn’t last long. But nobody could have predicted that the first year of an American presidency would provide us with such rich (and, let it be said, richly nostalgic) material for revisiting the spy game as Smiley played it with consummate skill.
… as a long and devout fan of George Smiley I have decided to imagine, with all due apologies to David Cornwell, aka John le Carré, a conversation with the old master to review things as they are now.
DB: Are you suggesting collusion?
GS: An unwise choice of word. It allows plausible deniability, which is why Trump can keep chanting, no collusion!, no collusion! It is not a legal term and sets a standard that probably cannot be met by the facts…it is a strongly active term, whereas I think there is another word that much better describes the probable activity and the motives of the people involved in the activity. That word is complicity. It describes a passive collaboration in which parties with common aims are naturally allied. I should have thought that it was self-evident that the basis of complicity exists in the simple fact that Putin and Trump shared a loathing of Mrs. Clinton. Both wished to discredit and defeat her. There was a concordat to achieve that result without ever needing to have an explicit partnership. That is a very evanescent form of conspiracy, and one that is extremely hard to prove.

16 January
Ex-C.I.A. Officer Suspected of Compromising Chinese Informants Is Arrested
A former C.I.A. officer suspected by investigators of helping China dismantle United States spying operations and identify informants has been arrested, the Justice Department said on Tuesday. The collapse of the spy network was one of the American government’s worst intelligence failures in recent years.


14 December
The secret to being a great spy agency in the 21st century: Incubating startups
By Danny Palmer
What happens when a top secret intelligence agency turns to entrepreneurs to help build new tools to protect a nation from cyberattacks? GCHQ found out.
Intelligence agencies are good at finding and keeping secrets, and at working patiently in the shadows. Startups are good at promoting themselves, moving fast, and breaking things—in an effort to build the next big technology. It’s hard to think of two mindsets that are further apart.
But in a world of constantly evolving cybersecurity threats, Britain’s GCHQ [Government Communications Headquarters] spy agency decided to open a startup accelerator to bridge the gap between the two: to see, if it was a little more open, it could help the private sector build tools to prevent future cyberattacks.

22 November
Exclusive: What Trump Really Told Kislyak After Comey Was Canned
During a May 10 meeting in the Oval Office, the president betrayed his intelligence community by leaking the content of a classified, and highly sensitive, Israeli intelligence operation to two high-ranking Russian envoys, Sergey Kislyak and Sergey Lavrov. This is what he told them—and the ramifications.
(Vanity Fair) an intemperate President Trump revealed details about the classified mission to Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, and Sergey I. Kislyak, then Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. Along with the tempest of far-reaching geopolitical consequences that raged as a result of the president’s disclosure, fresh blood was spilled in his long-running combative relationship with the nation’s clandestine services. Israel—as well as America’s other allies—would rethink its willingness to share raw intelligence, and pretty much the entire Free World was left shaking its collective head in bewilderment as it wondered, not for the first time, what was going on with Trump and Russia. (In fact, Trump’s disturbing choice to hand over highly sensitive intelligence to the Russians is now a focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s relationship with Russia, both before and after the election.) In the hand-wringing aftermath, the entire event became, as is so often the case with spy stories, a tale about trust and betrayal. [See It’s Mayhem, Fear, and Disarray in Trump’s White House — A day after news of Trump’s intelligence breach, his administration and party are holding onto their hats. 16 May 2017]

For Black Cube, a network of for-hire ex-Israeli spies, information is big money
(LATimes) Founded by Avi Yanus and Dan Zorella, both former intelligence officers in the Israeli military, it caters to people with a pressing need for James Bond-like skills and the means to afford them. In the murky world where “information is worth more than money,” as the online Israeli news site Nana put it, the company has forged a reputation for meticulous investigations and the ruthless pursuit of information.
Harvey Weinstein’s Army of Spies
The film executive hired private investigators, including ex-Mossad agents, to track actresses and journalists.
(The New Yorker)  The explicit goal of the investigations, laid out in one contract with Black Cube, signed in July, was to stop the publication of the abuse allegations against Weinstein that eventually emerged in the New York Times and The New Yorker. Over the course of a year, Weinstein had the agencies “target,” or collect information on, dozens of individuals, and compile psychological profiles that sometimes focussed on their personal or sexual histories.

26 October
Why Clinton Camp’s Funding of the Trump Dossier Matters
Yet more evidence that Russia’s original mission was to hobble the winner of the presidential race.
(Bloomberg) In the Clinton case, Fusion GPS, the firm working on the Trump opposition research, paid Steele, a foreigner, with the campaign’s money. The U.K., of course, is a U.S. ally; Russia is an adversary. But the information Steele produced came mainly from Russian sources.
… if the FSB and the Kremlin knew of Clinton’s interest in putting together a dossier on Trump, all these people had an excellent reason to talk, and especially to provide nonsensical information…. It was always obvious from the Steele reports that his sources were having fun spinning tall tales for him; since he wasn’t required to verify them and vouch for their accuracy — that’s the nature of raw intelligence — Steele faithfully wrote them down on Fusion GPS’s time.

22 October
Terry Milewski: Living and loving the Cold War: The wild ride of a Canadian diplomat and spy
From spying for the CIA and dodging the KGB, to rallying Afghan warlords, Bill Warden’s life was an adventure
(CBC) Dodging the secret police in Cold War Berlin. Cranking up the music to deafen the KGB bugs in Moscow. Spying for the CIA in Havana. Rallying Afghan warlords to thrash the Russians. Wrangling former prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s meditation session with Indira Gandhi. Faking documents to spirit a hostage out of Tehran.
Diplomacy is not designed to be a wild ride, but Bill Warden’s lasted three decades. He died in 2011, before his vivid journals were collected and published this fall by his daughter, Lisa, under the title, Diplomat, Dissident, Spook.
A sometime spy and eventual peacenik, Warden is little known to Canadians but well known to the likes of Mikhail Gorbachev, who writes a glowing forward to the book.

15 October
The fateful life of history’s most famous female spy
(BBC) On the morning of 15 October 1917 a grey military vehicle left the Saint-Lazare prison in central Paris. On board, accompanied by two nuns and her lawyer, was a 41-year-old Dutch woman in a long coat and a wide, felt hat.
Arriving at the Chateau de Vincennes on the eastern outskirts of Paris, Mata Hari was led to a piece of ground where a post had been erected in front of an earthen bank. Twelve soldiers formed the firing squad.
Her crime? Being an agent in German pay, gleaning secrets from Allied officers who she slept with, and passing them on to her paymaster, leading to lurid newspaper claims about her being responsible for sending thousands of Allied soldiers to their deaths.
But the evidence presented at her trial, plus other documents, cast a different light: that she was actually a double agent and may have died as a scapegoat.
Now, exactly a hundred years on, new light has been shed on the most famous woman spy of all time with the release of hitherto unseen documents by the French defence ministry.

8 September
How Facebook Changed the Spy Game
I fought foreign propaganda for the FBI. But the tools we had won’t work anymore.
(Politico) Any doubt that Russia has been running a strategically targeted disinformation campaign in the United States was erased on Wednesday, when Facebook revealed that it had deleted 470 “inauthentic” accounts that were based in Russia and had paid $100,000 to promote divisive ads during the 2016 presidential election.
Any solution that we create will require a balance between national security interests and constitutional rights. But at this point, we have no choice: It’s clear that our current counterintelligence strategy hasn’t caught up to the age of asymmetrical information warfare. Until it does, we’ll be silently allowing our freedoms to be manipulated to Make Russia Great Again.

5 September
Novelist John Le Carré Reflects On His Own ‘Legacy’ Of Spying

1 September
John le Carré’s Spook Sadism: Taking the Measure of George Smiley, 56 Years On
(Vulture) Le Carré has always attributed his popularity to the fact that “I was writing for a public that was hooked on Bond and wanted an antidote.” It’s the difference between cynicism and sadism. Le Carré’s prose was from the start mandarin and his characters adults; both his sentences and his spies could migrate to the pages of a Graham Greene or Evelyn Waugh novel undetected. Ian Fleming’s heroes and villains are juvenile fantasies, and he writes like a teenager. … Unlike Bond, Smiley never had a license to kill. But he’s always done two things well, occasionally in combination: unravel plots and set traps.

25 August
Spies Like Us: A Conversation With John le Carré and Ben Macintyre
(NYT) Their subject is spying. Their obsessions are secrecy and betrayal. They are Englishmen of a certain background, old friends and admirers of each other’s work. One writes novels; the other, nonfiction. They speak in practically perfect sentences.
Conversations between John le Carré and Ben Macintyre are inevitably warm, interesting, witty, discursive, conspiratorial and gossipy, although their gossip is often espionage-related and more rarefied than yours or mine.
J.L.C. The mentality that is operating in Russia now is absolutely, as far as Putin is concerned, no different to the mentality that drove the most exotic conspiracies during the Cold War. It worked then, it works now. As far as Trump, I would suspect they have it, because they’ve denied it. If they have it and they’ve set Trump up, they’d say, “Oh no, we haven’t got anything.” But to Trump they’re saying, “Aren’t we being kind to you?”
B.M. And today you get this wonderful Russian lawyer woman [Natalia Veselnitskaya, who was in the pre-election meeting at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr.] who is straight out of one of our books, a character that is possibly connected to the Russian state. Who knows? They exist somewhere in that foggy, deniable hinterland. It’s called maskirovka — little masquerade — where you create so much confusion and uncertainty and mystery that no one knows what the truth is.
J.L.C. For Putin, it’s a kind of little piece of background music to keep things going. The smoking gun might or might not be the documents exchanged about the Trump Tower in Moscow [which Trump is said to have been planning to build]. Then there’s the really seedy stuff in the Caucasus. There are bits of scandal which, if added up, might suggest he went to Russia for money. And that would then fit in with the fact that he isn’t half as, a tenth as rich as he pretends to be.

30 June
The James Bond method: Real life M hired agents who lost a parent at a young age because it bred loyalty, new book reveals
(The Telegraph) In a new book, titled Maxwell Knight: MI5’s greatest spymaster, the historian Henry Hemming examines the most important traits that M looked for in his agents. Hemming argues that Knight’s methods had a lasting effect on the recruitment tactics used by the secret service, even after he retired from the service.
“M was looking for watchers: people who pick up unusual details that other people might not. And in his experience, usually these are people who have been held back in some way in childhood,” Hemming said. “Somebody who has lost a parent at an early age, or had some physical handicap meaning they hadn’t been able to join in with games when they were growing up, so they were literally on the sidelines.”
*** Matt Charman, Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Stephen Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, and Mammoth Screen, producers of Poldark and Victoria, are producing a big budget TV series based on the book.

24 May
U.K. Slams U.S. Spies for Leaking Manchester Intel
American intelligence officials repeatedly passed sensitive information to the media that Britain wanted to keep under wraps in one of its most urgent security operations in years.
(Daily Beast) In the 24 hours after a bomber murdered 22 people—many of them children—at an Ariana Grande show in Manchester, England, the British security services executed their well-drilled counter-terror strategy: Identify the attacker as quickly as possible and move on his network of contacts before the killer’s name or precise modus operandi becomes public.
Unfortunately for MI5 and the North West Counter Terrorism Unit, their highly sensitive operation was being undermined by constant news reports from the U.S.—broadcasting their findings to the world, including ISIS and al Qaeda operatives or sympathizers watching at home or abroad.

22 May
Trump Accidentally Confirms That He Leaked Israeli Intel to the Russians
(New York Magazine) Trump decided to share intelligence that Israel had provided the United States — on the condition that it not be shared without Israeli permission — with the Russian government. More specifically, Trump disclosed the name of the city where the intelligence was gathered, information that Putin’s regime — a staunch ally of Israel’s bitter enemies in Tehran — could plausibly use to deduce the sources and methods that yielded the information.
This did not please Israel. Nor did it sit well with intelligence professionals in D.C., several of whom proceeded to anonymously inform Washington Post reporters of what the gasbag-in-chief had done.
Still, when Trump arrived in Jerusalem Monday, no one in the U.S. or Israeli government had publicly confirmed that he had spilled Israel’s beans. Best to retain official ambiguity, the two governments ostensibly reasoned, even if extensive reporting made Trump’s unauthorized disclosure difficult to deny.
But then some Israeli journalists shouted questions about the matter at the end of a Trump-Netanyahu photo-op — and the president decided to defend himself by accidentally, implicitly confirming that he’d let Russia in on the Jewish state’s secrets.
“Just so you understand,” Trump said,“just so you understand — I never mentioned the word or the name Israel in conversation. Never mentioned it.”

20 May
What Could a Mysterious U.S. Spy Know About the JFK Assassination?
(Politico) John F. Kennedy buffs are awaiting the release of documents about June Cobb, a little-known CIA operative working in Cuba and Mexico around the time of the president’s assassination.
The existing information in the spy agency’s declassified files depicts Cobb as an American Mata Hari—an adventure-loving, death-defying globetrotter who moved to Cuba to work for Fidel Castro, the country’s newly installed strongman, then found herself recruited to spy for the CIA after growing disenchanted with Castro’s revolution.
The Cobb file is among the most tantalizing of an estimated 3,600 assassination-related documents scheduled to be made public by late October under the 25-year deadline established by the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act.

17 May
Trump’s Classified Toys
By Paul R. Pillar
(National Interest) The damage is not limited to the one foreign service that originated the information that Trump divulged. Every other foreign intelligence, security, and national police force with which the United States has an information-sharing liaison relationship—and it has many—is taking notice. They are worrying about the political consequences of their intelligence relationship with the Americans becoming a headline item. They are worrying even more about the safety and willingness to cooperate of their own human agents, on whom they rely for intelligence that is critical for their own country’s security. There will be greater reluctance, as a result of what happened in the Oval Office, among many of these other foreign services to share information with the United States.
The reluctance extends as well to the level of would-be individual spies, including our own. Every such agent or potential agent must be thinking extra thoughts about the extra dangers of working clandestinely for a government headed by someone who treats the resulting information so carelessly.

21 March
Hungarian secret agent reveals in detail how serious the Russian threat is
(Belfold) Secret agents, counter-intelligence officers do not give interviews to the media very often and it is even more unique when they do so under their real name and with their own face. Ferenc Katrein worked for the Hungarian civilian counter-intelligence agency for 13 years, including a stint as an executive head of operations, and dealt with sensitive cases such as the Roma murders of 2008-2009 or defence against Russian secret services. However, in 2013 he felt he can no longer identify with the leadership and resigned, he has lived abroad ever since. In his exclusive interview with Index.hu he talks in detail about the efforts of Russian secret services and how it feels like when allied NATO agencies ask someone if his boss really worked for Moscow.

12 March
Russian Espionage Piggybacks on a Cybercriminal’s Hacking
To the F.B.I., Evgeniy M. Bogachev is the most wanted cybercriminal in the world. The bureau has announced a $3 million bounty for his capture, the most ever for computer crimes, and has been trying to track his movements in hopes of grabbing him if he strays outside his home turf in Russia.
At one point, Mr. Bogachev had control over as many as a million computers in multiple countries, with possible access to everything from family vacation photographs and term papers to business proposals and highly confidential personal information. It is almost certain that computers belonging to government officials and contractors in a number of countries were among the infected devices. For Russia’s surveillance-obsessed intelligence community, Mr. Bogachev’s exploits may have created an irresistible opportunity for espionage.
While Mr. Bogachev was draining bank accounts, it appears that the Russian authorities were looking over his shoulder, searching the same computers for files and emails. In effect, they were grafting an intelligence operation onto a far-reaching cybercriminal scheme, sparing themselves the hard work of hacking into the computers themselves, officials said.

1 March
Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking
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(NYT) In the Obama administration’s last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election — and about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russians — across the government. Former American officials say they had two aims: to ensure that such meddling isn’t duplicated in future American or European elections, and to leave a clear trail of intelligence for government investigators.

24 February
Trump Lashes Out After F.B.I. Refuses to Refute Reports About Russia
(Vanity Fair) The president slammed the agency after it was reported that James Comey wouldn’t deny media reports about the Trump campaign’s alleged Kremlin ties.
President Donald Trump, who said he definitely, “1,000 percent” doesn’t have a feud with the C.I.A. or F.B.I., just picked a fight with the intelligence community again. Less than 24 hours after CNN reported that the F.B.I. and its director, James Comey, struck down a White House request to publicly refute media reports about alleged communications between the Trump campaign and known Russian operatives, the president took to Twitter to deride the top law-enforcement agency for apparently leaking the story.
“The FBI is totally unable to stop national security ‘leakers’ that have permeated our government for a long time. They can’t even . . . find the leakers within the FBI itself. Classified information is being given to the media that could have a devastating effect on U.S. FIND NOW,” Trump wrote on Twitter early Friday morning in a series of tweets.

12 February
The Spy Revolt Against Trump Begins
Intelligence Community pushes back against a White House it considers leaky, untruthful and penetrated by the Kremlin
(The Observer) Our Intelligence Community is so worried by the unprecedented problems of the Trump administration—not only do senior officials possess troubling ties to the Kremlin, there are nagging questions about basic competence regarding Team Trump—that it is beginning to withhold intelligence from a White House which our spies do not trust.
That the IC has ample grounds for concern is demonstrated by almost daily revelations of major problems inside the White House, a mere three weeks after the inauguration. The president has repeatedly gone out of his way to antagonize our spies, mocking them and demeaning their work, and Trump’s personal national security guru can’t seem to keep his story straight on vital issues. …
I previously warned the Trump administration not to go to war with the nation’s spies, and here’s why. This is a risky situation, particularly since President Trump is prone to creating crises foreign and domestic with his incautious tweets. In the event of a serious international crisis of the sort which eventually befalls almost every administration, the White House will need the best intelligence possible to prevent war, possibly even nuclear war. It may not get the information it needs in that hour of crisis, and for that it has nobody to blame but itself.

28 January
Former KGB general who helped MI6 spy compile the Donald Trump dirty dossier has been found dead in the back of his car amid claims of a Kremlin cover up
Oleg Erovinkin was found dead on Boxing Day in the back of his black Lexus
The morgue in Russia has not reached a conclusion about the cause of death
Local media is claiming foul play was at the centre of him being killed in Moscow
It has been claimed Erovinkin is a key source mentioned in the explosive dossier

22 January
Robin Wright: Trump’s Vainglorious Affront to the C.I.A.
(The New Yorker) In his remarks, Trump made passing reference to the “special wall” behind him but never mentioned the top-secret work or personal sacrifices of intelligence officers … It was like going to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and not mentioning those who died in the Second World War.
Trump spoke briefly about eradicating “radical Islamic extremism,” a cornerstone of his foreign policy. But he devoted more than twice as many words to the dispute over the turnout at his Inauguration.
At 7:35 A.M. on Sunday, Trump responded on Twitter to the negative reactions to his comments. “Had a great meeting at CIA Headquarters yesterday, packed house, paid great respect to Wall, long standing ovations, amazing people. WIN!”
But it’s hard to see how America’s new leader will recoup from a performance so shallow, irreverent, and vainglorious.

17 January
Prostitutes, hidden hotel cameras familiar Putin tools
Rachel Maddow tells viewers about a past example of prostitutes and hidden hotel cameras being used in a case of political hardball in Russia in which Vladimir Putin had a hand.

12 January
Donald Trump dossier: intelligence sources vouch for author’s credibility
Ex-MI6 officer Christopher Steele, named as writer of Donald Trump memo, is ‘highly regarded professional’
Former MI6 officer Christopher Steele, who produced Donald Trump Russian dossier, ‘terrified for his safety’ and went to ground before name released
(The Telegraph, UK) A former MI6 officer who produced a dossier making lurid allegations about Donald Trump is “terrified for his safety” after he was unmasked by a US publication.
Christopher Steele, 52, fled from his home in Surrey on Wednesday morning after realising it was only a matter of time until his name became public knowledge.
A source close to Mr Steele said on Wednesday night that he now fears a prompt and potentially dangerous backlash against him from Moscow. (See comment of January 12)

6 January
Trump considering plans to restructure national intelligence agency
Admits it was “wrong” to say he was in agreement with Assange
(iPolitics) The move comes after Trump questioned the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered with the presidential election on his behalf.
Trump still is expected to name a Director of National Intelligence, but he is said to be looking at ways to reorganize the agency. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence was created after the Sept. 11 attacks to co-ordinate other U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Trump also is said to be considering changes at the CIA. …
A full intelligence report on the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and other groups arrived Thursday at the White House. Trump was scheduled to be briefed on the report Friday in New York..
[outgoing DNI James ] Clapper was testifying about the Russian hacking Thursday on Capitol Hill. Asked by Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., if his office had discussed a restructuring of his department with the Trump transition team, Clapper said, “No, we have not.”
… Trump shifted course Thursday, saying it was “wrong” to say he was in agreement with Assange, adding that he had simply repeated what the WikiLeaks head said. Trump disputed that he was against the intelligence community, writing, “in fact I am a big fan!”
Reuters reports that the Trump team has differences of opinion on shaping spy agencies: sources

4 January
Next American President Siding With Russian Intelligence
Donald Trump points to Russian-aligned Wikileaks to counter the U.S. intelligence community’s analysis that Russia helped him win the election.
(HuffPost) In a dispute between Russian intelligence services and the U.S. intelligence community, the next president of the United States appears to be coming down squarely on the side of the Russians.
In a series of five tweets over 12 hours late Tuesday and early Wednesday, Donald Trump continued his attacks on the U.S. analysis that the Russians helped him win the White House ― this time quoting the founder of the Russian-aligned Wikileaks group that worked to undermine Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by publishing a series of stolen emails.
“Julian Assange said ‘a 14 year old could have hacked Podesta’ – why was DNC so careless? Also said Russians did not give him the info!” Trump tweeted at 7:22 a.m. Wednesday.
Trump did not merely note what Assange said, but actively suggested that Assange should be believed. In a tweet a half-hour later, Trump described media coverage about the issue as “more dishonest than anyone knows.”
And Tuesday night, Trump wrote: “The ‘Intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking’ was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!” ― thereby casting aspersions on the U.S. intelligence agencies that have been investigating Russia’s actions for months. …
“I think the real question that looms is a question that’s been raised by some of the public comments or tweets from the president-elect, which is just simply: Who are you going to believe?” [White House spokesman Josh] Earnest said. “On one hand you’ve got the Russians, and the aforementioned Mr. Assange. On the other side, you’ve got the 17 intelligence agencies of the United States government, outside cyber experts that have taken a look at the situation, you’ve got Democrats on Capitol Hill, you’ve got Republicans on Capitol Hill, and at least one adviser to Mr. Trump expressing concern about Russia’s malicious activity in cyberspace in the context of the election.”
One former National Security Agency analyst said the consensus view among U.S. intelligence holds there is no real difference between Assange and the Russians ― pointing out Assange’s role in finding NSA leaker Edward Snowden sanctuary in Moscow. “The only real debate is when the relationship began,” said John Schindler, who added that by 2013, Wikileaks essentially had become a mouthpiece for Russian intelligence. “This is not complicated.”


18 December
This is brilliant, but is it a good idea to advertise it?
Commentary: Here’s how Obama can hit back at Putin over hacking
(Reuters) The White House, the Pentagon, and the Central Intelligence Agency have contingency plans locked away in top-secret compartments. (In theory, locked away from Russia – who knows these days?) They could hit Moscow’s leaders, intelligence services and oligarchs where it hurts. The United States could strike at their computer motherboards or their offshore money. It could place multifaceted malware inside Putin’s espionage networks. It could throw a monkey wrench into his political machine.
If Obama looks back into the annals of the Cold War, he will find a fitting blueprint for the last big intelligence operation of his presidency. It has a perfect code name: Farewell.
William J. Casey and Vice President George H.W. Bush, respectively, the director and ex-director of the CIA, read the gist of the translated Farewell dossier. They shared it with Richard V. Allen, the national security adviser, who assigned a staff member, Gus Weiss, to help devise a long, slow, subtle and devastating plan of counterattack. Weiss wrote an after-action report for the CIA in 1996. You can read it on the agency’s website. …
The coming attack might be invisible to the American people – at first – but it must be seen and felt by Putin. It could take cyberweapons which the Russians have used and turn them against Moscow. It could strike Russian leaders and oligarchs where they are most vulnerable, by revealing and publishing their political, personal, and financial secrets – just as Putin stole the secrets of the Democratic Party and weaponized the information to wound Hillary Clinton.
23 November
Bletchley ParkCode-Breaking Site That Helped Beat the Nazis to Host Cybersecurity School
(Bloomberg) Bletchley Park is once again set to host some of the U.K.’s brightest minds — but this time they will be trying to protect codes, rather than break them.
The former World War II code-breaking site will soon be home to the National College of Cyber Security, according to a statement Thursday.
The plans for the new campus, which aims to open in 2018, were announced by QUFARO — a new body staffed by senior figures from the cybersecurity sector, ranging from the National Museum of Computing to BT Security and Raytheon Co.
QUFARO also hopes to launch a 50 million pound ($62.15 million) innovation fund focused on the cybersecurity industry.
The new college will be a boarding school for 16 to 19-year-olds, and will be housed in G-Block, one of the larger buildings on the Bletchley Park site that has since fallen into disrepair.
30 October
Vladimir Putin’s Campaign to Seduce, Subvert and Screw Over Western Democracies—Including Ours
The Kremlin has the message and the cash to sweet talk every segment of the Western population, and we’re falling for it
(The Daily Beast) The golden domes would look at home on Moscow’s Red Square. There are five of them, onion-shaped and glistening in the sun, each one bearing a cross—potent symbols of the Russian Orthodox Church. But here in front of them flows the Seine River. Behind them rises the Eiffel Tower. Down the street is the French foreign ministry, known as the Quai d’Orsay.
What French and other Western intelligence agencies have been concerned about as they watched the building go up over the last six years is what you don’t see when you look at the just-inaugurated Holy Trinity Cathedral and Russian Orthodox Spiritual and Cultural Center.
French journalist Nicolas Hénin in his new book La France Russe notes that the building abuts an apartment used (at least until recently) by the French Secretary General of Defense and National Security, as well as the mail service of the French presidential palace.
An inter-ministerial note on the state of France’s intelligence agencies cited by Hénin observed that the cathedral domes, made of composite materials, could hide sophisticated listening devices, and since the “cultural center” enjoys diplomatic immunity, there’s no obvious way to get inside to look.
As The Economist pointed out last week, inside Russia,“The two main pillars of the Soviet state, propaganda and the threat of repression, have been restored.” The infamous KGB, which was humiliated and broken up 25 years ago “has been rebuilt as the main vehicle for political and economic power.” Meanwhile, “reactionary restoration at home has led to aggression abroad,” with hybrid warfare against Georgia and Ukraine, and intimidation of the little Baltic states. All this even as Moscow has “attempted to undermine Euro-Atlantic institutions, backed right-wing parties in Europe” and, as the The Economist, too, avers, “tried to meddle in America’s presidential elections.”
19 October
russian-orthodox-cathedral-parisRussian ‘spiritual centre’ set to open in the heart of Paris
Construction of controversial 4,800 sq metre complex has been marred by architectural, financial and political disputes
French officials have expressed concern that the building is a stone’s throw from a sensitive government compound. As well as housing France’s supreme magistrates council, the neighbouring Palais de l’Alma contains the Élysée Palace’s postal service and the private apartments of senior presidential advisers.
French media reports say that country’s counter-espionage services have surrounded the building with jamming devices to prevent the Russians from using it for electronic surveillance.
7 May
The day we discovered our parents were Russian spies
For years Donald Heathfield, Tracey Foley and their two children lived the American dream. Then an FBI raid revealed the truth: they were agents of Putin’s Russia. Their sons tell their story
(The Guardian) Both brothers were born in Canada, but for the past decade the family had lived in the US. The boys’ father, Donald Heathfield, had studied in Paris and at Harvard, and now had a senior role at a consultancy firm based in Boston. Their mother, Tracey Foley, had spent many years focused on raising her children, before taking a job as a real estate agent. To those who knew them, they seemed a very ordinary American family, albeit with Canadian roots and a penchant for foreign travel. See Russian assassin ‘sent to kill double agent who betrayed Anna Chapman’ for more background.
15 April
China May Be the Big Winner in the Pentagon’s Newest Spying Scandal
The secrets a U.S. Navy officer is suspected of slipping to China could ground America’s most important spy planes just when Washington needs them most.
(Foreign Policy) The U.S. naval officer at the center of a burgeoning spy scandal may not have simply betrayed his country: He may have also helped China compromise Washington’s most-sophisticated tool for tracking Beijing’s submarines, ships, and planes.
The surveillance aircraft potentially exposed in the espionage case are America’s high-tech “eyes in the sky” in the western Pacific, the EP-3E Aries II and P-8A Poseidon, which are equipped with sensors and radar that allow them to scoop up the electronic communications of Chinese forces and monitor their movements.
The Aries, which has undergone significant upgrades in recent years, delivers “near real-time” signals intelligence and full motion video, according to the Navy. The aircraft’s sensors and dish antennas — their range is classified — can pick up distant electronic communications, allowing the U.S. military to pick up on any possible threats and eavesdrop on foreign militaries.
The Poseidon, meanwhile, is equipped with the Advanced Airborne Sensor, a sophisticated radar system capable of generating high-resolution imagery at what the military calls “standoff” distances.
Both aircraft play a pivotal role in tracking China’s growing naval might in potential flashpoints like the South China Sea, the East China Sea, and the Taiwan Strait. Beijing and Washington have been at loggerheads over China’s construction of an extensive network of runways and harbors that can accommodate military aircraft and ships on atolls and man-made islands in the disputed waters of the South China Sea. If the two countries were to ever engage in open conflict there, the surveillance craft would also be used to relay targeting information to American warplanes.
Determining the planes’ exact capabilities and vulnerabilities is of critical importance to Beijing, and now an alleged American spy may have unlocked those secrets.
… U.S. authorities haven’t yet made public — and may not themselves know — whether they believe Lin was knowingly providing intelligence to China, or whether the information he allegedly gave Taiwan was stolen by Chinese spies inside Taiwan’s security services.
11 April
Defense Against the Dark Arts: UK spies guarded against Harry Potter leak
Usually concerned with top secret matters affecting national security, Britain’s eavesdropping spy agency GCHQ was also on the lookout for leaks of a yet-to-be-published Harry Potter book, its publisher has revealed.
A spokesman for GCHQ said: “We do not comment on our defense against the dark arts.”
As any Potter reader will know, Defense Against the Dark Arts is a subject taught at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, in which pupils learn how to defend themselves and fight back against the evil deeds of Dark Wizards. (april 10)

One Comment on "E is for espionage /2 2016-18"

  1. Diana Thebaud Nicholson January 12, 2017 at 6:13 pm ·

    A friend in Europe comments: I have never met Christopher Steele, but I do know his reputation and that is spotless (for an MI6 operative!).
    If he had concocted the story, he would not be afraid for his life. On the other hand, he cannot “prove” his info either without endangering his sources.
    Putin holds all the cards. The US is in baffled disarray, Trump is worried and nobody knows who they should believe or trust. He aspires to weaken the USA, dissolve the EU and sow distrust and animosity in the West.
    This is what he wants and this is what he has got, with considerable help from ourselves.

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