spies, national security, espionage, counterterrorism, u.s. foreign policy, intelligence operations, CIA, special forces, counterterrorism, terrorism
Showing posts with label cia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cia. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

James Lunn, Desert Faux

It had all the elements of a true life thriller: a retired US military officer caught in the dangerous North Sinai desert with advanced electronic gear.

In the context of Navy SEALs and CIA agents roaming the globe hunting for al-Qaeda terrorists and their allies, it seemed entirely plausible that an American spy would be caught at some point in that extremely volatile, dangerous region.

Adding to the mystery, the US Embassy in Cairo declined to say anything about James Henry Lunn other than that he had been found dead Sunday in his jail cell in Ismailya, Egypt. Local authorities called his death a suicide, saying that Lunn had hung himself in his cell with a shoe laces. They also called him a “retired military officer,” but the embassy denied that, too.

As it turns out, however, the fevered speculation about what the 66-year-old American was doing in the northern Sinai turned out to be almost entirely fantastical.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Frank Archibald is a nice guy in a killer job--literally. Last May the affable, hulking former Clemson University football player, 57, was named head of the CIA's National Clandestine Service, which is home to the agency's spies and hunter-killer teams, like the ones dispatched to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya and elsewhere in search of al Qaeda and other terrorist spore.

Not that you've seen his name all over the news.  Read more about Archibald in my debut column for the new Newsweek.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Former CIA Official Urges Smarter, Harder Ops in Syria

Both supporters and critics of covert US aid to Syrian rebels say it's almost impossible to separate the good guys from the bad guys in the opposition. Charles "Sam" Faddis, who led an agency paramilitary team into northern Iraq in advance of the 2003 US invasion, begs to differ. 

"It’s the job of a case officer in this situation to scout the ground," Faddis told me in an interview. "It’s also his job to shape it. Leverage his influence. Sabotage his enemies. Outmaneuver and out-think the other guy. When did we become so impotent and reduced to saying 'it’s hard' and these guys 'don’t play nice'? READ MORE HERE.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Obama's Intel Chief Clapper Sails from Gafffe to Shining Gaffe

For someone tasked with being the nation’s top intelligence officer, James Clapper seems to get an awful lot wrong—and in so many ways.  From lying about the NSA's tracking of Americans' web habits to threats from Iran and North Korea to, 20 years ago, his reorganization of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the retired general sails on, from gaffe to shining gaffe. Yet the DNI is still a starter on the Obama team's "full court press" to sell Capitol Hill on bombing Syria.  How could that be?  READ MORE HERE.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

CIA Mole Hunters to Surface in TV Drama

“The bottom line,” Sandra Grimes said Thursday, “is I’m thrilled, and believe that Jeanne—if she were still alive—would be happy too.”

No doubt.  Grimes and her late CIA colleague Jeanne Vertefeuille were mole hunters, the kind of people who labor in obscurity, in the dark, figuratively speaking, in their hunt for enemy spies in the ranks.

Now their effort is finally going to get its due, in a ABC-TV miniseries.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

National Security Reporting Under Fire

A federal appeals court's decision last Friday compelling New York Times reporter James Risen to identify the source for a chapter in his 2006 book, State of War, about a CIA operation that went awry, is just the latest big blow in the government's assault on press freedom--a pillar of the Constitution.  Read more here.

Monday, July 22, 2013

CIA Agent Wanted in Italy Kidnapping Not Likely to Face Extradition

Bob Lady was not the sharpest knife in the CIA’s drawer.  When he got a tip that Italian cops were coming for him in 2005,  the erstwhile Milan base chief fled his villa without destroying his classified files on the agency’s “extraordinary rendition” of an al Qaeda suspect two years earlier. 

The cops got everything -- including the agency’s surveillance photos of the target -- and for the Italian prosecutor, it was a slam dunk case after that. In the end, 22 Americans, all but one CIA operatives, were charged with kidnapping.

Lady, a career CIA officer, was one of those convicted in absentia and sentenced to nine years in jail (later reduced to six years in a general amnesty).

“Of course it was an illegal operation,” Lady told Italy’s Il Giornale newspaper later. “But that’s our job. We’re at war against terrorism.”  

Last December, Italy’s justice minister signed a warrant for his arrest. When he was detained in Panama last week, it seemed that, finally, someone was going to pay for the kidnapping of Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, better known as Abu Omar, who was whisked off a Milan street in 2003 and ferried to Egypt for a brutal interrogation.

But Lady, under circumstances that remain murky, was allowed to get on a plane for the United States. And if the case of Ray Davis is any guide, the feckless former spy  will not spend a day in Italy any time soon, much less in an Italian prison.

And he shouldn’t.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Italy's Justice Minister will have two months to file a request from Panama for the extradition of Robert Seldon Lady, Italian sources say--plenty of time for Obama administration officials to pressure Italy to drop its pursuit of the fugitive ex-CIA officer.

Under pressure from the Bush administration, the Justice Ministry rebuffed previous prosecutors' extradition requests.

Lady was the CIA's Milan base chief when agency operatives kidnapped (or "renditioned," at the U.S. prefers) a suspected al Qaeda operative from the city to a brutal interrogation in Egypt. Italian counterterrorism police broke open the case when the al Qaeda operative phoned his wife in Italy and disclosed his kidnapping by Americans.

Last December Italy's former justice minister, Paola Severino, authorized an international arrest warrant only for Lady, one of 22 CIA operatives convicted in absentia in the case, according to Italian media reports today.

Prosecutors in Milan had requested a warrant for the others, but Severino granted the warrant only for Lady, according to reports today in Il Fatto Quotidiano and Il Corriere della Sera.

Friday, July 12, 2013


With his request for Russian asylum, the NSA whistleblower has pulled up a chair at a high stakes game of Texas Hold 'Em with Vladimir Putin.  The ex-KGB agent seems to have the best cards. READ MORE HERE.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Blackwater Book Flap

Eric Prince's ghostwriter threatens suit against the former big-time private security contractor for screwing him out of a memoir deal--and dishes on the ex-Navy SEAL's private torments.  READ MORE HERE.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


"John Doe," an active-duty paramilitary operative, says that the spy agency is pursuing a baseless war crimes investigation against him to ruin his career, because it did not approve of "activities he was engaged in overseas that some believed later should not have taken place," according to his attorney. READ MORE HERE.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Former CIA operator Frank Snepp's revelations of how the spy agency deserted files and friends in its hasty 1975 exit from Vietnam created a media firestorm three decades ago, not unlike the one enveloping NSA leaker Edward Snowden and reporters today.

Enraged by Snepp's temerity, President Jimmy Carter's CIA and Justice Department went after him with hammer and tong.  

"The only thing separating Snowden himself from legal immolation, I believe, is the possible difficulty of extraditing him from [Hong Kong]," Snepp told me.  READ MORE HERE.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Snowden's Fate: Three Days of the Condor?

James Grady's "Six Days of the Condor," the book about a CIA researcher on the run that inspired the riveting Robert Redford-Faye Dunaway film, captured the paranoia of the Watergate era.

Today, Grady weighed in at SpyTalk about renegade ex-NSA computer geek Edward Snowden and his situation:

He has four choices:  Go rogue and traitor to China (who might turn him over to us anyway as a phony gesture of good will), hope that some country somewhere will take him in with sanctuary, or hope that being a celebrity whistleblower will result in him not getting sentenced big time (poor bet) or prosecuted because a trial could reveal more than he already has.

Unless, of course, he's far smarter than we think, in which case, he spent months building a new identity BEFORE he first contacted any journalist, and now is going to turn a corner in Hong Kong and become Mister Jones who's been long scheduled for some dental and facial augmentation surgery. 

But the thing is, unless he's capitalized on this somehow, he's boxed himself up no matter what he did or does.


"Argo" this ain't. More like "Three Days of the Condor."

Edward Snowden is on his own, it appears. The CIA is hunting, not helping him.

So what's he do?  SpyTalk found several former CIA operatives to muse on what they'd do if they were in the NSA leaker's shoes.

Run, Edward, run! READ MORE HERE.

UPDATE: Russia says its would consider an asylum request from Snowden.

Monday, June 10, 2013

China's Snowden Dilemma

China has 1.3 billion reasons not to welcome NSA mega-leaker Edward Snowden. But it may well decide, in the end, to make lemonade from the lemon, and let Hong Kong keep him. READ MORE HERE.  

Monday, June 3, 2013

Chile Murder Mystery

If famed Chilean poet Pablo Neruda was assassinated in his hospital bed 40 years ago, as prosecutors in Santiago now suspect, the killer was almost certainly not Michael Townley, the US-born operative named in widespread news reports.

Keep reading...

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Jeremy Scahill's War

Jeremy Scahill's "Dirty Wars: The World is A Battlefield," a deep-dive account of U.S. counterterrorism tactics, has become an improbable 642-page best-seller. Next Friday, June 7, a full-length documentary film version of the book starring the author opens in Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, DC.

SpyTalk caught up to Scahill a week ahead of the opening, with seven questions about his critical take on US drone strikes and kill/capture missions by special operations troops. Read the interview here.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Father, Son, CIA

Read an advance copy of my rave review of Scott C. Johnson's "The Wolf and the Watchman," which will appear in Sunday's Washington Post, here.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Rogue Agent: Marty Martin's Less Public Roles

Marty Martin took bows at Sundance for his role as a top CIA counterterrorism operative, dramatized in the riveting HBO documentary "Manhunt."  But he's also been popping up in less savory, little noticed roles since 2007, including, now, an FBI investigation into shadowy right-wing forces behind allegations that New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat, patronized prostitutes in the Dominican Republic.  Apparently you can take Marty Martin out of the CIA, but you can't take the CIA out of him.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wigged Out in Moscow

Everybody take a breath.

There's nothing special about the Russian security service's bust of a reported American spy -- beyond the weird paraphernalia that the FSB says it captured with the suspect, one Ryan C. Fogle, officially third secretary at the American embassy.

Ted Danson wouldn't be caught dead in one of those wigs.

READ MORE, here.