E is for espionage /3

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E is for espionage /2 2016-18

Bloomberg Politics: Perhaps best known for its chocolate, fries and beer, Belgium is instead gaining a reputation as a center of espionage, with China a key player.
Belgium’s intelligence agency says the country now hosts as many or more spies than during the Cold War. That’s due to its location at the heart of Europe and the fact Brussels is home to the European Union and NATO.
Spying is the extreme end of Chinese interference in areas from academia to politics that’s aided by a relaxed attitude to the risks among Belgium’s establishment. The country’s broken political system — it still has no federal government six months after elections — gives regional politicians control over Chinese investments in areas including technology and logistics.

18 November
The Iran Cables: Hundreds of leaked intelligence reports shed light on a shadow war for regional influence — and the battles within the Islamic Republic’s own spy divisions
(NYT) Many of the cables describe real-life espionage capers that feel torn from the pages of a spy thriller. Meetings are arranged in dark alleyways and shopping malls or under the cover of a hunting excursion or a birthday party. Informants lurk at the Baghdad airport, snapping pictures of American soldiers and keeping tabs on coalition military flights. Agents drive meandering routes to meetings to evade surveillance. Sources are plied with gifts of pistachios, cologne and saffron. Iraqi officials, if necessary, are offered bribes. The archive even contains expense reports from intelligence ministry officers in Iraq, including one totaling 87.5 euros spent on gifts for a Kurdish commander.
The trove of leaked Iranian intelligence reports largely confirms what was already known about Iran’s firm grip on Iraqi politics. But the reports reveal far more than was previously understood about the extent to which Iran and the United States have used Iraq as a staging area for their spy games. They also shed new light on the complex internal politics of the Iranian government, where competing factions are grappling with many of the same challenges faced by American occupying forces as they struggled to stabilize Iraq after the United States invasion.

13 November
The Government Report That Got Turned Into a Hollywood Movie
How Scott Z. Burns tackled his feature directorial debut, a gripping film about the inquiry into the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program
(The Atlantic) By 2014, when a 525-page summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s secret 6,700-page report on its years-long investigation of the program became public, Burns had a new vision.
The result is The Report, Burns’s feature directorial debut. The film stars Adam Driver as Daniel J. Jones, the doggedly obsessive Senate staffer who wrote the report, and Annette Bening as the committee’s unyielding chair, Senator Dianne Feinstein, who made sure it became public.
… the content of the torture report (the full classified version, still secret, contains 38,000 footnotes) is anything but dry. Jones’s investigation concluded that, contrary to the CIA’s official accounts and the impressions amplified in pop-cultural depictions from 24 to Zero Dark Thirty, torture never worked to produce lifesaving actionable intelligence, a finding that George W. Bush’s administration suppressed and that Barack Obama’s White House was equally loath to revisit in public.

Spycraft Spies and the truth about espionage

(New Yorker archive) Following the Trump-Russia investigation can feel like reading a spy novel—a peculiar one that’s by turns comic and terrifying, unbelievable and all too real. This week, we’re bringing you pieces about spies and spycraft that explore the often bizarre world in which espionage unfolds. In “Trust No One,” Malcolm Gladwell explores the epidemic of paranoia that engulfed British intelligence during the Cold War; in “The Madness of Spies,” John le Carré recalls his own encounters, as a member of Britain’s Intelligence Corps, with the fantasies and delusions that espionage can create among spies. Jane Mayer profiles Christopher Steele, the ex-spy behind the dossier that described Trump’s ties to Russia, and Adam Davidson, writing about the Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump, Jr., and Russian nationals, explains why spies love recruiting businesspeople. (“Anytime you have money involved, it’s perfect for intelligence officers,” a former C.I.A. operative says.) In “Spy Wars,” Nicholas Lemann explores the history of Soviet spying in America and discovers how hard it is to establish the truth about espionage. Finally, in “Brainwashed,” Louis Menand reads Richard Condon’s novel “The Manchurian Candidate” and shows how it expressed Cold War anxieties about media manipulation—a theme that’s equally relevant today.
John le Carré: The Madness of Spies
Louis Menand: Brainwashed Where the “Manchurian Candidate” came from
Malcolm Gladwell: Trust No One – Kim Philby and the hazards of mistrust
Jane Mayer: Christopher Steele, the Man Behind the Trump Dossier – How the ex-spy tried to warn the world about Trump’s ties to Russia

18 September
German spy agency must be more transparent with press, rules court
(DW) The BND must now publicly disclose its off-the-record briefing sessions and the journalists taking part. Although the decision calls for wider transparency, the ruling could mean even fewer talks with reporters.

14 September
Top Canadian Intelligence Official Charged With Leaking Secrets
By Ian Austen
(NYT) If Mr. Ortis’s case goes to trial, the government will face a dilemma over how to protect the secrets he is accused of dealing.
Michael Nesbitt, a professor at the University of Calgary law school who specializes in national security, said that while evidence presented at trial may be subject to a publication ban, prosecutors cannot use any material that is not shared with Mr. Ortis’s lawyers. That may be difficult if it involves evidence from a foreign intelligence agency that does not want it exposed under any circumstances.
“At the end of the day, if the court orders disclosure of secret information, we keep it secret by pulling the case,” Mr. Nesbitt said. “Unfortunately, we have seen a few national security cases, particularly civil claims, not make it to court in the past decade or so.”

9 September
Exclusive: US extracted top spy from inside Russia in 2017
(CNN) In a previously undisclosed secret mission in 2017, the United States successfully extracted from Russia one of its highest-level covert sources inside the Russian government, multiple Trump administration officials with direct knowledge told CNN
A person directly involved in the discussions said that the removal of the Russian was driven, in part, by concerns that President Donald Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source as a spy.
The decision to carry out the extraction occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. The intelligence, concerning ISIS in Syria, had been provided by Israel.
The disclosure to the Russians by the President, though not about the Russian spy specifically, prompted intelligence officials to renew earlier discussions about the potential risk of exposure, according to the source directly involved in the matter.
… then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo told other senior Trump administration officials that too much information was coming out regarding the covert source, known as an asset. An extraction, or “exfiltration” as such an operation is referred to by intelligence officials, is an extraordinary remedy when US intelligence believes an asset is in immediate danger.

2 September
Adam Gopnik: Are Spies More Trouble Than They’re Worth?
The history of espionage is a lesson in paradox: the better your intelligence, the dumber your conduct; the more you know, the less you anticipate.
(New Yorker Magazine) The rule that having more intelligence doesn’t lead to smarter decisions persists, it seems, for two basic reasons. First, if you have any secret information at all, you often have too much to know what matters. Second, having found a way to collect intelligence yourself, you become convinced that the other side must be doing the same to you, and is therefore feeding you fake information in order to guide you to the wrong decisions. The universal law of unintended consequences rules with a special ferocity in espionage and covert action, because pervasive secrecy rules out the small, mid-course corrections that are possible in normal social pursuits.

26 August
Chinese intelligence would like to add you to its professional network on LinkedIn.
China’s Spies Are on the Offensive
(The Atlantic) China’s spies are waging an intensifying espionage offensive against the United States. Does America have what it takes to stop them?
Two decades ago, Chinese spies were thought to be relative amateurs, with bad cover stories and poor English, according to one former U.S. intelligence officer. Now when it comes to espionage, the U.S. puts China on the same threat level as Russia. Mike Giglio spoke with current and former officials for this investigation into the world of Chinese espionage.
As Trump’s trade war with Beijing drags on in full public view, Chinese spies appear to be quietly doubling down on efforts against the U.S. Three former U.S. intelligence officers have been brought forward on espionage-related charges involving China, a troubling sign, according to experts.

15 July
Alan Turing to feature on new £50 banknote
(The Guardian) Alan Turing, the scientist known for helping crack the Enigma code during the second world war and pioneering the modern computer, has been chosen to appear on the new £50 note.
The mathematician was selected from a list of almost 1,000 scientists in a decision that recognised both his role in fending off the threat of German U-boats in the Battle of the Atlantic and the impact of his postwar persecution for homosexuality.
The announcement by the Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, completes the official rehabilitation of Turing, who played a pivotal role at the Bletchley Park code and cipher centre.

5 June
Overlooked No More: Alan Turing, Condemned Code Breaker and Computer Visionary
His ideas led to early versions of modern computing and helped win World War II. Yet he died as a criminal for his homosexuality.
Overlooked is a series of obituaries about remarkable people whose deaths, beginning in 1851, went unreported in The Times.
His genius embraced the first visions of modern computing and produced seminal insights into what became known as “artificial intelligence.” As one of the most influential code breakers of World War II, his cryptology yielded intelligence believed to have hastened the Allied victory.
But, at his death several years later, much of his secretive wartime accomplishments remained classified, far from public view in a nation seized by the security concerns of the Cold War. Instead, by the narrow standards of his day, his reputation was sullied.
On June 7, 1954, Alan Turing, a British mathematician who has since been acknowledged as one the most innovative and powerful thinkers of the 20th century — sometimes called the progenitor of modern computing — died as a criminal, having been convicted under Victorian laws as a homosexual and forced to endure chemical castration. Britain didn’t take its first steps toward decriminalizing homosexuality until 1967.
Only in 2009 did the government apologize for his treatment

27 May
Female Spies and Their Secrets
An old-boy operation was transformed by women during World War II, and at last the unsung upstarts are getting their due.
(The Atlantic Magazine/June edition) In intelligence, as in computer science and so many other fields associated with male prowess, women have made far more important contributions than they have gotten credit for—but a recent boom in attention to their stories is remedying that. “In the French resistance as a whole, women played crucial roles,” the historian Lynne Olson writes in Madame Fourcade’s Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France’s Largest Spy Network Against Hitler, her masterful biography of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, the patronne, or boss, of Alliance, one of the largest Resistance networks. Nazi sexism helped: Germans’ stereotyped ideas about female domesticity blinded them, early on at least, to women spies in their midst.

4 May
Ross Douthat: A Spy by Any Name
A few questions about the F.B.I.’s don’t-call-it-spying on the Trump campaign.
…now that the Mueller investigation has concluded that whatever the F.B.I. thought they saw happening was probably not, in fact, the kind of complex conspiracy suggested by Christopher Steele’s infamous dossier and other maximally alarmist theories, it’s reasonable to ask some more questions about the don’t-call-it-spying carried out against the Trump campaign.
Here are two of mine. First: Were any other entrapping approaches made to Trump campaign officials, and by whom? Throughout this controversy, running in parallel to the Steele/MSNBC theory of Trump-Putin conspiracy, there has been another conspiratorial reading of events, which alleges a pattern of outreach to the Trump campaign by intelligence-community and Clintonworld affiliates masquerading as Russian envoys. “Taken together,” wrote Lee Smith last summer, “these efforts could be interpreted not as an investigation but a sting operation intended to dirty a presidential campaign.”

3 May
Alleged Russian spy whale is refusing to leave and seeking Norwegians’ devotion, authorities say
(WaPo) Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries official Jorgen Ree Wiig told The Washington Post that the beluga “was the first thing I saw outside of the window” of his patrolling ship in the morning. Speaking from the city of Hammerfest, he said the whale had moved only about 25 nautical miles within the last week and appeared to enjoy the proximity to humans, which he noted was “strange” for a beluga.
Norway’s Police Security Service, known as the PST, similarly confirmed on Friday that the whale is, to their knowledge, still “cruising around outside the city of Hammerfest.” “We must admit that examining technical equipment attached to whales is not a daily occurrence for PST. It is unclear if we will find anything,” said Martin Bernsen, a PST communications adviser. But he offered this reassurance to the beluga’s rapidly growing fan base: “The whale is not a suspect in our investigation, for now.”
Should the Norwegians need advice on the latest discovery, they might want to ask their U.S. allies for help. Although the possible existence of a Russian sea mammal military program seemed stunning when it was made public last week, it was in fact the United States that spearheaded the use of sea mammals for military purposes in the 1950s.
According to the U.S. Navy, its own dolphin and sea lion recruits are used to locate sea mines, retrieve objects from the ocean floor and gather intelligence for military divers. They are not, however, involved in offensive operations.
I Love This Overly Friendly Russian Spy Whale
(New York) In a direct challenge to Herman Melville’s white-whale symbolism, a stunning beluga suspected of being a Russian spy practically gave herself up to Norwegian fisherman, whom she eagerly befriended in her (alleged) spy gear.

26 April
The Terrifying Potential of the 5G Network
The future of wireless technology holds the promise of total connectivity. But it will also be especially susceptible to cyberattacks and surveillance.
(The New Yorker) Two words explain the difference between our current wireless networks and 5G: speed and latency. 5G—if you believe the hype—is expected to be up to a hundred times faster. …  That speed will reduce, and possibly eliminate, the delay—the latency—between instructing a computer to perform a command and its execution. This, again, if you believe the hype, will lead to a whole new Internet of Things, where everything from toasters to dog collars to dialysis pumps to running shoes will be connected.
A totally connected world will also be especially susceptible to cyberattacks. Even before the introduction of 5G networks, hackers have breached the control center of a municipal dam system, stopped an Internet-connected car as it travelled down an interstate, and sabotaged home appliances. Ransomware, malware, crypto-jacking, identity theft, and data breaches have become so common that more Americans are afraid of cybercrime than they are of becoming a victim of violent crime.

29 March
How the mysteries of Khashoggi’s murder have rocked the U.S.-Saudi partnership
(WaPo) The sale of Israeli surveillance technology to a leading Sunni Muslim country illustrates how the growing global market for spy services has become interwoven with foreign policy. Israel has extensive, if unacknowledged, intelligence relationships with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan and other countries. The Israeli government approves every foreign sale of NSO technology, but the company can suspend licenses if it decides countries or agencies within them are human rights violators.
Israel sees its secret intelligence links with the Gulf states as a breakthrough and potential path to peace. But it can be a slippery slope, when governments license private companies to work with regimes that don’t share Western values. These questionable relationships can encourage a dangerous proliferation of intrusive surveillance technologies to nations that spy on their own people.

28 March
British spy agency delivers scathing assessment of security risks posed by Huawei to U.K. telecom networks
(WaPo) The British government on Thursday released a scathing assessment of the security risks posed by Chinese telecom company Huawei to Britain’s telecom networks, as London weighs whether to heed U.S. calls to bar the firm from its next-generation 5G networks over fears it could enable cyberattacks and espionage by the Chinese government.
This is the second consecutive year the Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ — the British spy agency equivalent to the U.S. National Security Agency — has identified serious problems. This year, officials said they have found “further significant technical issues” in the firm’s engineering processes, as well as “concerning issues” in Huawei software, “leading to new risks” in Britain’s 4G telecom networks.
Most ominously, the spy agency, which oversees a center that vets Huawei hardware and software for bugs and security vulnerabilities, said it can provide “only limited assurance” that the long-term national security risks can be managed in Huawei equipment deployed in Britain, and that “it will be difficult” to manage the risk of future products until current defects are fixed.

22 March
An Impeccable Spy — a thrilling biography of Stalin’s secret agent
Owen Matthews delves into KGB archives for Richard Sorge’s dramatic story
(Financial Times) Richard Sorge was the Soviet spy who stole one of the biggest secrets of the second world war: the precise details of Hitler’s invasion of the USSR in June 1941. Through brilliant espionage “tradecraft” that involved penetrating the highest military and political levels in Germany and Japan, Sorge supplied Moscow with the battle plans of Operation Barbarossa weeks before it happened.
History is full of what ifs. Sorge and his spy ring might have changed the direction of the war. But Stalin would not believe Hitler was planning to invade. Though he was also receiving similar warnings from other Soviet sources, as well as British and US ones, the most suspicious of men would not see he could be betrayed.
He was defeated by a problem spies have faced from the Battle of Actium to modern-day Iraq. Often leaders hear only what they want to hear and act on information they find politically useful to them

7 March
(The Atlantic) China wants to position itself as a technology powerhouse, and that goal in large part hinges on the future success of Huawei, the world’s largest telecoms equipment supplier (and second-largest smartphone maker). The company is pioneering cutting-edge, highly sought-after 5G-network technology, and it’s not just the U.S. that is concerned about potential security risks: The Czech Republic had courted Huawei to roll out 5G technology across the country, but in recent months intelligence officials in the country have warned that could pose national-security risks. The company had also previously been banned from operating in the U.S. amid concerns that its services could be a spying ruse for Chinese authorities; it’s now suing the U.S. government over that ban.

17 February
Britain does not support total Huawei network ban: sources
(Reuters) – British security officials do not support a full ban of Huawei from national telecoms networks despite U.S. allegations the Chinese firm and its products could be used by Beijing for spying, people with knowledge of the matter said.
Huawei, the world’s biggest producer of telecoms equipment, faces intense scrutiny in the West over its relationship with the Chinese government and allegations of enabling state espionage, with the United States calling for its allies not to use its technology.
Although no evidence has been produced publicly and Huawei has denied the claims, the allegations have led several Western countries to restrict its access to their markets.
“We don’t favor a complete ban. It’s not that simple,” one of the sources told Reuters on Monday after a Financial Times report on Sunday said that Britain had decided it could mitigate the risks of using Huawei equipment in 5G networks. Any decision to allow Huawei to participate in building next-generation 5G networks would be closely watched by other nations, because of Britain’s membership of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing group with the United States.

20 January
For the security of Canadians, Huawei should be banned from our 5G networks
By Richard Fadden, former national security adviser to the Prime Minister.
(Globe & Mail) … the evidence for banning Huawei from 5G continues to pile up. Poland’s Internal Security Agency has arrested and charged a Huawei employee with espionage. And recent news media reports reveal U.S. authorities are pursuing a criminal investigation of Huawei for stealing trade secrets of U.S. firms.
Our allies have got the message. New Zealand, Australia and the United States have already announced they will ban Huawei from participating in their next-generation mobile data networks. Britain has not yet formally banned Huawei, but its main telecom company, BT Group, has announced it will be stripping Huawei from its 3G and 4G operations and banning it from its 5G network. The director of Britain’s MI6 Alex Younger has even gone on the public record raising the issue of whether they’d be “comfortable with Chinese ownership of these technologies.” Taiwan, Japan and countries in Europe are also getting cold feet on Huawei.
There are plenty of reasons why intelligence professionals are alarmed by Huawei’s involvement in our 5G networks, particularly, the close relationship between Huawei and a Chinese government with a history of cyberespionage.

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