E is for espionage /4 September 2022-November 2023

Written by  //  November 27, 2023  //  Geopolitics, Security  //  1 Comment

E is for espionage /3
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John Le Carré: The Master who Unmasked the Intelligence World
When former spy, celebrated chronicler of covert culture and inveterate gentleman John Le Carré died on December 12, we knew just which Policy contributor should pay our respects. The intrepid Robin Sears — who has travelled the world as a political adviser, consultant, avid reader and writer — is, of course, a fan. Here’s his tribute. – 18 December 2020
19-20 October
‘The Pigeon Tunnel’ Review: Thinker, Player, Searcher, Spy
Two master performers, the filmmaker Errol Morris and the writer John le Carré, circle the truth in this mesmerizing biographical documentary
Inside the Inmost Room
In his portrait of John le Carré, is Errol Morris the mastermind—or the dupe?
(Slate) Le Carré was the most celebrated spy novelist of his time (arguably of all time). He was also a self-confessed chronic fabulist. Lying, he stated more than once, is the essence of both espionage and fiction writing.

27 November
Inside U.S. Efforts to Untangle an A.I. Giant’s Ties to China
American spy agencies have warned about the Emirati firm G42 and its work with large Chinese companies that U.S. officials consider security threats.
(NYT) When the secretive national security adviser of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed, visited the White House in June, his American counterpart, Jake Sullivan, raised a delicate issue: G42, an artificial intelligence firm controlled by the sheikh that American officials believe is hiding the extent of its work with China.
In public, the company has announced its staggering growth with a steady cadence of news releases. They have included agreements with European pharmaceutical giants like AstraZeneca and a $100 million deal with a Silicon Valley firm to build what the companies boast will be the “world’s largest supercomputer.” Last month, G42 announced a partnership with OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT.
But in classified American intelligence channels, there have been more concerning reports about the company. The C.I.A. and other American spy agencies have issued warnings about G42’s work with large Chinese companies that U.S. officials consider security threats, including Huawei, the telecommunications giant that is under U.S. sanctions.

23 October
Ukrainian spies with deep ties to CIA wage shadow war against Russia
(WaPo) … These operations have been cast as extreme measures Ukraine was forced to adopt in response to Russia’s invasion last year. In reality, they represent capabilities that Ukraine’s spy agencies have developed over nearly a decade — since Russia first seized Ukrainian territory in 2014 — a period during which the services also forged deep new bonds with the CIA.
The missions have involved elite teams of Ukrainian operatives drawn from directorates that were formed, trained and equipped in close partnership with the CIA, according to current and former Ukrainian and U.S. officials. Since 2015, the CIA has spent tens of millions of dollars to transform Ukraine’s Soviet-formed services into potent allies against Moscow, officials said. The agency has provided Ukraine with advanced surveillance systems, trained recruits at sites in Ukraine as well as the United States, built new headquarters for departments in Ukraine’s military intelligence agency, and shared intelligence on a scale that would have been unimaginable before Russia illegally annexed Crimea and fomented a separatist war in eastern Ukraine. The CIA maintains a significant presence in Kyiv, officials said.

21 October
Spy vs. spy: How Israelis tried to stop Russia’s information war in Africa
This never-before-told tale reveals how covert online battles in the French-speaking Sahel region helped topple governments.
(WaPo exclusive) Israeli businessmen Royi Burstien and Lior Chorev … — one a veteran political operative and the other a former army intelligence officer — had been hired with the mission of keeping the government of President Roch Marc Kaboré of the West African nation of Burkina Faso in power. Their company, Percepto International, was a pioneer in what’s known as the disinformation-for-hire business. They were skilled in deceptive tricks of social media, reeling people into an online world comprised of fake journalists, news outlets and everyday citizens whose posts were intended to bolster support for Kaboré’s government and undercut its critics.
… Percepto’s experience in French-speaking Africa offers a rare window into the round-the-clock information warfare that is shaping international politics — and the booming business of disinformation-for-hire. Meta, the social media company that operates Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, says that since 2017 it has detected more than 200 clandestine influence operations, many of them mercenary campaigns, in 68 countries.

17 October
Five Eyes intelligence chiefs warn on China’s ‘theft’ of intellectual property
(Reuters) – The Five Eyes countries’ intelligence chiefs came together on Tuesday to accuse China of intellectual property theft and using artificial intelligence for hacking and spying against the nations, in a rare joint statement by the allies.
The officials from the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – known as the Five Eyes intelligence sharing network – made the comments following meetings with private companies in the U.S. innovation hub Silicon Valley.
CSIS chief opens up about China’s interest in Canadian universities
Director David Vigneault spoke at a conference Tuesday
The head of Canada’s intelligence agency spoke openly about China’s interest in partnering with Canadian universities to gain a military edge during a conference with his Five Eyes counterparts on Tuesday.
“China has been very transparent,” Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) Director David Vigneault said.
“Everything that they’re doing in our universities and in new technology, it’s going back into a system very organized to create dual-use applications for the military.”
Vigneault made the comments on stage during a rare public gathering with spy bosses from the U.S., the U.K., Australia and New Zealand.
The representatives of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance are meeting in California’s Silicon Valley at the invitation of U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray to discuss adversaries’ use of technology and threats to innovation and research.
Vigneault said CSIS has been trying to warn Canadian universities about the People’s Republic of China’s motivations and has offered guidance.
According to the Hoover Institution, which hosted Tuesday’s event, a cluster of institutions in China, often referred to as the “Seven Sons of National Defence,” collaborate with universities around the world to harvest research and divert it to military applications.

13 October
CSIS warning Inuit leaders about covert foreign investment in Arctic, documents show
Inuit leader calling on spy agency to share more information with region’s leaders
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has warned Inuit leaders that foreign adversaries could gain a foothold in Canada by offering to fill infrastructure gaps in the North.
But Natan Obed, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) — the nonprofit organization that represents more than 65,000 Inuit across Inuit Nunangat and the rest of Canada — said the spy agency’s inability to share classified intelligence with the region’s decision-makers leaves them in the dark about the risks.
“We are making decisions every day that are currently not as informed as they could be about threats and considerations,” Obed recently told CBC News.

10 October
How Israel’s Feared Security Services Failed to Stop Hamas’s Attack
Israel’s military and espionage services are considered among the world’s best, but on Saturday, operational and intelligence failures led to the worst breach of Israeli defenses in half a century.
(NYT) … For hours, the strongest military in the Middle East was rendered powerless to fight back against a far weaker enemy, leaving villages defenseless for most of the day against squads of attackers who killed more than 900 Israelis, including soldiers in their underwear; abducted at least 150 people; overran at least four military camps; and spread out across more than 30 square miles of Israeli territory.
The four officials said the success of the attack, based on their early assessment, was rooted in a slew of security failures by Israel’s intelligence community and military, including:
Failure by intelligence officers to monitor key communication channels used by Palestinian attackers;
Overreliance on border surveillance equipment that was easily shut down by attackers, allowing them to raid military bases and slay soldiers in their beds;
Clustering of commanders in a single border base that was overrun in the opening phase of the incursion, preventing communication with the rest of the armed forces;
And a willingness to accept at face value assertions by Gazan military leaders, made on private channels that the Palestinians knew were being monitored by Israel, that they were not preparing for battle.

17 September
In Risky Hunt for Secrets, U.S. and China Expand Global Spy Operations
The nations are taking bold steps in the espionage shadow war to try to collect intelligence on leadership thinking and military capabilities.
The balloon crisis, a small part of a much larger Chinese espionage effort, reflects a brazen new aggressiveness by Beijing in gathering intelligence on the United States as well as Washington’s growing capabilities to collect its own information on China. The episode threw a spotlight on the expanding and highly secretive spy-versus-spy contest between the United States and China.
For Washington, the espionage efforts are a critical part of President Biden’s strategy to constrain the military and technological rise of China, in line with his thinking that the country poses the greatest long-term challenge to American power.
For Beijing, the new tolerance for bold action among Chinese spy agencies is driven by Mr. Xi, who has led his military to engage in aggressive moves along the nation’s borders and pushed his foreign intelligence agency to become more active in farther-flung locales.

7 September
Business council says CSIS should start warning private companies of foreign interference
One of the country’s leading business voices warned Thursday that Canada’s economic security faces external threats — and called on Ottawa to give its spies the power to share intelligence with private firms being targeted for foreign interference.
The Business Council of Canada, composed of chief executives and entrepreneurs in the country’s major companies, issued a 19-page report warning that “for decades now, successive Canadian governments have overlooked, taken for granted, or simply ignored the principle that economic security is national security.”

4 September
“Chinese nationals, sometimes posing as tourists, have accessed military bases and other sensitive sites in the U.S. as many as 100 times in recent years. … The incidents, which U.S. officials describe as a form of espionage, appear designed to test security practices at U.S. military installations and other federal sites. Officials familiar with the practice say the individuals are typically Chinese nationals pressed into service and required to report back to the Chinese government.”
Chinese Gate-Crashers at U.S. Bases Spark Espionage Concerns
By Gordon Lubold, Warren Strobel and Aruna Viswanatha
(WSJ) Washington has tracked about 100 incidents involving Chinese nationals trying to access American military and other installations

2 September
How much damage has the Trump-Putin collusion inflicted on the US?
(RawStory) … The Mueller Report identified ten specific instances of Trump trying to obstruct the investigation, including offering the bribe of a pardon to Paul Manafort, asking FBI Director Comey to “go easy” on General Flynn after his dinner with Putin, and directing Attorney General Jeff Sessions to limit Mueller’s ability to investigate Trump’s connections to Russia.
… Apparently Putin and his intelligence operatives had good reason to be popping the champagne in November, 2016. They were quickly paid off in a big way.
In his first months in office, Trump outed an Israeli spy to the Russian Ambassador in what he thought was going to be a “secret Oval Office meeting” (the Russians released the photo to the press), resulting in MOSAD having to “burn” (relocate, change identity of) that spy.
The undercover agent was apparently working in Syria that year against the Russians, who were embroiled in the midst of Assad’s Civil War and indiscriminately bombing Aleppo into rubble.
That, in turn, prompted the CIA to worry that a longtime American spy buried deep in the Kremlin was similarly vulnerable to Trump handing him over to Putin.
As CNN noted (when the story leaked two years later):
“The source was considered the highest level source for the US inside the Kremlin, high up in the national security infrastructure, according to the source familiar with the matter and a former senior intelligence official.
“According to CNN’s sources, the spy had access to Putin and could even provide images of documents on the Russian leader’s desk.”
The CIA concluded that the risk Trump had burned or was about to burn our spy inside the Kremlin was so great that — at massive loss to US intelligence abilities that may even have otherwise helped forestall the invasion of Ukraine — they pulled our spy out of Russia in the first year of Trump’s presidency, 2017. …

19 July
007 things the chief of MI6 told POLITICO
In an interview, Richard Moore discusses the pressures facing Putin, recruiting Russian agents, and why China is still the biggest threat.
On the 55th anniversary of the Prague Spring, the head of Britain’s secret intelligence service sat down with POLITICO’s Anne McElvoy — a journalist with deep experience reporting from behind the Iron Curtain — to talk about Russia, Wagner warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin, China and AI in spycraft.
In the rare exclusive interview, Richard Moore issued a thinly veiled recruitment call to Russians who’ve become disillusioned with their leadership while assessing that President Vladimir Putin was “under pressure” internally after a mutiny by mercenaries exposed his weakness.
“Join hands with us — our door is always open,” Moore — known as “C” inside the agency — said in a speech at a POLITICO event hosted by the British embassy in Prague.

17 July
An Arctic ‘Great Game’ as NATO allies and Russia face off in far north
(WaPo) For several years now, European and U.S. security and intelligence officials have been keeping a closer eye on the world above the Arctic Circle, knowing that melting polar ice will open new trade routes, propel a race for natural resources and reshape global security
In the past year, Norwegian media outlets have reported about drones buzzing airports and oil and gas installations, the expulsion of Russian diplomats as spies, and the case of a man accused of illegal intelligence gathering while posing as a Brazilian guest researcher at a Norwegian university.
In wake of Ukraine war, U.S. and allies are hunting down Russian spies
For NATO allies, “a flashing yellow light turned red, and we need to think more carefully,” said a senior U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss alliance thinking. “Countries need to be sharing more information on destabilizing actions, on things that look strange, and we need to be less naive and more aware.”
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.

13 July
The Essential John le Carré
By Sam Adler-Bell
His clever, melancholic mind produced some of the most enduring heroes in spy fiction. Here are his best books.
… Familiar characters enter and exit under new names. Crooked fathers and anguished sons abound, as do apathetic, listless wives and love affairs with foreign beauties. These occasionally rote proceedings are elevated by his themes (loyalty, betrayal, nostalgia, belonging, fraternity and patriotism), by his plots and by his sentences.
And, of course, by George Smiley. Le Carré’s donnish, bespectacled hero arrives in his first novel, “Call for the Dead” (1961). Brilliant and dowdy, savvy but cuckolded, Smiley is le Carré’s mordant answer to James Bond.

10 July
Spain closes Pegasus investigation over ‘lack of cooperation’ from Israel
Judge looking into alleged hacking of ministers’ phones with NSO Group spyware says Israel has not responded to requests
(The Guardian) A Spanish judge investigating the alleged hacking of ministers’ phones with Pegasus spyware has shelved his investigation over a “complete” lack of cooperation from Israel, a court statement said on Monday.
In June 2022, José Luis Calama said he had sent a formal request for international judicial assistance, known as a letter rogatory, to the Israeli government asking for information about the software made by the Israeli firm NSO Group.
He also said he wanted to go there in person to take a witness statement from NSO’s chief executive.
But on Monday, the Audiencia Nacional, Spain’s top criminal court, said Calama had decided to provisionally close the case “due to the complete lack of legal cooperation from Israel, which has not responded to the rogatory commission … and has prevented the investigation from going ahead”.
30 May 2022
Over 200 Spanish mobile numbers ‘possible targets of Pegasus spyware’
Data leak reveals scale of potential surveillance by NSO Group client believed to be Morocco

27 June
Intelligence and Russia’s Pseudo-Coup (subscription)
Yet again, the spooks come through for Western policymakers trying to decipher riddles wrapped in mysteries inside enigmas
John Schindler
(Top Secret Umbra) Even by impressively high Russian standards for weirdness, last weekend witnessed a strange series of events unfold in that country at war. Tensions that had been building inside Russia’s military machine over the last 18 months, as the Kremlin tried and failed to subdue Ukraine at an appalling cost in lives and treasure, finally burst forth in public. … After months of bearing much of the brunt of Russia’s diffident yet bloody war against its neighbor, the battle-scarred mercenaries of the Wagner Group took up arms against the state, their ostensible boss.
… As of today, Minsk reports that Prigozhin is their guest, while how many Wagner fighters have taken sanctuary with him in Belarus is unclear. Illustrating just how strange this whole operation was, Wagner fighters deployed abroad, serving as semi-deniable cut-outs for Russian military intelligence or GRU, particularly in Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America, remain in action and loyal to Moscow, asserts the Kremlin. It’s difficult to see how mercenaries attempting a coup against the state can be deemed fully loyal to that state just one day later, but Russia has never been a normal country.

24 June
‘All it takes is one click’: Chief cyberspy warns Canadians to protect themselves from online crime

22 June
Draft EU plans to allow spying on journalists are dangerous, warn critics
Move to allow spyware to be placed on reporters’ phones would have a ‘chilling effect’, say media experts
Draft legislation published by EU leaders that would allow national security agencies to spy on journalists has been condemned by media and civic society groups as dangerous and described by a leading MEP as “incomprehensible”.
On Wednesday, the European Council published a draft of the European Media Freedom Act that would allow spyware to be placed on journalists’ phones if a national government thought it necessary.
The Dutch MEP Sophie in’t Veld, who has overseen the European parliament’s investigation into the use of Pegasus spyware on journalists and public figures, said the claim that permission to spy on the press was needed in the interests of national security was “a lie”.
“I think what the council is doing is unacceptable. It’s also incomprehensible. Well, it’s incomprehensible if they are serious about democracy,” said In ‘t Veld.
The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), which represents more than 300,000 members of the press in 45 countries including the UK, accused EU leaders of holding the principles of media freedom in “dangerous disregard”.

19 June
Russia Sought to Kill Defector in Florida
A failed plot to assassinate a C.I.A. spy in 2020 in part led to expulsions of the agency’s chief in Moscow and his Russian counterpart in Washington.
(NYT) As President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has pursued enemies abroad, his intelligence operatives now appear prepared to cross a line that they previously avoided: trying to kill a valuable informant for the U.S. government on American soil.
The clandestine operation, seeking to eliminate a C.I.A. informant in Miami who had been a high-ranking Russian intelligence official more than a decade earlier, represented a brazen expansion of Mr. Putin’s campaign of targeted assassinations. It also signaled a dangerous low point even between intelligence services that have long had a strained history.
“The red lines are long gone for Putin,” said Marc Polymeropoulos, a former C.I.A. officer who oversaw operations in Europe and Russia. “He wants all these guys dead.”
The target was Aleksandr Poteyev, a former Russian intelligence officer who disclosed information that led to a yearslong F.B.I. investigation that in 2010 ensnared 11 spies living under deep cover in suburbs and cities along the East Coast. They had assumed false names and worked ordinary jobs as part of an ambitious attempt by the S.V.R., Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, to gather information and recruit more agents.

14 June
Hollywood producer and chewing gum heir explore takeover of notorious spyware firm assets
Robert Simonds and William ‘Beau’ Wrigley consider acquiring assets of NSO, blacklisted Israeli company behind Pegasus spyware
An unlikely cast of characters including a Hollywood producer and the heir to the Wrigley chewing gum fortune are exploring a possible bid to take control of assets owned by NSO Group, the Israeli company behind one of the world’s most sophisticated cyber-weapons.
NSO, which is closely regulated by Israel’s ministry of defence, sells its spyware to government clients around the world. It has faced intense scrutiny in the US, where the Biden administration in 2021 took the extraordinary step of placing the company on a blacklist and accused it of selling software tools that “enabled foreign governments to conduct transnational repression”.

11 January
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
23 July 2021
How NSO became the company whose software can spy on the world
This week, the Pegasus project, a media collaboration that included the Guardian and was coordinated by the French media group Forbidden Stories, revealed new allegations of abuse, with leaked records showing the phone numbers of journalists, dissidents and political activists.
NSO has said it sells its spyware tool – called Pegasus – to government clients for use in fighting serious crime, like terrorism, and that it investigates credible allegations of abuse.

6 June
A Convocation of Spies
By George Friedman –
Over the past weekend, major global media outlets revealed that the heads of intelligence of about two dozen countries held a (formerly) secret meeting in Singapore and had in fact been held annually for several years. The venue for the talks was the Shangri-La Hotel, also the meeting place for a large, widely known conference called the Shangri-La Dialogue, involving about 600 representatives from around the world. Such conferences, perhaps usually smaller, are common gatherings of government officials and others who want to be and are allowed to be there.
Among the roughly 24 intelligence chiefs at the informal meeting were the heads of U.S. and Chinese intelligence. India’s top intelligence chief was also present, as were chiefs from the Five Eyes network (the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand), but no other attendees were identified. It was noted that Russia was not represented – whether by its choice or by the organizers’ exclusion is unclear.
Robert Hanssen, most damaging spy in FBI history, dies in prison
Robert Hanssen, a former FBI special agent who accepted $1.4 million in cash and diamonds in exchange for information he gave the Soviet Union and then Russia has been found dead in a Colorado penitentiary. Author David Vise and The World’s Marco Werman discuss Hanssen’s crimes.
Robert Hanssen: The fake job that snared FBI agent who spied for Moscow
Robert Hanssen was one of the most damaging spies in the history of the FBI. The former US agent, who has died in prison, leaked top secrets to Moscow for nearly 20 years – betrayals that the agency says cost lives. It took 300 agents to finally bring him down. Two of them who played a central part tell us how they did it.
In December 2000, FBI agent Richard Garcia had a curious visit from a colleague overseeing the Russia desk.
“He asked, ‘Do you know a guy named Robert Hanssen?'” Mr Garcia recalled. “I said, ‘No’.”
The official responded: “Good. Because you’re about to.”
A few months later, in part thanks to Mr Garcia’s covert work, the whole country would as well. Hanssen’s arrest in February 2001 sent shockwaves through the intelligence community and the extent of his double life burst on to the front pages.

1 May
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.

27 April
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.
8-13 April
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.
9 April
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

30 March
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.

16 March
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.

21 February
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

18 February
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.

17 February
In wake of Ukraine war, U.S. and allies are hunting down Russian spies
(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.
U.S. and European security officials caution that Russia retains significant capabilities but said that its spy agencies have sustained greater damage over the past year than at any time since the end of the Cold War. The magnitude of the campaign appears to have caught Russia off-guard, officials said, blunting its services’ ability to carry out influence operations in Europe, stay in contact with informants, or provide insights to the Kremlin on key issues, including the extent to which Western leaders are prepared to continue stepping up arms deliveries to Ukraine.

16 February
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

4-16 February
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.

24 January
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.

19 January
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.

19 January
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.

17 January
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 SecretsHow 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.

16 January
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”.

3-11 January
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.


31 December
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.

12 December
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.

1 December
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

14 November
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.

10 October
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.

14 September
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.

6 September
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?

4 September
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 September 2022-November 2023"

  1. Alexander Cor January 26, 2023 at 7:20 am ·

    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.

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