E is for espionage /3

Written by  //  August 31, 2022  //  Geopolitics, Security  //  3 Comments

E is for espionage /2 2016-18
The Complete Mercenary —
Erik Prince’s Improbable Comeback

This Sculpture Holds a Decades-Old C.I.A. Mystery.
And Now, Another Clue

Chinese Spies: From Chairman Mao to Xi Jinping

A Guide for Everyday Saboteurs
When you think of Allied espionage, you might imagine disguised explosives, wiretaps, bat bombs, or other dramatic inventions. But declassified documents reveal that World War II was won in part by more everyday saboteurs—purposefully clumsy factory workers, annoying train conductors, and bad middle managers, all trained by the U.S.’s Simple Sabotage Field Manual.
The Madness of Spies – A Secret Service secret.
By John le Carré The New Yorker, September 22, 2008

Igor Sushko: The FSB agent exposing the secrets of Putin’s war from within
(The Spectator) Deep inside Russia’s secret state an agent is working against Vladimir Putin. The FSB officer, dubbed the Wind of Change, writes regular dispatches revealing the truth about the barbarism being carried out in Russia’s name. …
In early March, in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, I came across a Facebook post by Russian dissident exile Vladimir Osechkin. Osechkin had received an email in Russian from, he said, a source inside Russia’s intelligence agency, the FSB, laying out the anger and discontent inside the agency at the invasion.
As became evident, the writer of the letters is foremost a Russian patriot and cannot stand the horrors being enacted by Putin and the Kremlin, both against the Russian people and now against the sovereign nation of Ukraine. … Osechkin and I made direct contact, and we started an active collaboration.
With every letter, Wind of Change reiterates several critical points: firstly, Putin is convinced that, no matter what he does, the West won’t respond militarily. The Wind of Change’s letters reveal that the Russian military has been planning its offensives on this basis.
Secondly, that Putin’s nuclear saber-rattling is just that – the Kremlin will not start or respond with a nuclear war. The Wind of Change’s insights suggest that the Kremlin’s chain of command would block any desire by Putin to press the proverbial red button. This, coupled with apparent doubts within the FSB over the effectiveness of Russia’s nuclear arsenal suggests that Russia is not as trigger-happy as the West originally feared. I believe the letters have helped shaped Western determination to stand with Ukraine.
Russian spies suspected of infiltrating German government, according to report
The domestic intelligence service is said to be investigating 2 officials who work on energy supply.
(Politico Eu) If confirmed, the case would represent a spectacular security breach at a highly sensitive time for Germany and for Europe. The economy ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The powerful ministry is under the leadership of Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck, who also serves as Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s deputy. It is playing a key role in preparing Germany to cope with an energy crisis as Russian President Vladimir Putin cuts gas deliveries in response to Western sanctions over his invasion of Ukraine.
Do reported Russian ‘whistleblower’ accounts indicate a crack in Putin’s power?

30 July
John Schindler: Not The Usual Kremlin Suspects (paywall)
(TOP SECRET UMBRA) Yesterday the Department of Justice dropped a bombshell by announcing the indictment of a Russian national on charges of “working on behalf of the Russian government and in conjunction with the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), with allegedly orchestrating a years-long foreign malign influence campaign that used various U.S. political groups to sow discord, spread pro-Russian propaganda, and interfere in elections within the United States.”
Ionov, the founder and president of the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia (AGMR), an obscure NGO that’s a rather transparent FSB front, is well known in Kremlin influence circles.
Russian National Charged with Conspiring to Have U.S. Citizens Act as Illegal Agents of the Russian Government

4 June
American spy agencies review their misses on Ukraine, Russia
(AP) Intelligence officials have begun a review of how their agencies judge the will and ability of foreign governments to fight. The review is taking place while U.S. intelligence continues to have a critical role in Ukraine and as the White House ramps up weapons deliveries and support to Ukraine, trying to predict what Putin might see as escalatory and seeking to avoid a direct war with Russia.

19 May
Be Wary of Speculation About Putin’s Health
Stories that he is ill may be true. They may be wrong. Or they might be part of a disinformation campaign.
Andrew Fink
(The Dispatch) Putin’s health is not like the health of some celebrity, or even of a major Western politician like the president of the United States or the prime minister of Italy. Putin is the head of a “counterintelligence state.”
The “counterintelligence state” is an idea and a phrase coined by Dr. Jack Dziak, a retired senior official in the U.S. Defense Department who is also a Ph.D. in Russian history. Dziak first introduced the term “counterintelligence state” to the public in his excellent book Chekisty: A History of the KGB (1987). The basic idea is this: We Westerners often incorrectly called the security organs of the USSR “intelligence” organs, likening them to our CIA or Britain’s MI6, etc. The KGB did collect intelligence, but the nature of the regime meant that the primary role of the KGB was counterintelligence. The importance of identifying enemies in a counterintelligence state is so great that eventually “Police and counterintelligence operations (such as arrest, investigation, penetration, provocation, deception, entrapment, denunciation, informants, spy mania, censorship, dossiers, and so on) soon characterize the behavior of the whole state structure, not just of the security organs.”
… Putin may be deliberately spreading fake information about his ill health in order to encourage Western powers to “take it easy” on Russia. What is the point of permanently damaging relations with Russia if Russia’s entire foreign policy could be gone in a month or two? Such a line of reasoning would be especially attractive to European countries that are dependent on Russian energy exports. Combined with other initiatives, a coordinated deception that Putin is near death could be an important Russian tool in fracturing the Western alliance and preventing further sanctions or even aid to Ukraine.

29 April
A Russian naval base is defended by dolphins. It’s not as unusual as it sounds
(NPR) Andrew Lambert, a professor of naval history at King’s College London, tells NPR that he isn’t surprised by the use of defense dolphins in the ongoing conflict, since they were in Sevastopol Harbor “long before it started.”
There’s a long history of animals playing a role in war (and possible espionage)
Lambert says that during World War I, the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy bribed trained circus sea lions to find submarines.
“They could find the submarines, but got bored,” he adds.
The U.S. established the Navy Marine Mammal Program in 1959. It operates out of San Diego, where it trains bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions to “detect, locate, mark and recover objects in harbors, coastal areas, and at depth in the open sea.”
… And all sorts of animals have been accused of being spies, as the BBC reports.
Some of those rumors are based on confirmed training programs: During the Cold War, for example, the CIA spent millions of dollars on a project that would fit listening devices inside cats to pick up Russian intelligence (it ended in failure on the first day, apparently).
BBC: Spying whales and other undercover animals (30 April 2019)

28 April
A new book titled “Chinese Spies: From Chairman Mao to Xi Jinping” authored by French journalist Roger Faligot and translated by writer, editor and translator, Natasha Lehrer. The book ‘Chinese Spies’ was originally published in French in 2008 and later translated into English from the updated 4th edition by Natasha Lehrer.
Chinese Spies: From Chairman Mao to Xi Jinping
By Roger Faligot
Are the Chinese secret services now the most powerful in the world? After a long investigation into Beijing’s intelligence services and the backrooms of international politics, journalist and writer Roger Faligot may have found the answer. An Asia specialist, Faligot has taken his search to China, Hong Kong, Japan and Australia, delving into archives, unearthing previously unseen documents and interviewing a broad cast of experts: intelligence officers, politicians, diplomats, defense analysts, defectors and dissidents. This revealing book exposes China’s aspirations as a superpower, with secret services active in every field and across the Western world, from state security and political espionage to information wars, economic intelligence and cyberwar. Faligot’s is the first account to take us right through recent events, from the Beijing Olympics into Xi Jinping’s absolute rule.

27 March
‘Tip of the iceberg’: rise in Russian spying activity alarms European capitals
Intelligence agencies have been slow to respond to the growing scope of covert Kremlin operations overseas
Sam Jones in Zurich and John Paul Rathbone in London
(Financial Times) Keeping track of the Kremlin’s espionage activity in the west has become an even more urgent task since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine upended Europe’s security order. But many countries are still playing catch-up with Moscow’s undercover activity on their soil. “What we know about [it] is almost certainly the tip of the iceberg,” said Keir Giles, senior consulting fellow of the Russia programme at Chatham House. “For many years there has been a conspiracy of silence, with western powers reluctant to talk about Russian activities or even go after them.” Eight serving European intelligence officials and diplomats interviewed by the Financial Times said Russia’s covert operations in Europe had been expanding at a rate that counter-espionage efforts have struggled to match. Several countries still rely on US and UK intelligence gathering because of restrictions on domestic surveillance and a lack of resources.
A round of expulsions this month points to the scale of the problem. In addition to the Slovak defenestration, three Baltic states and Bulgaria announced expulsions of 20 alleged Russian agents in total. And Poland declared 45 Russian diplomats personae non gratae, alleging all to be using diplomatic cover to undertake intelligence work.

14-18 February
Wife of Navy Nuclear Engineer Pleads Guilty in Submarine Spy Case
Diana Toebbe, a high school teacher, acknowledged her part in an effort to try to sell nuclear reactor secrets her husband had taken from the Navy.
In April 2020, the couple wrote to an undisclosed foreign government, which turned over the letter to the F.B.I. Investigators then set up a series of dead drops to ensnare Ms. Toebbe and Mr. Toebbe; he faces 12 to 17-and-a-half years in prison under the terms of his plea.
Navy Nuclear Engineer Pleads Guilty in Submarine Espionage Case
Other aspects of the case felt like an awkward clash of international intrigue and the bland stress of suburban life, with the accused would-be suburban spies hunting for a babysitter so they could make it to a dead drop in West Virginia.


19 November
How digital espionage tools exacerbate authoritarianism across Africa
(Brookings) Earlier this year, an international reporting project based on a list of 50,000 phone numbers suspected of being compromised by the Pegasus spyware program revealed just how widespread digital espionage has become. Pegasus, which is built and managed by the Israeli firm NSO Group, turns mobile phones into surveillance tools by granting an attacker full access to a device’s data. It is among the most advanced pieces of cyber espionage software ever invented, and its targets include journalists, activists, and politicians.

18 October
The spies who hated us: reporting on espionage and the secret state
Our security correspondent speaks to a predecessor about an era of spooks, leaks and open hostility from MI5
There no shortage of high points during my predecessor’s heyday. “There was the Clive Ponting trial,” he says, referring to the sensational 1985 acquittal by a jury of the civil servant accused of breaching the Official Secrets Act by leaking documents relating to the sinking of the Argentinian cruiser General Belgrano during the Falklands war.
Shortly after came the Spycatcher affair – the British government’s repeated and increasingly embarrassing attempts to prevent the publication of the memoirs of the former MI5 officer Peter Wright. … The battle then moved to Australia, where the book’s publishers hoped to release Wright’s account
The British government lost, Spycatcher was published in Australia, and copies immediately made their way to the UK. Much more

11 October
KGB archives show how Chrystia Freeland drew the ire (and respect) of Soviet intelligence services
(Globe & Mail) The Soviet Union’s secret police, the infamous KGB, praised her savvy and erudition, even as she frustrated their attempts to spy on her in Cold War Ukraine. They tagged her with the code name Frida. But today we know Chrystia Freeland as Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.
Ms. Freeland’s ties to Ukraine are no secret, but materials uncovered from the KGB archives in Kyiv illuminate her role in the Ukrainian independence movement while on exchange there from Harvard University…. The materials show what drew the Soviet intelligence services’ attention to the then-troublesome young Canadian, who was the subject of denouncements in the Soviet press and even warranted a feature in top-secret KGB documents.
In articles bearing titles like “Abuse of Hospitality,” Soviet newspapers publicly lambasted the Canadian visitor for recklessly meddling in the Soviet Union’s affairs with malice aforethought.

10 October
U.S. Navy Engineer Charged in Attempt to Sell Nuclear Submarine Secrets
Jonathan Toebbe and his wife tried several times to pass information on nuclear propulsion systems to a foreign government, according to a criminal complaint.
(NYT) An F.B.I. affidavit described the Toebbes as employing somewhat sophisticated encryption methods but extremely sloppy practices as they communicated with who they thought were representatives of a foreign power but turned out to be F.B.I. agents. They insisted on careful use of cryptocurrency and encrypted their messages, but they were lured into depositing the information, usually on small digital cards, at sites where they could be easily observed.

8 October
U.S. investigators increasingly confident directed-energy attacks behind Havana Syndrome
The National Security Council has been convening more frequent high-level meetings on the topic — a sign that the government’s review is accelerating.
(Politico) While Burns and lawmakers briefed on the matter have publicly referred to the incidents as attacks, some officials remain skeptical of the prevailing theory, and some prominent neurologists have described that explanation as implausible.
But members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who are receiving weekly updates from the intelligence community on the status of the investigation, said the latest information they’ve received has disproved the skeptics — and in public statements, those lawmakers are increasingly referring to the incidents as directed-energy attacks.
The victims — who include diplomats as well as intelligence officials and White House staffers — have reported symptoms including dizziness, intense ringing and pressure in the ears, debilitating headaches and even permanent brain damage.

6-8 October
The Story Of Vera Atkins, The Fearless British Spymaster Who Inspired James Bond’s Moneypenny
Throughout World War II, Vera Atkins recruited and trained hundreds of secret agents to fight the Nazis for Britain’s covert Special Operations Executive.

11 September
The CIA Spent 20 Years on the Front Lines of the War on Terror. It’s Time For That to Change.
An enduring legacy of the global war on terror is an approach to intelligence that doesn’t serve U.S. national security interests as it once did.
(Politico) One of the more enduring legacies of the post-9/11 era is a style of spycraft that does not serve America’s national security interests as it once did. Waging two decades of war has taken time and talent away from the agency’s original purpose of preventing strategic surprise — that is, anticipating major threats to the nation before they materialize. Twenty years after 9/11, the United States faces escalating threats from China, Russia, Iran and North Korea, conflict in cyberspace as well as physical space, and global challenges like climate change and pandemics. The CIA needs to regain the balance between fighting the terrorist enemies of today and providing the intelligence to detect, understand and stop the enemies of tomorrow.
Defense and intelligence may seem the same, but they aren’t. The Defense Department’s primary activity is fighting. The CIA’s primary activity is understanding. The military is supposed to win wars. The CIA is supposed to prevent them by understanding threats and opportunities better and faster than our adversaries and delivering intelligence to policymakers that helps them make better decisions. Troops are hunters; intelligence officers are gatherers. Military officers are trained, as Samuel Huntington famously wrote, in the “management of violence.” CIA officers are trained in the management of information — acquiring it, analyzing it, protecting it and delivering it at the speed of relevance.

3 September
Married Kremlin Spies, a Shadowy Mission to Moscow and Unrest in Catalonia
Intelligence files suggest an aide to a top Catalan separatist sought help from Russia in the struggle to break with Spain. A fierce new protest group emerged shortly afterward.
(NYT) For Russia, outreach to the separatists would fit President Vladimir V. Putin’s strategy of trying to sow disruption in the West by supporting divisive political movements. In Italy, secret audio recordings revealed a Russian plot to covertly finance the hard-right League party. In Britain, a Times investigation uncovered discussions among right-wing fringe figures about opening bank accounts in Moscow. And in Spain, the Russians have also offered assistance to far-right parties, according to the intelligence report.
Whether Mr. Alay knew it or not, many of the officials he met in Moscow are involved in what has become known as the Kremlin’s hybrid war against the West. This is a layered strategy involving propaganda and disinformation, covert financing of disruptive political movements, hacking and leaking information (as happened in the 2016 U.S. presidential election) and “active measures” like assassinations meant to erode the stability of Moscow’s adversaries.

11 August
‘Old-style espionage’: Briton’s arrest feels like cold war throwback
Analysis: eastern bloc spy agencies historically would target western staff in junior roles
German police arrest Briton on suspicion of spying for Russia
In recent years the Kremlin has been accused of carrying out a number of spectacular cyber-operations. They include the hacking and dumping in 2016 of thousands of Democratic party emails. Moscow’s audacious goal, according to Washington: to help elect Donald Trump as US president.
But alongside these dramatic 21st-century plots Russia has continued to quietly practise what might be called workaday espionage. The 57-year-old man arrested on Tuesday was based at the British embassy in Berlin. He was not a diplomat. His precise role has not been officially revealed but he appears to be a lower level employee.

2 August
Pegasus spyware found on journalists’ phones, French intelligence confirms
Announcement is first time an independent and official authority has corroborated Pegasus project findings
French intelligence investigators have confirmed that Pegasus spyware has been found on the phones of three journalists, including a senior member of staff at the country’s international television station France 24.
It is the first time an independent and official authority has corroborated the findings of an international investigation by the Pegasus project – a consortium of 17 media outlets, including the Guardian. Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based nonprofit media organisation, and Amnesty International initially had access to a leaked list of 50,000 numbers that, it is believed, have been identified as those of people of interest by clients of Israeli firm NSO Group since 2016, and shared access with their media partners.

27 July
The Guardian: Last week showed the revelations reverberating across the world, provoking demonstrations, political outrage and calls for industry regulation. Emmanuel Macron ordered multiple investigations and pushed for an Israeli inquiry, US Democrats called for possible action against NSO and there were calls for Hungarian ministers to resign.
Arundhati Roy This is no ordinary spying. Our most intimate selves are now exposed
The Pegasus project shows we could all soon be ruled by states that know everything about us, while we know less and less about them

18-25 July
The Spyware Threat to Journalists
In this gathering age of digital autocracy, it is hard to avoid the impression that the dictators are winning.
(The New Yorker) A decade ago, the Arab Spring fostered hopeful visions of social-media-enabled people-power movements toppling anachronistic strongmen from Beijing to Riyadh and Caracas. Facebook, Twitter, and other messaging platforms remain transformative tools for mobilization in many countries, yet autocratic regimes have fought back ruthlessly by unleashing legions of loyalist censors, bots, and trolls to control online discourse, and by using spyware to watch and harass troublesome journalists and dissidents.
Israeli Spyware Maker Is in Spotlight Amid Reports of Wide Abuses
(NYT) The Israeli government also faced renewed international pressure for allowing the company to do business with authoritarian regimes that use the spyware for purposes that go far afield of the company’s stated aim: targeting terrorists and criminals.
NSO strongly denied the claims.
NSO has attracted scrutiny since 2016, when the company’s software was said to be used against a rights activist in the United Arab Emirates and a journalist in Mexico.

Where NSO Group Came From — And Why It’s Just the Tip of the Iceberg
(OCCRP) Co-founded by two high-school friends in 2010, NSO Group specialized in breaking into mobile phones from the very beginning. As the devices spread across the planet, governments eager to listen in came calling. The company grew into a major player in the spyware market, with dozens of clients, over 700 employees, and revenues of $250 million as of 2018.
The company says it licenses its Pegasus software only to governments, and only to help them fight terrorism and crime. But journalists and digital privacy experts have repeatedly found authoritarian regimes using Pegasus to spy on reporters, dissidents, and human rights advocates.
Private Israeli spyware used to hack cellphones of journalists, activists worldwide
By Dana Priest, Craig Timberg and Souad Mekhennet
NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware, licensed to governments around the globe, can infect phones without a click
(WaPo) Military-grade spyware licensed by an Israeli firm to governments for tracking terrorists and criminals was used in attempted and successful hacks of 37 smartphones belonging to journalists, human rights activists, business executives and two women close to murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and 16 media partners.
The phones appeared on a list of more than 50,000 numbers that are concentrated in countries known to engage in surveillance of their citizens and also known to have been clients of the Israeli firm, NSO Group, a worldwide leader in the growing and largely unregulated private spyware industry, the investigation found.
Takeaways from the Pegasus Project
Phones identified from a sprawling list
Politicians, journalists, activists found on list
Company says it polices its clients for abuses
Q&A: A guide to ‘spyware’
How Pegasus works, who is most vulnerable and why it’s hard to protect yourself from hacks

16 July
Dr. Joe Schwarcz on the scientific inspiration for James Bond (video)
The Right Chemistry: John Dee mixed science and the occult (column)
… John Dee proved to be so useful that he was then given the task of gathering intelligence about foreign rulers and reporting directly to the queen. A secret agent as it were! These reports were not signed with his name, but rather with a symbol of two circles flanked with a horizontal and a vertical line that can be interpreted as the number seven. Supposedly the circles represent eyes, meaning the report was only for Her Majesty’s eyes. The seven was there because it was the alchemists’ lucky number. And there we have the first secret agent, code name 007! Is this where Ian Fleming got the idea for 007? Was John Dee the inspiration for James Bond? We will never know because Fleming is no longer with us. An alternate theory is that Fleming’s research into spy activities revealed that one of the great British successes during the First World War was the cracking of a German code that the British referred to as 0070. The author just shortened this to 007. I prefer the association with Dee, because he was into chemistry.
Vienna Is the New Havana Syndrome Hot Spot
Vienna is home to many officials from around the world who have access to information of interest to intelligence services
Roughly two dozen possible new cases have been reported by U.S. spies and diplomats in the Austrian capital, more than in any other city except Havana itself.
(The New Yorker) Since Joe Biden took office, about two dozen U.S. intelligence officers, diplomats, and other government officials in Vienna have reported experiencing mysterious afflictions similar to the Havana Syndrome. U.S. officials say the number of possible new cases in the Austrian capital—long a nexus of U.S. and Russian espionage—is now greater than the number reported by officials in any city except for Havana itself, where the first cases were reported.
The exact cause of the ailments in Vienna, which U.S. government agencies formally refer to as “anomalous health incidents” or “unexplained health incidents,” remains unknown, but in response to the surge the C.I.A., the State Department, and other agencies are redoubling their efforts to determine the cause, and to identify the culprit or culprits.

7 June
Feds recover millions in ransomware payments from Colonial Pipeline hackers
The seizure of cryptocurrency paid by Colonial Pipeline to a Russian hacker ring marks a major milestone for Department of Justice.
Federal authorities have recovered more than two million dollars in cryptocurrency paid in ransom to foreign hackers whose attack last month led to the shutdown of a major pipeline that provides nearly half the East Coast’s fuel, according to officials. … Armed with a warrant granted by a federal judge in the Northern District of California, the FBI on Monday seized proceeds from a digital “wallet” that held the ransom collected by the hackers. The ransom was paid in bitcoin.
DarkSide operates under a ransomware-as-a-service model in which DarkSide provides the malware that a criminal affiliate can use to lock up data on a victim’s computer system. When the victim pays the ransom to free up the system, the affiliate keeps the vast majority of the payment, while DarkSide gets the rest.

21 May
The Panama Papers Double Cross How a spy-for-hire got closely guarded dirt on the global elite.
This article is adapted from SPOOKED: The Trump Dossier, Black Cube, and the Rise of Private Spies by Barry Meier
(NYT) The private spying industry has boomed in recent years and operatives-for-hire are increasingly invading our privacy, profiting from deception, and manipulating the media. For hired spies, information is currency and within the industry there is a lucrative underground trade in documents, including ones that are hacked, stolen, or obtained under false pretense.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists knew that spies-for-hire wanted to exploit the Panama Papers for their own purposes and profit so it limited access to the database to media organizations collaborating in the project. But the group would discover years later that one operative found a way into the Panama Papers and soon began offering them to other spies-for-hire, including Christopher Steele, a former MI6 spy and the author of the infamous Donald Trump dossier.
The operative who beat the system was a hybrid journalist/spy-for-hire named Mark Hollingsworth. For more than a decade, Hollingsworth, who lived in London, freelanced for The Guardian, The Financial Times, and other British newspapers, and consulted with the BBC. At the same time, he worked as contractor for private intelligence firms including Orbis Business Intelligence, Steele’s company, and Fusion GPS, the firm run by two ex-Wall Street Journal reporters who hired Steele in 2016 to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia.
Former Canadian ambassador to Israel worked for Black Cube, an Israeli intelligence firm
Controversial private sector company composed of ex-members of the Mossad, other Israeli intelligence agencies
Bercovici was appointed ambassador by then-prime minister Stephen Harper in January 2014. [Vivian Bercovici named Canada’s new ambassador to Israel] She was removed from her post by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in June, 2016.
In one of the messages Bercovici sent a potential Black Cube client in 2019, she says she can provide a wide range of services, such as undercover surveillance, finding hidden information about third parties’ personal lives and tracing bank accounts and assets.
[Rowan Farrow: Harvey Weinstein’s Army of Spies – The film executive hired private investigators, including ex-Mossad agents, to track actresses and journalists. Black Cube, which has branches in Tel Aviv, London, and Paris, offers its clients the skills of operatives “highly experienced and trained in Israel’s elite military and governmental intelligence units,” according to its literature. The New Yorker, November 2017]

3 May
Five Eyes: Is the alliance in trouble over China?
(BBC) This was about politics, not intelligence. New Zealand is not leaving the alliance, it is only drawing a distinction between the two. In retrospect it was an overstretch of what Five Eyes was meant for: sharing secrets.
There will almost certainly be some in New Zealand’s intelligence community who feel embarrassment at this playing out so publicly. By far the majority of intelligence shared within the alliance comes from Washington. The next biggest contributor is the UK, with input from GCHQ, MI6 and MI5. Considerably smaller contributions are made by Canada and Australia.
When it comes to New Zealand, an intelligence review conducted in 2017 found that for every 99 pieces of intelligence NZ received through the alliance, it contributed just one. So New Zealand would clearly have much to lose if it left.
In conclusion, then, is the alliance going to transcend into a unified diplomatic or political pressure group? Unlikely at this stage. Is its existence as an alliance for intelligence-sharing between allies in trouble? No.

25 February
Canada spy agency unwittingly seeks double agent in Le Carré ad gaffe
CSIS included quote from A Perfect Spy in tweet about job postings, bewildering Twitter users
For an intelligence agency seeking new recruits, the promises of adventure and intrigue found within the pages of famous spy novels might seem like a useful recruiting tool.
But promoting a double agent who lies to his family, betrays his country and ultimately takes his own life, is possibly not a strategy that will produce the best candidates.
Canada’s spy agency did just that when it posted a seemingly innocent tweet drawing attention to new job postings.

8 February
Iran ‘hides spyware in wallpaper, restaurant and games apps’
(BBC) Iran is running two surveillance operations in cyber-space, targeting more than 1,000 dissidents, according to a leading cyber-security company.
The efforts were directed against individuals in Iran and 12 other countries, including the UK and US, Check Point said.
It said the two groups involved were using new techniques to install spyware on targets’ PCs and mobile devices.
And this was then being used to steal call recordings and media files.

5 January
US intelligence task force accuses Russia of cyber-hack
US intelligence agencies have said they believe Russia was behind the “serious” cyber compromise revealed in December.
In a joint statement, the intelligence bodies say they currently believe fewer than 10 US government agencies saw their data compromised, although other organisations outside of government were also affected.
They say work is still going on to understand the scope of the incident, which appears to have been aimed at gathering intelligence and which they say is “ongoing” a month after details first emerged.


20 December
US cyber-attack: Around 50 firms ‘genuinely impacted’ by massive breach
(BBC) The cyber-security firm that identified the large-scale hacking of US government agencies says it “genuinely impacted” around 50 organisations.
Kevin Mandia, CEO of FireEye, said that while some 18,000 organisations had the malicious code in their networks, it was the 50 who suffered major breaches.
Despite Russia’s denials of the “baseless” claims, many in the US intelligence community suspect the Russian government is responsible.
Hackers managed to gain access to major organisations by compromising network management software developed by the Texas-based IT company SolarWinds.
The access could have allowed the hackers to take a high degree of control over the networks of organisations using that software, but appears to have been used to steal data rather than for any disruptive or destructive impact.

Heather Cox Richardson: December 17, 2020
Four days ago, on December 13, Reuters broke the story that computer hackers had breached U.S. government agencies, including the Treasury Department and the Commerce Department. It was serious enough that the National Security Council had been called into an emergency meeting on Saturday. While no nation has yet been charged with this attack, officials agree that it looks like a Russian operation.
On Monday, the story got worse. Also hit were the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, and the National Institutes of Health. Officials at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) in the Department of Homeland Security told all federal agencies to disconnect the products containing the malware that had been used to breach the firewalls. Those products had been installed as far back as March, meaning that the attackers had been able to observe crucial aspects of our government from the inside for as much as nine months.
The Associated Press quoted a U.S. official as saying: “This is looking like it’s the worst hacking case in the history of America. They got into everything.” Tom Kellermann, the cybersecurity strategy chief of the software company VMware, told Ben Fox of the Associated Press that the hackers could now see everything in the federal agencies they’ve hacked, and that, now that they have been found out, “there is viable concern that they might leverage destructive attacks within these agencies.”
It is not clear yet how far the hackers have penetrated, and we will likely not know for months. But given the fact they have had access to our systems since March and have almost certainly been planting new ways into them (known as “back doors”), all assumptions are that this is serious indeed.
… The timing of the exposure of this hack might be coincidence, but it is curiously well timed. It illustrates to the world that Russia now holds power over the U.S. while the perpetrators can assume, after four years of Trump’s refusal to stand up to Putin, that they will not have to face immediate retaliation for the attack as they would have to if it were revealed just a month later.

14 December
Russian government hackers are behind a broad espionage campaign that has compromised U.S. agencies, including Treasury and Commerce
(WaPo) Russian government hackers breached the Treasury and Commerce departments, along with other U.S. government agencies, as part of a global espionage campaign that stretches back months, according to people familiar with the matter.
Officials were scrambling over the weekend to assess the nature and extent of the intrusions and implement effective countermeasures, but initial signs suggested the breach was long-running and significant

2 September
Ethel the spy: the enigmatic spinster who sold Britain’s secrets to the USSR
Ethel Gee was dismissed as ‘plain’ and ‘an awful cook’. But for over a year, this lowly clerk was a valuable KGB mole in 1960s Britain
(The Telegraph) It was 1960, and no-one suspected her. Her cover was perfect for the KGB. She was an unassuming and rather colourless spinster aged 46, with few close friends. Every morning for 10 years, Ethel “Bunty” Gee had been trudging down the hill from the terraced house on the Isle of Portland in Dorset, where she lived with three elderly relatives, to the Admiralty’s top-secret underwater research centre, the Underwater Detection Establishment (UDE).
There she worked in the Drawing Office, and there the Admiralty were developing a revolutionary sonar system for Britain’s first nuclear submarine, Dreadnought, among other world-beating technology.

6 August
The Personal Side of an East German Spy’s Defection, in “Betrayal” (video)
(The New Yorker) The fallout from an East German spy’s defection to the West continues to be felt by his son, Andy Stiller Hudson, who grew up without knowing about his father, or his career with the Stasi.

Saudi Crown Prince sent hit squad to Canada, exiled spy chief alleges
(Globe & Mail) Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince dispatched a hit squad to Canada in an attempt to murder a former high-ranking intelligence officer, an effort made shortly after the assassination of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey, according to allegations contained in court documents filed in Washington.
The target was Saad Aljabri, 61, who held a senior intelligence post under deposed crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef. He has been living in Toronto since 2017.
Mr. Aljabri alleges in newly filed court documents that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman tracked him in both the United States, where he owns property, and later in Canada because he possessed “damning information,” including recordings he has made in case he is one day killed. The filings do not explain how Mr. Aljabri obtained the information on which his allegations are based. The documents were filed at the United States District Court for District of Columbia on Thursday.

24 July
The Russia report reveals that MI5 and MI6 have lost their way
The intelligence services’ mission is to ‘defend the realm’. Yet they failed to intervene over a threat to our democracy
(The Guardian) …the intelligence and security committee report is far more original and important than anyone expected. The real story it has uncovered isn’t even primarily about Russia. It’s about the UK intelligence agencies themselves.
The report’s main narrative is not new or hard to understand. Post-Soviet Russia wishes to be treated as a great power. It uses its intelligence services to damage western states such as Britain in order to advance that goal. Its tools include poisoning, cyber disruption, disinformation, financial influence and spying.
But the big reveal in the Russia report is about Britain, not Russia. It’s that shortsighted British politicians have encouraged this to happen. It’s that UK intelligence agencies chose to watch from the sidelines while it went on. In the report’s three key phrases, the agencies regarded the defence of Britain’s democracy as too much of a “hot potato” to intervene; they were so busy on anti-terrorist work that they “took their eye off the ball”; and this all happened because the government in general, not just the agencies, fostered a “somewhat laissez-faire policy approach” to Russia.
Why US-China relations are at their lowest point in decades
By Barbara Plett Usher BBC State Department correspondent
Senior administration officials have described the Houston consulate as “one of the worst offenders” in economic espionage and influence operations that they say are occurring at all the Chinese diplomatic facilities. A certain amount of spy-craft by foreign missions is expected but the officials said activity in Texas went well over acceptable lines and they wanted to send a strong message that it would not be tolerated.

21 July
DOJ says Chinese hackers targeted coronavirus vaccine research
A senior FBI official described the scale and scope of Chinese government-directed hacking as “unlike any other threat we’re facing today.”
Federal prosecutors on Tuesday charged two Chinese men with hacking hundreds of U.S. and foreign companies, nongovernmental organizations and human rights activists, as well as trying to hack three U.S. firms researching the coronavirus, in an escalation of Washington’s war with Beijing over intellectual property theft and espionage.

16 July
Russian hackers attempted to steal UK’s Covid-19 vaccine research, Downing St says
Hackers accused of targeting Oxford and Imperial scientists working on a vaccine in “despicable” attack
(The Telegraph) Both Oxford University and Imperial College London, the two British teams trying to develop a vaccine, are understood to have been targeted, with security sources refusing to say whether any of the attempts to steal information had been successful.
The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said it had the “highest level of confidence” the Kremlin was behind the “ongoing” attack, which was also verified by the US and Canada.
The announcement came hours after Russia announced its intention to produce 200 million doses of an “experimental” vaccine this year, fueling suspicions that it could have been successful in stealing information from one of the laboratories across the world that were targeted.

28 June
British state ‘covered up plot to assassinate King Edward VIII’
Historian says papers challenge official version that George McMahon was a fantasist
(The Guardian) It has all the hallmarks of a 21st-century political thriller, including a plot to assassinate a controversial monarch, an MI5 double agent, and claims of a high-level cover-up.
In 1936, an MI5 informant called George McMahon tried to assassinate King Edward VIII as he rode his horse near Buckingham Palace. Just as he was taking aim with a revolver, a woman in the crowd grabbed his arm and a policeman punched him, causing the weapon to fly into the road and strike the monarch’s mount.
The accepted version of the events, as depicted by historians and by Edward himself in his memoirs, is that McMahon was a confused attention-seeker who never had any serious intention of doing any harm to the king … However, recently declassified MI5 files, to say nothing of an extraordinary autobiographical document … offer a stranger and more complex narrative.
It is entirely possible that MI5 were aware of McMahon’s planned attempt and were happy to let him assassinate Edward, thereby removing an internationally embarrassing monarch with believed Nazi sympathies from the throne. Or, alternatively, simply that they were embarrassed by their arrogance and incompetence.

7 March
Erik Prince Recruits Ex-Spies to Help Infiltrate Liberal Groups
Mr. Prince, a contractor close to the Trump administration, contacted veteran spies for operations by Project Veritas, the conservative group known for conducting stings on news organizations and other groups

20 February
Did Huawei bring down Nortel? Corporate espionage, theft, and the parallel rise and fall of two telecom giants
There’s strong evidence Chinese hackers infiltrated the storied Canadian company before its collapse
(Ottawa Citizen) They produced similar equipment, competed for the same contracts and tried to negotiate joint ventures. As one grew into a Goliath, the other crumbled to pieces. In Nortel’s waning days, Huawei reportedly backed a bid to keep it alive, only to ultimately walk away. And then snap up many of the bankrupt firm’s most-skilled staff.
As Canada nears its long-awaited decision on whether to allow Huawei a role in the coming 5G wireless networks, one part of the story particularly vexes the late-lamented Nortel’s many fans.
For at least 10 years, it was revealed in 2012, the company was invaded by hackers based in China who stole hundreds of sensitive internal documents from under the noses of its top executives.
Before that, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) warned Nortel of Beijing-led human spies in its midst. Later reports suggested that actual listening devices had been planted in Nortel’s Ottawa research and development complex, now Canada’s National Defence headquarters.

14 February
The Valentine’s Day post that shows that CIA has a heart!
In 1933, two rebellious women bought a home in Virginia’s woods. Then the CIA moved in.
(WaPo) In 1948, Thorne, 71, and Scattergood, 54, made a deal: They would sell their 30 acres to the government, but only if they could live out the rest of their lives in their home. Any agency that acquired the land would have to abide by that agreement.
And that was how two rebellious ladies came to live on the grounds of the Central Intelligence Agency for nearly 40 years.
In the late 1950s, the CIA took over the land in Langley, Va., to build a headquarters that could accommodate its fast-growing operations. It kept growing, getting closer and closer to Scattergood and Thorne’s house but allowing them to keep their own entrance. The women were affectionately known at the CIA as “the sisters,” even though they weren’t related.


29 November
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.

3 Comments on "E is for espionage /3"

  1. Jenny Marks September 5, 2022 at 12:12 pm ·

    On the subject of spies, traitors et al, if you’re as interested in the Secrets of Spies like John le Carré, Philby et al as we are you are going to love this non-promotional anecdote about real spies and authors from the espionage genre. … It’s a must read for espionage cognoscenti.
    …there is one category of secret agent that is often overlooked … namely those who don’t know they have been recruited. For more on that topic we suggest you read Beyond Enkription (explained below) and a recent article on that topic by the ex-spook Bill Fairclough (codename JJ). The article can be found at TheBurlingtonFiles website in the News Section. The article (dated July 21, 2021) is about “Russian Interference”; it’s been read well over 20,000 times and is very current: just ask Donald and Boris.
    …John le Carré described Ben Macintyre’s fact-based novel, The Spy and The Traitor, as “the best true spy story I have ever read”. It was of course about Kim Philby’s Russian counterpart, a KGB Colonel named Oleg Gordievsky, codename Sunbeam. In 1974 Gordievsky became a double agent working for MI6 in Copenhagen which was when Bill Fairclough aka Edward Burlington unwittingly launched his career as a secret agent for MI6.
    Philby and Gordievsky never met Fairclough, but they did know Fairclough’s handler, Colonel Alan McKenzie aka Colonel Alan Pemberton CVO MBE. It is little wonder therefore that in Beyond Enkription, the first fact-based novel in The Burlington Files espionage series, genuine double agents, disinformation and deception weave wondrously within the relentless twists and turns of evolving events. Beyond Enkription is set in 1974 in London, Nassau and Port au Prince. Edward Burlington, a far from boring accountant, unwittingly started working for Alan McKenzie in MI6 and later worked eyes wide open for the CIA.
    … The fact-based novel begs the question, were his covert activities in Haiti a prelude to the abortion of a CIA sponsored Haitian equivalent to the Cuban Bay of Pigs? Why was his father Dr Richard Fairclough, ex MI1, involved? Richard was of course a confidant of British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan….
    By the way, the maverick Bill Fairclough had quite a lot in common with Greville Wynne (famous for his part in helping to reveal Russian missile deployment in Cuba in 1962) and has also even been called “a posh Harry Palmer”. As already noted, Bill Fairclough and John le Carré (aka David Cornwell) knew of each other but only long after Cornwell’s MI6 career ended thanks to Kim Philby shopping all Cornwell’s supposedly secret agents in Europe. Coincidentally, the novelist Graham Greene used to work in MI6 reporting to Philby and Bill Fairclough actually stayed in Hôtel Oloffson during a covert op in Haiti (explained in Beyond Enkription) which was at the heart of Graham Greene’s spy novel The Comedians. Funny it’s such a small world!

    • Diana Thebaud Nicholson September 16, 2022 at 4:45 pm ·

      Thank you so much. I have read The Spy and The Traitor – superb!
      Beyond Enkription is now in my to-read pile.
      I also have some connections with Haiti and many years ago stayed in the small hotel in Cap Haitien where Graham Greene wrote some of The Comedians.

  2. Zoe Rainham September 19, 2022 at 1:01 pm ·

    That hotel where both Bill Fairclough and Graham Greene (and Mick Jagger) stayed was probably called the Oloffson

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