Tomer Avital in the wake of the approval of the 2023-24 budget For the sake of the journalists and presenters…
E is for espionage /4
Written by Diana Thebaud Nicholson // May 1, 2023 // Geopolitics // 1 Comment
E is for espionage /3
WaPo The Discord Leaks
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Iranian Insider and British Spy: How a Double Life Ended on the Gallows
In January, Iran executed a former senior official who provided Britain with valuable intelligence on Iranian nuclear and military programs over a decade, according to Western intelligence officials.
(NYT) In April 2008, a senior British intelligence official flew to Tel Aviv to deliver an explosive revelation to his Israeli counterparts: Britain had a mole in Iran with high-level access to the country’s nuclear and defense secrets.
The spy had provided valuable information — and would continue to do so for years — intelligence that would prove critical in eliminating any doubt in Western capitals that Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons and in persuading the world to impose sweeping sanctions against Tehran, according to intelligence officials.
The identity of that spy has long been secret. But on Jan. 11, the execution in Iran of a former deputy defense minister named Alireza Akbari on espionage charges brought to light something that had been hidden for 15 years: Mr. Akbari was the British mole.
Mr. Akbari had long lived a double life. To the public, he was a religious zealot and political hawk, a senior military commander of the Revolutionary Guards and a deputy defense minister who later moved to London and went into the private sector but never lost the trust of Iran’s leaders. But in 2004, according to the officials, he began sharing Iran’s nuclear secrets with British intelligence.
Guardsman in leak case wanted to kill a ‘ton of people’: US
(AP) — The Massachusetts Air National guardsman accused of leaking highly classified military documents kept an arsenal of guns and said on social media that he would like to kill a “ton of people,” prosecutors said in arguing Thursday that 21-year-old Jack Teixeira should remain in jail for his trial.
The biggest revelations from The Post’s document leaks investigation
(WaPo) A leak of hundreds of classified U.S. military documents, including recent assessments of the situation in Ukraine and revelations about the United States spying on its allies, has sent the defense and intelligence establishment scrambling to repair the damage.
Images of documents intended for high-level military leaders and policymakers first spread more than a month ago on Discord, an online platform popular with gamers. The Washington Post was able to trace their wide dispersal back to a small, private group made up largely of teenagers and led by a man initially identified as “OG.” Authorities have arrested a 21-year-old airman 1st class named Jack Teixeira, a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard. Other members of the Discord group said the documents initially were shared privately, before inadvertently spreading further.
Jack Teixeira: Suspect arrested over leaked Pentagon documents
(BBC) A 21-year-old US Air Force National Guard member has been arrested over the leak of US defence and intelligence documents.
Jack Teixeira is reported to be the leader of an online gaming chat group where the files were leaked.
The documents revealed sensitive intelligence about the war in Ukraine and other countries around the world.
Aerial footage showed officers making an arrest at Mr Teixeira’s family home on Thursday.
Who is Jack Teixeira?
F.B.I. Arrests National Guardsman in Leak of Classified Documents
Authorities say Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, posted sensitive materials in an online chat group.
New Leaked Documents Show Broad Infighting Among Russian Officials
The additional documents also suggest the breach of American intelligence agencies could contain far more material than previously believed.
The Airman Who Wanted to Give Gamers a Real Taste of War
The group liked online war games. But then Airman Jack Teixeira, members say, began showing them classified documents.
On Thursday, the F.B.I. arrested Airman Teixeira, an hour and a half after The New York Times identified him as the administrator of the online group, Thug Shaker Central, where a cache of leaked intelligence documents that riveted the world for a week first appeared.
The fog of leaks
(GZERO Daily) Fallout continues from the leak of secret US documents related to the war in Ukraine. The leaked info suggests that Egypt, one of the world’s largest recipients of US military aid, planned to secretly supply Russia with tens of thousands of rockets for use in Ukraine and that the United Arab Emirates, also a key US ally, would help Russia work against US and UK intelligence. Egypt and the UAE say these reports are false.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has claimed that “quite a few of the documents in question were fabricated,” but he isn’t saying what’s true and what isn’t. The world may never know who leaked these documents, why they were leaked, and which parts of them, if any, were entirely fabricated or partially altered. But the headaches for those who must now repair damaged international relationships are real, and the domestic political fallout for leaders of some of these countries, particularly South Korea, will continue.
US intelligence leak: what do we know about ‘top secret’ documents?
Everything that is known about images said to be classified Pentagon documents circulating on social media
(The Guardian) The leak involves what appear to be classified US intelligence documents – some top secret – a number of which relate to the war in Ukraine. Others give indications of how widely the US has compromised Russian decision-making, while others contain material derived from spying on allies.
Unlike other recent leaks – including material released by NSA contractor Edward Snowden and former US army whistleblower Chelsea Manning – the files appear to be hard copies of what appear to be briefing materials and slides.
Images said to be classified US intelligence documents began popping up on social media servers associated with the gaming community – including on a section of the instant messaging platform Discord that hosted debates about Ukraine. An as yet unidentified poster first began sharing the material by typing it out with the poster’s own thoughts, then, as of a few months ago, posting photographs of the documents, some lying on top of a hunting magazine.
A murky document mystery
(GZero media) Some months ago, mysterious documents began showing up on websites used mainly by online gamers that appear to reveal top-secret US government information on the war in Ukraine and other sensitive topics. In particular, they include what seem to be maps of Ukrainian air defenses and an analysis of a secret plan by US ally South Korea to covertly deliver 330,000 rounds of ammunition to Ukraine to boost its widely expected spring counteroffensive.
Once noticed, copies of the documents made their way into mainstream media and triggered investigations by the Pentagon and the US Justice Department over possible leaks. Ukrainian officials say the documents may have come from Russian spies. Others say someone inside the US intel community must have leaked them. Some experts warn the documents may be fakes.
Given the stakes for Ukraine and for US relations with allies, this isn’t a story anyone should ignore. But the most important questions – Who did this? Why? Are the documents real? Will they change the war? If so, how? – can’t yet be answered. And like the mystery surrounding the explosion that damaged the Nord Stream pipeline last September, they may never be answered.
What is known about latest leak of U.S. secrets
(Reuters) U.S. national security agencies and the Justice Department are investigating the release of dozens of classified documents to assess the damage to national security and relations with allies and other countries, including Ukraine.
Here is what we know and do not know about what appears to be the gravest leak of U.S. secrets in years:
U.S. officials believe most of the materials are genuine. Some, however, appear to have been altered to show inflated U.S. estimates for Ukrainian battlefield casualties since Russia invaded in February 2022, as well as understated numbers for Russian forces.
It is unclear which of the documents might have been salted with misinformation and if they could be part of a Russian misinformation operation or a U.S. scheme to mislead Moscow about Kyiv’s war plans.
From Discord to 4chan: The Improbable Journey of a US Intelligence Leak
(Bellingcat) In recent days, the US Justice Department and Pentagon have begun investigating an apparent online leak of sensitive documents, including some that were marked “Top Secret”.
A portion of the documents, which have since been widely covered by the news media, focused on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while others detailed analysis of potential UK policies on the South China Sea and the activities of a Houthi figure in Yemen.
The existence of the documents was first reported by the New York Times after a number of Russian Telegram channels shared five photographed files relating to the invasion of Ukraine on April 5 – at least one of which has since been found by Bellingcat to be crudely edited.
These documents appeared to be dated to early March, around the time they were first posted online on Discord, a messaging platform popular with gamers.
Ukrainian officials have cast doubt on the veracity of the documents, with Mykhailo Podolyak, the adviser to the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, stating on Telegram that he believes Russia is behind the purported leak. But US security officials quoted by the New York Times appeared to hint at their authenticity.
Russian Presidential spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, told CNN that the documents showed the extent of US and NATO involvement in Ukraine. Yet one pro-Russian Telegram channel that has been providing updates on the conflict wasn’t convinced and said it was possible the documents could be Western disinformation.
Leaked Documents Reveal Depth of U.S. Spy Efforts and Russia’s Military Struggles
The information, exposed on social media sites, also shows that U.S. intelligence services are eavesdropping on important allies
Russian spies more effective than army, say experts
Russia’s security and intelligence services have achieved greater success in Ukraine than its army, says a leading UK defence think tank.
(BBC) Russian spy agencies began preparing for the invasion of Ukraine as far back as June 2021, says a report by the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi).
The Federal Security Service (FSB) has quickly dominated populations in occupied areas of Ukraine, Rusi adds.
The report was compiled using sources including captured documents, it says.
Entire Russian spy network dismantled in Poland
(BBC) Poland has charged six foreign citizens with preparing acts of sabotage and spying for Russia, interior minister Mariusz Kaminski has said.
Mr Kaminski said the six were “foreigners from across the eastern border” and they had sought to disrupt military and aid supplies to Ukraine.
Prosecutors are currently preparing proceedings against three other people also detained in the operation.
Mr Kaminski said the cell had been preparing “sabotage actions” in Poland.
“Evidence indicates that this group monitored railway lines. Their tasks included recognising, monitoring and documenting weapons’ transports to Ukraine,” Mr Kaminski told a news briefing on Thursday morning.
Tasha Kheiriddin: Trudeau shrugs as evidence of Chinese electoral interference mounts
Unless Trudeau takes immediate and decisive action to stop this interference, he will undermine the very democracy he purports to serve
According to CSIS documents obtained by the Globe and Mail, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) operatives orchestrated cash donations to political campaigns, had business owners hire “volunteers” for specific election campaigns and boasted that it’s “easy to influence Chinese immigrants to agree with the PRC’s stance.”
Russia tried to shuffle spies around Europe after they got kicked out, but everyone already knows who they are
(MSN) The senior Western security official, who spoke to the Washington Post anonymously, said that his country has been sharing the identities of these spies with officials from other EU countries.
Russia keeps trying to reinsert those same spies into new stations, likely out of desperation and in a possible attempt to identify weak points in EU coordination, the Post reported.
But, the Western official said that none of Russia’s attempts to reposition its spies have been successful, to his knowledge.
In wake of Ukraine war, U.S. and allies are hunting down Russian spies
Officials caution that Russia retains significant capabilities despite exposure of multiple operatives in Europe
(WaPo) Over the past year, as Western governments have ramped up weapons deliveries to Ukraine and economic sanctions against Moscow, U.S. and European security services have been waging a parallel if less visible campaign to cripple Russian spy networks. The German case, which also involved the arrest of a senior official in the BND, Germany’s foreign intelligence service, followed roll-ups of suspected Russian operatives in the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Poland and Slovenia.
The moves amount to precision strikes against Russian agents still in Europe after the mass expulsion of more than 400 suspected Russian intelligence officers from Moscow’s embassies across the continent last year.
Meet the climate scientist helping guide Biden on spy agencies
Kim Cobb answers questions about her hopes to infuse Biden’s intelligence discussions with climate expertise
(WaPo) The U.S. intelligence community has grappled with global warming for years, but its climate work has expanded and taken on extra urgency as heat waves, drought and disasters exacerbate political tensions around the world. In 2021, spy agencies published their first National Intelligence Estimate focused on climate change — a declassified rundown of many of the issues they’re worried about.
That report was a window into how intelligence officials are thinking about climate change, warning among other things that competition over dwindling fresh water could lead to conflicts. Droughts and crop failures, they warned, could lead to large-scale migration and political pressure across borders, and the shift away from fossil fuels will destabilize petrostates.
Now President Biden has appointed Brown University’s Kim Cobb as the first-ever climate scientist on the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, an independent body that helps his office evaluate the quality of the intelligence he receives. Cobb, an expert on climate extremes and coastal flooding, was a lead author on an exhaustive United Nations report released in 2022 that detailed the latest scientific understanding of the dire consequences of climate change.
Inside the stunning growth of Russia’s Wagner Group
(Politico) Wagner is just one piece linked to Prigozhin’s larger sphere of influence. Some of the operations linked to a network of Prigozhin-affiliated companies have been previously reported — Prigozhin has even admitted publicly to interfering in foreign countries’ elections. He’s been connected to a Russian troll farm singled out by the U.S. for attempting to interfere in American elections. And he recently admitted to leading and funding that troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency. The group’s presence and operations in Africa, too, has also been tracked by international human rights organizations.
Dark arts of politics: how ‘Team Jorge’ and Cambridge Analytica meddled in Nigerian election
Leaked messages show failed plan to discredit Muhammadu Buhari and get Goodluck Jonathan re-elected in 2015
Biden Says 3 Latest Objects Most Likely Not Spy Devices
(NYT) In his first extensive remarks on the mysterious objects in American airspace, Biden said the three objects appeared unrelated to the Chinese spy balloon and were most likely “tied to private companies, recreation or research institutions.” He said he expected to speak with President Xi Jinping of China soon.
US jets down 4 objects in 8 days, unprecedented in peacetime
(AP) — A U.S. fighter jet shot down an “unidentified object” over Lake Huron on Sunday on orders from President Joe Biden. It was the fourth such downing in eight days and the latest military strike in an extraordinary chain of events over U.S. airspace that Pentagon officials believe has no peacetime precedent.
… fighter jets last week also shot down objects over Canada and Alaska. Pentagon officials said they posed no security threats, but so little was known about them that Pentagon officials were ruling nothing out — not even UFOs.
The latest [object] brought down was octagonal, with strings hanging off, but had no discernable payload. It was flying low at about 20,000 feet, said the official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.
An object shot down Saturday over Canada’s Yukon was described by U.S. officials as a balloon significantly smaller than the balloon hit by a missile Feb. 4. A flying object brought down over the remote northern coast of Alaska on Friday was more cylindrical and described as a type of airship. Both were believed to have a payload, either attached or suspended from them, according to the officials who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation
Chinese Balloon Had Tools to Collect Communications Signals, U.S. Says
China’s surveillance balloons have flown over more than 40 countries and are directed by the Chinese military, the State Department said. The F.B.I. is studying recovered debris.
(NYT) The Chinese spy balloon shot down by the U.S. military over the Atlantic Ocean was capable of collecting some forms of electronic communications and was part of a fleet of surveillance balloons directed by the Chinese military that had flown over more than 40 countries across five continents, the State Department said Thursday.
While the balloon was still in the air, American U-2 surveillance planes took images of it to determine its capabilities, the department said in a statement, adding that the balloon’s equipment “was clearly for intelligence surveillance and inconsistent with the equipment on board weather balloons.”
The agency said the balloon had multiple antennas in an array that was “likely capable of collecting and geo-locating communications.” Solar panels on the machine were large enough to produce power to operate “multiple active intelligence collection sensors,” the department said.
Chinese balloon part of vast aerial surveillance program, U.S. says
Spy balloon effort operates in Hainan province off China’s south coast and has for years collected information on military assets in several countries, officials said
(WaPo) The surveillance balloon effort, which has operated for several years partly out of Hainan province off China’s south coast, has collected information on military assets in countries and areas of emerging strategic interest to China including Japan, India, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines, according to several U.S. officials, who, like others interviewed for this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.
Analysts still don’t know the size of the balloon fleet, but there have been “dozens” of missions since 2018, said one U.S. official. They take advantage of technology provided by a private Chinese company that is part of the country’s civil-military fusion effort — a program by which private companies develop technologies and capabilities used by the PLA.
U.S. sailors retrieve what’s left of the alleged Chinese spy balloon
(CBC) The balloon was an estimated 60 metres tall and was carrying a long sensor package underneath, which VanHerck estimated was the size of a small regional jet.
Pentagon reports past Chinese surveillance balloons near Florida, Texas
The Defense Department tells members of Congress about several previous incursions of U.S. airspace as Republicans criticize Biden’s response
The detection of the balloon offers a glimpse into the secret world of intelligence gathering, where countries are racing against each other to harness new technologies that will help them gain a competitive edge. But these same new technologies are making spycraft far more challenging than at any time since the early days of the Cold War, write Amy Zegart and Michael Morell. The U.S. intelligence community must adapt accordingly—or risk losing the country’s intelligence advantage.
(Foreign Affairs May/June 2019) Spies, Lies, and Algorithms
Why U.S. Intelligence Agencies Must Adapt or Fail
UPDATE (AP) An operation was underway in U.S. territorial waters in the Atlantic Ocean to recover debris from the balloon, which had been flying at about 60,000 feet and was estimated to be about the size of three school buses. The balloon was downed by Air Force fighter aircraft, according to two officials who were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Biden says he gave the order for Chinese balloon shootdown
U.S. Shoots Down Chinese Spy Balloon Off the Coast of the Carolinas
(NYT) The American defense secretary, Lloyd J. Austin III, said that U.S. fighter jets from Northern Command “successfully brought down the high altitude surveillance balloon launched by and belonging to the People’s Republican of China.” The balloon was brought down just off the coast of South Carolina, Mr. Austin said in a statement, while it was still in American airspace
Why would China use a spy balloon when it has satellites?
(BBC) News of an alleged Chinese spy balloon floating over the US has left many wondering why Beijing would want to use a relatively unsophisticated tool for its surveillance of the US mainland.
Balloons are one of the oldest forms of surveillance technology. The Japanese military used them to launch incendiary bombs in the US during World War Two. They were also widely used by the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
More recently, the US has reportedly been considering adding high-altitude inflatables into the Pentagon’s surveillance network. Modern balloons typically hover between 24km-37km above the earth’s surface (80,000ft-120,000ft).
“Beijing is probably trying to signal to Washington: ‘While we want to improve ties, we are also ever ready for sustained competition, using any means necessary,’ without severely inflaming tensions,” independent air-power analyst He Yuan Ming told the BBC.
“And what better tool for this than a seemingly innocuous balloon?”
The balloon’s anticipated flight path near certain missile bases suggests it is unlikely it has drifted off course, He Yuan Ming said.
U.S. rejects China’s spy balloon denials, reports a 2nd balloon flying over Latin America
(CBC) A huge, high-altitude Chinese balloon sailing across the U.S. and reports of a second flying over Latin America on Friday drew severe accusations from the Pentagon that China was spying on sensitive military sites despite Beijing’s firm denials.
It was spotted earlier over Montana, which is home to one of America’s three nuclear missile silo fields at Malmstrom Air Force Base, defence officials said.
Later Friday, the Pentagon acknowledged reports of a second balloon flying over Latin America.
The Autocrat in Your iPhone -How Mercenary Spyware Threatens Democracy
By Ronald J. Deibert
(Foreign Affairs) The advent of advanced spyware has transformed the world of espionage and surveillance. Bringing together a largely unregulated industry with an invasive-by-design digital ecosystem in which smartphones and other personal devices contain the most intimate details of people’s lives, the new technology can track almost anyone, anywhere in the world.
Providing the ability to clandestinely infiltrate even the most up-to-date smartphones—the latest “zero click” version of the spyware can penetrate a device without any action by the user—Pegasus has become the digital surveillance tool of choice for repressive regimes around the world. It has been used against government critics in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and pro-democracy protesters in Thailand. It has been deployed by Mohammed bin Salman’s Saudi Arabia and Viktor Orban’s Hungary.
But the use of spyware is hardly limited to the world’s authoritarians. As researchers have revealed, over the past decade many democracies, including Spain and Mexico, have begun using spyware, as well, in ways that violate well-established norms of human rights and public accountability. U.S. government documents disclosed by The New York Times in November 2022 show that the FBI not only acquired spyware services from NSO, possibly for counterintelligence purposes, but also contemplated deploying them, including on U.S. targets.
Former Swedish intelligence officer jailed for life for spying for Russia
Judge says Peyman Kia abused trust placed in him, and also sentences younger brother to 10 years
(The Guardian) Peyman Kia, 42, served in the Swedish security and counter-intelligence service, Säpo, and in armed forces intelligence agencies, including the foreign intelligence agency (Must) and KSI, a top-secret unit dealing with Swedish spies abroad.
He was found guilty of aggravated espionage and unauthorised handling of classified documents. The judge, Måns Wigén, said Kia had abused the trust placed in him in order to aid Russia, the country posing “the biggest threat to Sweden”.
His brother Payam, 35, was convicted of aggravated espionage for planning the crime and managing contacts with Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency, passing on 45 of the 90 documents Peyman was found to have gathered.
The court said they had “jointly and in concertation, without authorisation and to assist Russia and the GRU, acquired, forwarded and shared information whose disclosure to a foreign power could be detrimental to Sweden’s security”.
The Iranian-born brothers, both of whom hold Swedish citizenship, have denied the charges and are expected to appeal against them.
Pegasus: The Story of the World’s Most Dangerous Spyware by Laurent Richard and Sandrine Rigaud
Rachel Maddow on How Cell Phone Spyware Threatens Privacy and Democracy
Why We Need to Expose the Pegasus Project
… A funny thing happened on the way to that divorce court gossip column item, though. Because right around the time Cherie Blair got that call from Israel, a very brave source offered two journalists from Paris and two cybersecurity researchers from Berlin access to a remarkable piece of leaked data. The list included the phone numbers of not one or two or ten Emirati soon-to-be divorcees, or even twenty or fifty suspected pedophiles or drug traffickers. It was fifty thousand mobile phone numbers, all selected for possible Pegasus targeting by clients of that firm in Israel, NSO. Fifty thousand?
What exactly to make of that initial leaked list—that crucial first peek into the abyss—is a question that took nearly a year to answer, with a lot of risk and a lot of serious legwork to get there. The answer to the question matters. Because either this is a scandal we understand and get ahold of and come up with solutions for, or this is the future, for all of us, with no holds barred.
This book is the behind-the-scenes story of the Pegasus Project, the investigation into the meaning of the leaked data, as told by Laurent Richard and Sandrine Rigaud of Forbidden Stories, the two journalists who got access to the list of fifty thousand phones. With the list in hand, they gathered and coordinated an international collaboration of more than eighty investigative journalists from seventeen media organizations across four continents, eleven time zones, and about eight separate languages.
The U.S. has an overclassification problem, says one former special counsel
For months, classified documents have been turning up in places where they’re not supposed to.
(NPR) First, there was the discovery of hundreds of classified documents inappropriately stored at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. Then, in recent weeks, the discovery of classified documents at President Biden’s home and private office.
While these cases are different in scope and circumstance, both demonstrate mishandling of sensitive information – and they have renewed the scrutiny on how the government classifies its documents.
… Is the criticism of overclassification fair, in Biden’s case currently and previously with former President Trump?
Well, it’s hard to know exactly what’s happening with the Biden administration because we haven’t seen those documents. And so it’s hard to know if those are documents that really should not have been classified. The fact that they’re mixed in with a lot of documents that were not classified is suggestive that they were just part of a set of files where classified information kind of got snuck in and they inadvertently took the boxes with them when they left. But again, we don’t have a lot of information.
We do have a little bit more information about the materials that were retained by the Trump administration, by President Trump when he left. We have that famous photo of the sort of files on the floor. And you can see if you look at those pictures, that many of those documents were what’s called top secret SCI, which is special compartmented information. That is the most highly classified information the U.S. government has and includes HUMINT, that is human intelligence and special intelligence.
‘Unbelievably ridiculous’: Four-star general seeks to clean up Pentagon’s classification process
Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday that he hopes to see “significant improvement” this year on loosening classification standards in the infamously overclassified Pentagon.
Concerns about overclassification in the Pentagon have been long-standing. The department’s internal watchdog on Afghanistan issues considers it a major issue, and the Project on Government Oversight in December released a report warning of a “war on transparency” in the department, in part through what it called the unnecessary marking of documents as classified. (29 January 2020)
Hyten said the process, which has the backing of Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, will attempt to make it easier to communicate with industry, the public and internally at the Defense Department.
Foreign Affairs January/February 2022
U.S. President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump now both face criticism (and possible legal exposure) for mishandling classified documents when they were out of political office. In Biden’s case, classified documents dating back to his tenure as vice president were found by Biden’s lawyers in a think tank office he once used, and at his private residence in Wilmington, Delaware. The FBI discovered several hundred government files marked as classified at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s home in Florida, after Trump resisted repeated efforts by the government to retrieve them. What complicates these stories is that the government tends to overclassify information, marking everything from national security secrets to publicly available data as “classified.”
Keeping the Wrong Secrets – How Washington Misses the Real Security Threat
Oona Hathaway argues that although the protection of sensitive government data is important, Washington devotes excessive resources to protecting mostly useless classified information while doing little to protect the private data of ordinary citizens—leaving information with much greater national security value out for the taking.
Industrial espionage: How China sneaks out America’s technology secrets
(BBC) … It is part of a broader struggle as China strives to gain technological knowhow to power its economy and its challenge to the geopolitical order, while the US does its best to prevent a serious competitor to American power from emerging.
The theft of trade secrets is attractive because it allows countries to “leapfrog up global value chains relatively quickly – and without the costs, both in terms of time and money, of relying completely on indigenous capabilities”, Nick Marro of the Economist Intelligence Unit told the BBC.
Last July FBI director Christopher Wray told a gathering of business leaders and academics in London that China aimed to “ransack” the intellectual property of Western companies so it can speed up its own industrial development and eventually dominate key industries.
He warned that it was snooping on companies everywhere “from big cities to small towns – from Fortune 100s to start-ups, folks that focus on everything from aviation, to AI, to pharma”.
At the time, China’s then foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Mr Wray was “smearing China” and had a “Cold War mentality”.
Pegasus by Laurent Richard and Sandrine Rigaud review – spyware hiding in plain sight
The story of how investigative journalists exposed the frightening abuse of software that can infect your phone
(The Guardian) The arrival of the mobile phone, and then the smartphone, has brought that power of invisible oversight to governments willing to pay the comparatively small cost – some millions of pounds – of licensing invasive software that will silently monitor a phone. The most popular one (that we know about) is called Pegasus, created by an Israeli company called NSO.
Pegasus originally arrived in the form of a text message from an unfamiliar number. If the recipient clicked on it, the phone would be infected. Later versions didn’t even need that interaction: the text message alone could be the agent of infection. The phone then became a portal for the government controllers: they could download any content, surreptitiously turn on the camera or microphone, listen to any call. The infection persisted until the phone was restarted – at which point the controllers would notice, and send another infecting message.
Global Spyware Scandal: Exposing Pegasus Part One
FRONTLINE and Forbidden Films, the documentary arm of Forbidden Stories, investigate the powerful spyware Pegasus, sold to governments around the world by the Israeli company NSO Group. This two-part series, part of the Pegasus Project, examines how the hacking tool was used on journalists, activists, the wife and fiancée of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and others.
A Spy Among Friends
‘I did not let Kim Philby go. He gave me the slip’: what an MI6 spy told me over lunch
A new TV series [using Ben Macintyre’s book of the same name as its source and inspiration] highlights the part played by the UK intelligence service’s Nicholas Elliott in unmasking the 1960s Cambridge spy ring – events he recalled years later over lunch at his club
A Spy Among Friends review – don’t take your eyes off this star-packed espionage thriller
This is not the kind of drama one can watch with an eye on something else. Heaven forbid you get distracted by a text message; there are a couple of instances where I had to rewind several minutes because I briefly looked away. There are so many layers to peel back. Elliott is looking into Philby’s betrayals, but MI5 are looking into Elliott and Philby and MI6, and everyone involved is hoping the CIA doesn’t find out about it before they get their ducks in a row. That is a lot of spy-on-spy spying.
Biden faces growing pressure to drop charges against Julian Assange
Biden faces a renewed push, domestically and internationally, to drop charges against Assange, who is languishing in a UK jail
(The Guardian) …the biggest test of Biden’s commitment [to respecting a free and vigorous press] remains imprisoned in a jail cell in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been held since 2019 while facing prosecution in the United States under the Espionage Act, a century-old statute that has never been used before for publishing classified information.
The EU has a spy problem — here’s why it’s so difficult to catch them
Faced with Russian hostility and Chinese snooping, Belgium has upped its counterintelligence game — but Brussels remains a spies’ playground.
By Barbara Moens
(Politico Eu) To start with, nobody really knows just how many spies are operating in the EU capital. When Belgian security officials are pressed to provide a number they joke that, if anybody can find out, they’d be delighted to know.
The United States and Australia require people working for foreign interests to register, providing at least a glimpse of attempts to influence the political process. Belgium does not.
Then there’s the number of targets — and the potential for cover stories — the city’s international postings provide.
Brussels hosts not just the EU institutions and NATO but also around 100 other international organizations and 300 foreign diplomatic missions. Together, these employ about 26,000 registered diplomats, according to the Belgian foreign affairs ministry — each one a possible spy.
For a spook, a diplomatic passport is the ultimate cover. Not only is rubbing shoulders with top officials and unearthing information part of the job description, but diplomats are also protected from prosecution under the Vienna Convention. Belgian security officials estimate that, in some embassies, between 10 and 20 percent of the diplomats are intelligence officers.
License to kill: How Europe lets Iran and Russia get away with murder
For rogue states, solving a problem by removing it often proves irresistible.
By Matthew Karnitschnig
(Politico Eu) Since 2015, Iran has carried out about a dozen operations in Europe, killing at least three people and abducting several others, security officials say.
“The Europeans have not just been soft on the Islamic Republic, they’ve been cooperating with them, working with them, legitimizing the killers,” Masih Alinejad, the Iranian-American author and women’s rights activist said, highlighting the continuing willingness of European heads of state to meet with Iran’s leaders.
28 November‘Publishing is not a crime’: media groups urge US to drop Julian Assange charges
First outlets to publish WikiLeaks material, including the Guardian, come together to oppose prosecution
Worker at Canada’s largest electricity producer charged with spying for China, police say
Hydro-Quebec is Canada’s largest electricity producer
Employee accused of trying to steal trade secrets for China
Man will appear in court on Tuesday
Beijing calls on Canada to avoid politicising the case
(Reuters) – An employee at Canada’s largest electricity producer Hydro-Quebec who was involved in researching battery materials has been charged with espionage for allegedly trying to steal trade secrets to benefit China, Canadian police said on Monday.
Has the C.I.A. Done More Harm Than Good?
In the agency’s seventy-five years of existence, a lack of accountability has sustained dysfunction, ineptitude, and lawlessness.
Peter Zeihan: This is How Russian Propaganda Works (podcast)
I can and will outline the whys of Russian propaganda. It didn’t come out of the blue. Its very existence is wrapped up in how Moscow has ruled its territories going back to the beginning.
Material on foreign nation’s nuclear capabilities seized at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago
Some seized documents were so closely held, only the president, a Cabinet-level or near-Cabinet level official could authorize others to know
(WaPo) A document describing a foreign government’s military defenses, including its nuclear capabilities, was found by FBI agents who searched former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and private club last month, according to people familiar with the matter, underscoring concerns among U.S. intelligence officials about classified material stashed in the Florida property.
Some of the seized documents detail top-secret U.S. operations so closely guarded that many senior national security officials are kept in the dark about them. Only the president, some members of his Cabinet or a near-Cabinet-level official could authorize other government officials to know details of these special-access programs, according to people familiar with the search, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive details of an ongoing investigation.
Documents about such highly classified operations require special clearances on a need-to-know basis, not just top-secret clearance.
Trump Reportedly Had Information About a Foreign Government’s Nuclear Secrets at Mar-a-Lago, and Yeah, That’s Exactly as Bad as It Sounds
He held on to this information despite a subpoena demanding he turn over every classified document in his possession, and a signed statement from his attorney claiming he’d done so.
Question: Is there any legitimate, not-suspicious reason that a former president of the United States would take information about a foreign country’s nuclear capabilities from the White House with him when he left, stash it in his home, and refuse to give it back despite being asked to do so on numerous occasions?
Jennifer Rubin: The Mar-a-Lago espionage scandal is a three-alarm national security crisis. We should act like it
The extent of the national security crisis Trump thrust upon us has not yet been fully appreciated. The more detailed inventory released on Friday is jaw-dropping. As the Associated Press reports: “Though the inventory does not describe the content of the documents, it shows the extent to which classified information — including material at the top-secret level — was stashed in boxes at the home and mixed among newspapers, magazines, clothing and other personal items.” The volume of documents is even more troubling.
One Comment on "E is for espionage /4"
Into all things espionage? Do read Bill Fairclough’s fact based spy thriller, Beyond Enkription, the first stand-alone novel of six in The Burlington Files series. One day he may overtake Bond, Smiley and even Jackson Lamb!
Intentionally misspelt, Beyond Enkription is a must read for espionage illuminati. It’s a raw noir matter of fact pacy novel. Len Deighton and Mick Herron could be forgiven for thinking they co-wrote it. Coincidentally, a few critics have nicknamed its protagonist “a posh Harry Palmer.”
It is a true story about a maverick accountant, Bill Fairclough (MI6 codename JJ) aka Edward Burlington in Porter Williams International (in real life Coopers & Lybrand now PwC). In the 1970s in London he infiltrated organised crime gangs, unwittingly working for MI6. After some frenetic attempts on his life he was relocated to the Bahamas where, “eyes wide open” he was recruited by the CIA and headed for shark infested waters off Haiti.
If you’re an espionage cognoscente you’ll love this monumental book. In real life Bill Fairclough was recruited by MI6’s unorthodox Colonel Alan Brooke Pemberton CVO MBE and thereafter they worked together on and off into the 1990s. You can find out more about Pemberton’s People (who even included Winston Churchill’s bodyguard) in an article dated 31 October 2022 on The Burlington Files website.
This epic is so real it made us wonder why bother reading espionage fiction when facts are so much more exhilarating. Whether you’re a le Carré connoisseur, a Deighton disciple, a Fleming fanatic, a Herron hireling or a Macintyre marauder, odds on once you are immersed in it you’ll read this titanic production twice. For more detailed reviews visit the Reviews page on TheBurlingtonFiles website or see other independent reviews on your local Amazon website and check out Bill Fairclough’s background on the web.