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

Monday, June 24, 2013

Snowden and Ecuador: The Mouse is Roaring

Former George W. Bush homeland security advisor Fran Townsend and others say Washington can punish Ecuador for sheltering WikiLeaks' Julian Assange and now, perhaps, Edward Snowden. by not renewing a free trade agreement, due to expire next month, or by applying economic sanctions. But others say the tiny Andean nation has nothing to risk in standing up to Washington and that, ironically, its powerful neighbor to the north has almost no leverage to make it pay. And that's probably fine with the thousands of Americans who have made lovely, cosmopolitan Ecuador their second home.  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.

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.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

CIA's Pick to Run Spies: No Woman No Cry

The CIA's pick to head the CIA's National Clandestine Service was identified in a tweet Wednesday as Francis (Frank) Archibald, 57, head of the Latin America Division since about 2011 and a paramilitary specialist.
READ MORE, here.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Scribbling Spies: Former CIA Officers Present Books at National Archives

Three legendary spooks and a biographer are talking about their books at an all-day espionage literary fair Saturday at the National Archives in Washington, and I'm lucky enough to be their presenter.

It's free. Come on down!

If you can't, the fair, jointly sponsored by the Archives and the International Spy Museum, will also be webcast live (then immediately archived) on the National Archives UStream channel.

The luminaries of the dark-arts will include:

Monday, April 15, 2013

FBI Sleuths Investigating South Korean Spies Find an Agent from the North


North Korea's lone registered agent in the United States is a liquor salesman with curious ties to U.S.-based spies from Seoul, it turns out.

Call it a deep kimchi spy mystery.

According to a fascinating yarn by Talking Points Memo's Hunter Walker, Ill Woo Park is “a 64-year-old South Korean national with legal permanent resident status in the United States,” to wit, Upper Manhattan. 

Park’s business, Korea Pyongyang Trading U.S.A., Inc.'s main import is soju, a North Korean “traditional liquor.”  Indeed, TPM reports Park’s “business was based on what he regularly described as extensive connections to the North Korean government.”

But here's the odd twist: FBI agents got onto Kim when they were investigating possible South Korean spies on American soil in 2007.  Park was arrested and brought to federal court for “multiple counts of lying to FBI agents.”

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Did NASA Spy's Stolen Secrets Reach Israel?

Former NASA employee Stewart Nozette was convicted and sentenced to 13 years in prison last year for selling classified information to an undercover FBI agent.

The federal prosecutor, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Ron Machen, claimed that Nozette did not actually pass secrets to Israel.  But a videotape of Nozette meeting with the undercover agent and other documents filed in court refute that claim, according to Grant F. Smith of the Institute for Research: Middle East Policy, an organization devoted to uncovering Israeli espionage here.

The redacted video, which Smith obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and posted on You Tube, "reveals Nozette appearing to say he sold classified U.S. government information to 'Israeli Aircraft,' also known as Israel Aerospace Industries, or IAI," Smith writes.

"He appears to say, 'Israel Aircraft program alone, I gave them samples, technical specifications, whole files...'" Smith adds. "Nozette mentions he kept stolen classified information on hard disks in safety deposit boxes." He asked the agent for one percent of the $200 million R & D costs.

No one else was prosecuted in the case.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Veteran Spy Sulick Makes a Rare Public Appearance

William Colby, a lifetime covert CIA operator who ascended to the leadership of the agency during its troubled 1970s, once said that the ideal spy had a “face a waiter would forget.”

Mike Sulick probably qualifies, on several counts. He spent decades in the shadows, from the back alleys of the Cold War to the executive suites of the CIA. But unless you’re an intelligence insider, or a member of one of the oversight committees in Congress, you’ve probably never heard of him.

Only rarely has his name gotten into the press. Most prominently in 2004, Sulick told one of the right-wingers who arrived with Porter Goss to run the agency to go to hell. The aide then demanded that Sulick be fired, but his boss, another longtime covert operative named Steve Kappes, refused. Both men quit--and both returned to the agency in triumph in 2006 after the right-wingers were expelled. From 2007 to 2010 Sulick was chief of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, the home of the spies.

All of which would seem to make Sulick the perfect author of a book called  “Spying in America.” But don’t expect any big revelations, backbiting, or tales of his own derring-do. The book’s subtitle is “Espionage from the Revolutionary War to the Dawn of the Cold War.” And a virtual textbook it is, by a pro's pro.

Sulick’s point is a simple one: Whether you approve or not, whatever your thoughts about the CIA's record, espionage has played a vital role in the foreign and military policies of the United States and its enemies. The failure of our spies -- and theirs -- can turn victory into defeat.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Spy Masters and Covert Affairs

A chief of the CIA's operations wing after 9/11 was caught on a security camera in an agency garage getting oral sex from a female subordinate, according to a widely circulated story. It didn't dent his reputation, perhaps because he was poorly regarded anyway, three agency sources said, and already on the way out.

Likewise, one of the CIA's chiefs of station in Baghdad after the 2003 invasion was "notorious for sleeping with subordinates," as one senior ex-agency official put it, in an account echoed by several other sources over the years. "He was put in the penalty box a couple of times," the source said, "but it was never never anything fatal," despite the written complaints of at least one woman serving there. He went on to to other higher-ranking agency jobs.

Read my whole piece at Foreign Policy online.

Gmail Sharing & Other Old Spy Tricks

As it turns out, the Gmail trick David Petraeus and his paramour used to hide their correspondence is one commonly employed by CIA field operatives when agency bosses turn down their pleas for more sophisticated gear to communicate with their foreign spies.
See the rest of my piece at Foreign Policy magazine online.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Kiriakou Plea Provokes Bitter Name-Calling Among Lawyers

Is John Kiriakou a leaker or a patriotic whistleblower?  Some rare, public name-calling among lawyers close to the case has broken out over the question.

Some of the ex-CIA man’s most fervent supporters claim the government is persecuting a patriot who helped expose CIA water boarding and the other “enhanced interrogation techniques” many people equate with torture.

The Justice Department begs to differ, of course. It argues the case is simple: Kiriakou “repeatedly” disclosed classified information and the names of covert CIA employees to journalists.

So far, it has been winning. Kiriakou’s lawyers last week lost a key pre-trial ruling when the judge in the case said the feds would not have to prove that Kiriakou meant harm to the United States by exposing the interrogation program to public scrutiny.  

That set-back, apparently, led his lawyers to seek a plea deal with the feds, which one source said might amount to two-and-a-half years in prison. A hearing is scheduled for 11 tomorrow morning in federal court in Alexandria, Va.

[Update: Kiriakou and the Justice Department finalized the deal in court on Tuesday, the former CIA man pleading guilty to one count of illegally disclosing the identity of a covert agent. He's expected to spend 30 months in prison.] 

Even as a plea deal was only rumored, Kiriakou’s most staunch defenders were denouncing his lawyers, which include famed Washington defense attorney Plato Cacheris, for taking it.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

CIA’s Secret Fear: High-Tech Border Checks Will Blow Spies’ Cover

Biometric passports, electronic fingerpint files, iris scanners . . .   That's great for catching terrorists, maybe. But what's a CIA agent with false papers gonna do?

Read my whole piece on the untended hurdles for the good guys' spies at WIRED's Danger Room page.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

China Hardly Needs Spies When It's Allowed into Our Computers

An brief story buried in the New York Times business pages suggests that China could be piping your personal data into its computers back in Beijing.

Monday night’s story by Nicole Perlroth and John Markoff, which appeared in print today, was innocuously headlined “Symantec Dissolves a Chinese Alliance,” suggesting it was run-the-mill industry news.

Maybe it is in Silicon Valley, but it astonished me.

“Less than four years after Huawei Technologies and Symantec teamed up to develop computer network security products, the joint venture is being dismantled because Symantec feared the alliance with the Chinese company would prevent it from obtaining United States government classified information about cyberthreats.”

Now, I may be the last person outside Silicon Valley to know it, but I was startled to learn that the world’s dominant supplier of software to protect home consumer and business computers from unauthorized entry was in cahoots with a company in China, the world’s nest of hacking vipers.

And Huawei is not just any Chinese company, it turns out.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

What's the CIA Up to in Syria?

Beats me. Hezbollah says Syria is lousy with CIA spies and saboteurs, augmented by “Blackwater” operatives.

Far more credible is a report Thursday's Washington Post that the CIA has a dim idea of what’s going on there.

“Intelligence on Assad’s regime and its intentions has been fragmentary or out of focus,” the Post’s authoritative Greg Miller reported, citing “senior U.S. officials.”

“The composition and capabilities of Syrian opposition forces remain unclear,” they told him. “And U.S. analysts have been unable to reach firm conclusions on key questions, including whether al-Qaeda was responsible for a series of bombings in Syria in recent months.”

Sigh. One wonders, again, what taxpayers are getting for the $55 billion they hand the CIA each year-- roughly double what it was before 9/11.

When Rep. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, says intelligence is “a mixed bag in Syria and probably rates on the low-acuity side,” you know it’s bad.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

What Makes Spies Tick?

On a rainy day in the spring of 1967, I shuffled into a classroom at the U.S. Army Intelligence School at Fort Holabird, Md., in a grimy industrial area of East Baltimore. There were about 30 of us, mostly college graduates, including newly minted lawyers and a few erstwhile hippies who had received draft notices.

It was the first day of a seven-month course blandly titled “Area Studies.”

In fact, we were going to learn to be spies.

Click here for a sneak peek at my piece in this Sunday's Washington Post Magazine.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: Taking Out the Trash

Many years ago a top CIA intelligence-analysis official, Richard Kerr, was needling one of his counterparts on the secret operations side of the agency.

The most highly prized accomplishment for both sides, Kerr jibed, was recruiting a turncoat in each other's ranks.

“All you guys do is take in each other’s laundry, don’t you?” Kerr asked his friend, Milt Bearden, with a smile. “You just go after KGB guys.”

Not much had  changed through the decades, Kerr suggested.

“The truth was,” Bearden related, “I had no answer to that.”

Monday, October 31, 2011

Can't Get Enough Anna Chapman?

The world can’t seem to get enough of Anna Chapman. Here she is in the flesh, so to speak, meeting with an undercover agent, in a secret FBI surveillance video released Monday.

Alas, the video will likely disappoint Chapman fans looking for the sultry Russian spy-temptress whose sexy outfits and red pouty lips made her an international star after her arrest in June 2010.

For her undated coffee shop-espionage assignation recorded by the FBI, she showed up in a dowdy white tee shirt and slacks. The bureau also posted a dozen more surveillance videos of the Russians spies in action.

Not to worry: Chapman keeps her followers happy on her own Facebook page--undoubtedly with an assist from Russian intelligence.

Not everybody’s a fan, though. According to news reports, when she showed up to give a lecture last month at St. Petersburg State University, students heckled and denounced her, carrying banners that said, "You have nothing to teach us!" and "Kremlin and pornography, out!"

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Germany Spies on Americans, Too

You might want to send the kids out of the room before you read this.

Sitting down?

Here it is: German intelligence spies on Americans.

No, not Nazi Germany. Today. Now.

I’m prompted to reveal this by a headlines-generating report Monday in a German magazine that “U.S. intelligence agencies collected highly personal information” on their West German, and after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, just German, allies.

“Staff at the Central Intelligence Agency were expected to keep tabs on communist East German spies during the Cold War, but U.S. documents show they were doing the same to their supposed friends at West Germany's Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND),” according to an English-language summary of a story in the weekly magazine Focus.

The “recently released documents” were not further identified.

“Office politics within the BND as well as details of personal factors such as alcoholism and infidelity were carefully noted, as well as health information such as which agents had suffered heart attacks, the magazine reported.”

Deeper down, the story notes that there was good reason for the CIA’s interest in the BND: It was riddled with former Nazis -- some of whom it wanted to recruit for itself--not to mention Russian moles.

“Even after the fall of communism in 1989, the spying continued into the 1990s, with those BND agents with a Nazi past in particular attracting attention,” the magazine reported. “Two former SS members were drafted into a sabotage unit of NATO, according to the papers.”

The story goes on to say that “the BND did not seem surprised by the idea of being spied upon by the CIA, with a former BND counterintelligence expert telling the magazine that he and his colleagues had often thought such operations were being undertaken.”

Why, yes, there would be little surprise at the BND, if only because its agents were spying on Americans, too. It’s what spying outfits do: Spy.  On friends and enemies alike. Or in a hunt for enemies buried in the ranks of our friends.

"It was not a one-way street," said a former CIA officer.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

CIA Explanation for Pak Informant Arrests Not Convincing

Imagine U.K. commandos swooping into a Long Island suburb to snatch--or even assassinate--an Irish Republican Army terrorist.

There would be outrage, of course, no doubt led by Rep. Peter King, the Long Island Republican who has been a longtime supporter of the IRA.

The  scenario is far-fetched, sure. But it offers a rough explanation for Americans to understand how Pakistanis feel about the U.S. raid that killed Osama Bin Laden.

Right or wrong, the SEALs and the CIA violated Pakistani sovereignty-- big time.  So did the CIA when it recruited Pakistani citizens--including an army major, according to reports--as spies to keep an eye on Bin Laden’s compound and support the raid in other ways.

Let’s face it: Cut down to its essentials, the CIA’s core mission--espionage--involves turning foreign citizens into traitors.