Fearing Soviet invasion, FBI trained Alaskan spies, files show

Russia, Alaska, CanadaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The United States government set up a secret network of citizen-spies in Alaska in response to concerns that the Soviet Union was planning to invade the territory, newly declassified documents show. The documents, dating from 1950, were given to the Associated Press by The Government Attic, a website specializing in publishing US government files obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests. The news agency said on Sunday that the Federal Bureau of Investigation decided to set up the secret network of agents in the 1950s, after it was warned by the US Air Force that a Soviet invasion of Alaska was “a real possibility”. One FBI memo from the time stressed the likelihood that Moscow would stage an airborne invasion of what was then the US territory of Alaska, using “bombing and the dropping of paratroopers”. Responding to such concerns, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover authorized Operation WASHTUB, which involved the establishment of a “stay-behind” force of nearly 100 citizen-agents recruited from the local population. The operation, which was also known by several other codenames, including CORPUSCLE, STIGMATIC and CATBOAT, was headed by Hoover protégé Joseph F. Carroll, of the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations. From 1951 to 1959, the OSI, in association with the FBI, recruited Alaskan woodmen, fishermen, pilots, and others, paying them up to $3,000 a year (nearly $30,000 in today’s currency), a sum which was to be doubled following a Soviet invasion. The “stay-behind” agents were to retreat to predetermined hideouts throughout Alaska, unearth hidden caches of food, survival supplies, and communications facilities, and transmit information about Soviet movements. The Associated Press report suggests that the concept of stay-behind agents in Alaska was novel in those early stages of the Cold War. But the report fails to mention Operation GLADIO, the stay-behind program instituted by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Europe, which appears to have preceded Operation WASHTUB by at least two years. Read more of this post

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FBI searched for Soviet atom bombs in 1950s’ New York, files show

Redacted page from FBI filesBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
American authorities suspected that Soviet intelligence had smuggled atom bombs in New York City and that Moscow was planning to detonate them “at an expedient time”, according to declassified documents. The revelation comes from a set of internal FBI files, which were declassified and released in redacted form in 2010. Copies of the documents, which date from the early 1950s, were posted (.pdf) on The Government Attic, a website specializing in publishing US government files obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests. The documents were then noticed last week by The Village Voice‘s Anna Merlan. The file (.pdf), titled “Atomic Bomb in Unknown Consulate, New York City”, is nearly 80 pages-long. It indicates that the search for a supposed Soviet atomic weapon in New York began shortly after the summer of 1950, when the FBI received a tip from a source in Brazil. The source reportedly told the Bureau that Soviet operatives had “placed an atom bomb in a consulate [...] in New York City to be detonated at such time as the Soviets consider expedient”. The problem was that the FBI was not aware of the identity of the consulate, which was presumed to belong to the USSR or to a country politically aligned with it. The Bureau thus actively engaged in searching for the bomb during the years of 1951 and 1952. The search was primarily conducted by the FBI’s informants in various communist-bloc consulates and agencies in New York, including the Soviet mission to the United Nations, located on Park Avenue, as well as the Polish, Hungarian and Czechoslovakian missions, located a few blocks away from their Soviet equivalent, on East 67th Street. The FBI also appears to have mobilized its informants inside the Soviet government-run Amtorg Trading Corporation, which handled the USSR’s trade with foreign countries, as well as the Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union (TASS) offices at Rockefeller Plaza. A clandestine search was also conducted at the Soviet diplomatic mission’s retreat on Long Island. American customs agents were also notified to keep their eyes open for oddly shaped diplomatic packages “which appear to be suspiciously heavy in proportion to their dimensions”. Read more of this post

FBI kept tabs on Mandela’s first-ever visit to the US, files show

Nelson MandelaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation has released for the first time some of its internal files on the late South African leader Nelson Mandela. Among other things, the documents reveal that the Bureau closely monitored Mandela’s first ever visit to the United States in 1990. The legendary black campaigner arrived in the United States in June of that year, just four months following his release from prison after 27 years of captivity. The FBI documents include a redacted memorandum from the Bureau’s field office in Atlanta, Georgia, addressed to William Sessions, who was the FBI’s Director at the time. The memorandum notes that the Bureau had been able to recruit an informant inside, or closely affiliated with, Mandela’s inner circle. The source had provided his FBI handlers with a detailed itinerary of Mandela’s 11-day US tour. The memorandum stresses that the “confidential source” was “newly opened” and thus his or her “reliability [was] not yet established”. But Mandela’s travel itinerary, which had apparently been planned by a member of staff in the office of Coretta Scott King, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow, was carefully dissected by the FBI. The documents show that the Bureau’s principal concern was safeguarding the life of the South African political leader, who had received countless death threats in the days prior to his arrival. According to the declassified files, the threats originated from various racist skinhead and neo-Nazi groups, the Ku Klux Klan, as well as a host of white supremacist organizations. But alongside its concern about “terrorist activity being directed” at the civil rights campaigner, the Bureau was obligated to monitor his activities on US soil because at that time Washington still designated the African National Congress, which Mandela led, as a “foreign terrorist organization”. The designation was finally lifted in 2008. Read more of this post

Court allows CIA to keep Cuba invasion document secret

Court documentsBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
The United States Central Intelligence Agency has successfully defended itself against a lawsuit that sought the release of a secret document detailing the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion. On April 17, 1961, a brigade of 1,300 CIA-funded and -trained anticommunist Cubans mounted a surprise assault on the Caribbean island. The failure of the operation prompted the CIA to produce a multi-volume report, whose fifth and final part was authored in the early 1980s by CIA resident-historian Jack Pfeiffer. The first four volumes of the history of the Invasion have been released to the public, one voluntarily by the CIA and three through Freedom of Information Act requests. George Washington University’s National Security Archive sued the CIA in 2011, eventually forcing the Agency to declassify Volumes I, II and IV of the report. This left Volume V, which is the subject of an ongoing dispute between historians and the CIA, going back to 2005. On Tuesday, the US Court of Appeals for the Circuit of the District of Columbia ruled in a split 2-1 decision that the CIA had the right to maintain the secrecy of the entire fifth volume of the report. The two judges that ruled in favor of the CIA’s position, Brett Kavanaugh and Stephen Williams, argued that the volume in question had been “rejected for inclusion in the final publication” of the CIA report. As such, it was not a finished product, but rather a draft manuscript and was therefore not subject to US declassification rules under the Freedom of Information Act. The judges added that, since the document was “predecisional and deliberative” in character, it should be granted the so-called “deliberative process privilege”. This clause stipulates that the authors of deliberative documents are entitled to concrete and long-lasting assurances that the draft documents they are producing will remain secret. This, said the two judges, would allow the authors to advise those who commission their work freely and candidly. Read more of this post

MI5 releases documents on Dutch double spy Mata Hari

Mata HariBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The British government has released a set of documents relating to the capture and eventual execution of Mata Hari, modern history’s most legendary female spy. Mata Hari was born Margaretha Geertruida Zelle in northern Holland in 1876. In 1895 she married Rudolf MacLeod, a Dutch Army Captain of Scottish descent serving the Dutch colonial administration of what is now Indonesia. She eventually divorced the alcoholic and abusive MacLeod, who was 20 years her senior, and joined the circus in Paris. Eventually she became wildly popular as an exotic dancer, a position that placed her in close contact with several influential men in France, including the millionaire industrialist Émile Étienne Guimet, who became her longtime lover. Several of her male devotees came from military backgrounds from various European countries. Most historians agree that by 1916 Zelle was working for French intelligence, gathering information from a host of German lovers. However, in February of the following year she was arrested by French counterintelligence officers in Paris and accused of spying on behalf of the German Empire. French prosecutors accused Zelle of having provided Berlin with tactical intelligence that cost the Triple Entente the lives of over 50,000 soldiers. A set of documents released this month by Britain’s Security Service, commonly known as MI5, reveal that allied intelligence operatives trailed the exotic dancer across several European countries before she was apprehended in Paris. They also allege that, while under French custody, the Dutch spy admitted that she had conducted espionage on behalf of the German Secret Service and that her codename was H21. She is also alleged to have admitted that she received payments of approximately 20,000 French francs for her servicse. The papers also suggest that Zelle admitted that several vials of invisible ink fond in her hotel suite had been given to her by her German handlers. However, the MI5 reports claim that the accused spy “never made a full confession” and “never gave away anyone” as her accomplice, leading the British author of the report to conclude that she must have been “working alone”. Read more of this post

More documents emerge on CIA effort to salvage Soviet submarine

Project AZORIANBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
New documents have emerged about a massive effort by the United States Central Intelligence Agency to recover a sunken Soviet nuclear submarine in the 1970s. This blog has written before about Project AZORIAN, a 1974 attempt to recover a Soviet submarine in 5,200 meters of water. The initiative cost the CIA over $800 million, which translates to something like $3 billion in today’s prices. It centered on an effort to salvage K-129, a Soviet Golf II class submarine that had suffered an internal explosion while on a routine patrol mission in the Pacific Ocean, in 1968. The explosion caused the vessel to sink along with the three nuclear ballistic missiles it was carrying and nearly 100 crew members, all of whom died in the incident. The Soviets initiated an immediate frantic effort to recover the vessel but gave up after two months, unable to bring it to the surface. After the Soviets abandoned the site, a number of CIA scientists proposed to undertake an American effort to recover the sunken submarine. This, they suggested, would allow Washington to study the design features of Soviet nuclear warheads, as well as obtain cryptographic hardware that could prove useful in deciphering Soviet naval codes. This prompted the launch of Project AZORIAN, which commenced in 1974, once the Agency secured the necessary funds. As we have indicated before, the recovery team nearly caused a nuclear explosion when the submarine split while being raised, and its body hit the ocean floor. The CIA prepared to enter a new phase of the project in 1975, aimed at launching a second attempt to raise the sunken vessel. But the attempt was cancelled when vague snippets of information about the project were leaked to the press. Nothing more emerged until 2010, when the CIA aired a heavily redacted article about the project, which had originally appeared in the 1980s in Studies in Intelligence, the Agency’s in-house publication. Now, however, intelligence historians are able to rely on 200 pages of mostly fresh information on Project AZORIAN, released under the US Department of State’s Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) program. Read more of this post

British spies infiltrated Nazi sympathizer groups, wartime files show

Page from MI5's Jack King filesBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A British counterintelligence agent managed to neutralize an extensive network of Nazi sympathizers in the United Kingdom by pretending to represent the German government, newly released files show. The documents, which were released this week by the British National Archives, identify the agent only as “Jack King”, which was the operational codename given to him by his handlers in the British Security Service, commonly known as MI5. Senior officials at the agency, which is tasked with counterintelligence, described “King” as “a genius” at luring in Nazi sympathizers in the UK. The files show that “King’s” work helped MI5 identify hundreds of residents in Britain —most of them British citizens— as committed Nazis who were prepared to pass national secrets to Berlin. The MI5 operative utilized his pro-German contacts in the southeast of England and was able to infiltrate pro-Nazi circles operating in and around London. He did so by posing as an agent of the Gestapo, Nazi Germany’s secret police. He quickly gained the trust of some of the most fervent pro-German activists operating in the British Isles. These included Edgar Whitehead, Hilda Leech and Marita Perigoe, a Swedish resident of the UK, who was so fervently pro-Nazi that she once dismissed Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists as “insufficiently extreme”. Many of these Nazi supporters pledged to “King” that they could be relied on to assist in the event of an invasion of Britain by Nazi forces. The files released by the National Archives show that “King” was well connected with British Nazis by 1942. Read more of this post

CIA declassifies 1978 Camp David Accord files

Sadat, Carter and BeginBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The United States Central Intelligence Agency has declassified 1,400 pages of intelligence files relating to the Camp David Accords, the historic peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, which was signed in 1978. The treaty, the first between Israel and an Arab country, was signed on September 17, following thirteen days of high-level negotiations between Egypt and Isarel at the Camp David presidential retreat in the US state of Maryland. The two signatories were Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. The high-level summit was hosted by US President Jimmy Carter. All three heads of state were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize later that year, which they shared for helping bring about the first peace treaty between an Arab nation and Israel. The 250 previously classified documents on the Accords, which were released by the CIA earlier this week, date from January 1977 to March 1979. They include comprehensive political assessments and personality profiles of President Sadat, Prime Minister Begin, and other key personalities participating at the summit, which were given to President Carter to read before the meeting. One of the documents refers to a meeting between Carter and CIA analysts at the Agency’s headquarters in August 1978, during which the American President was coached about how to negotiate with the two Middle Eastern leaders. Or, as the document puts it, Carter was “steeped in the personalities of Begin and Sadat”. The papers also include declassified transcripts of meetings of the US National Security Council, in which the Accords were discussed. Read more of this post

Files reveal names of Americans targeted by NSA during Vietnam War

NSA headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The names of several prominent Americans, who were targeted by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) during the height of the protests against the Vietnam War, have been revealed in declassified documents. The controversial communications interception operation, known as Project MINARET, was publicly acknowledged in the mind-1970s, during Congressional inquiries into the Watergate affair. We know that MINARET was conducted by the NSA between 1967 and 1973, and that it targeted over a thousand American citizens. Many believe that MINARET was in violation of the Agency’s charter, which expressly prevents it from spying on Americans. But despite the media attention MINARET received during the Watergate investigations, the names of those targeted under the program were kept secret until Wednesday, when the project’s target list was declassified by the US government. The declassification decision was sparked by a Freedom of Information Request filed by George Washington University’s National Security Archive. The two Archive researchers who filed the declassification request, William Burr and Matthew Aid, said MINARET appears to have targeted many prominent Americans who openly criticized America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. The reason for the surveillance was that US President Lyndon Johnson, who authorized the operation, was convinced that antiwar protests were promoted and/or supported by elements outside the US. The newly declassified documents show that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a major surveillance target of the government. Read more of this post

CIA shuts down office that declassifies historical materials

CIA headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The division of the United States Central Intelligence Agency that is responsible for weeding through and declassifying historical materials from the Agency’s archives is to close due to the sequester budget cuts. The CIA’s Historical Collections Division has been at the source of some of the most sensational declassification of American intelligence material in recent years, spanning several decades of postwar history. But it has now been disbanded due to budget cuts associated with so-called sequester. The widespread cuts were automatically imposed after the two political parties in Congress failed to compromise last year on the Federal budget. The sequester is an across-the-board budget reduction that affects every single agency or office operating under the US government. It is believed that the CIA dealt with the cuts by terminating an unknown number of agreements with outside contractors, some of whom were responsible for the declassification of historical documents. The Los Angeles Times, which reported on the story, quoted CIA spokesman Edward Price, who told journalists last week that the Historical Collections Division had been “moved into a larger unit” within the Agency in order to “create efficiencies”. He identified that unit as the CIA’s Office of the Chief Information Officer, whose Information Management Services handle all Freedom of Information Act requests from the public. Price assured reporters that the CIA remained faithful to declassifying historical material, which it described as part of its “public interest mission”. But The Times quoted several scholars who said that the disbandment of the CIA’s Historical Collections Division will almost certainly result in a reduced number of public disclosures. Read more of this post

Document confirms CIA role in 1953 Iran coup

Iran and its regionBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Almost exactly 60 years ago, on August 19, 1953, a military coup d’état deposed Iran’s legally elected Prime Minister, Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh, and replaced him with General Fazlollah Zahedi. Mossadegh was placed under house arrest, while his senior government associates and thousands of his supporters were arrested. Many, including Hossein Fatemi, Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Mossadegh’s trusted friend, were tortured and eventually executed. The coup, which reinstated the Shah at the helm of Iran’s government, is believed to have been planned and executed by Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) in cooperation with the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). This, however, has never been publicly acknowledged by the CIA. The Agency has consistently refused comment on the matter, saying that most of the records of its involvement in Iran at the time were “lost or destroyed” in the mid-1960s. This policy of silence, however, appears to have changed this week, after the CIA released an official document that acknowledges the Agency’s leading role in the coup. The document, entitled The Battle for Iran, is part of an internal CIA historical report produced in the mid-1970s by an Agency historian. Parts of it were declassified in 1981, but its most important chapter, titled “Section III: Covert Action”, had been redacted prior to its public release. Sometime ago, George Washington University’s National Security Archive filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the complete release of the report. This was not granted; but the CIA did release a new public version of the document, which contains fewer redacted passages. Among the newly uncovered information is a brief description of the operational side of the August 1953 coup, which the CIA codenamed TPAJAX. Read more of this post

Report reveals secret US-India Cold War collaboration

U-2 surveillance aircraftBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
During much of the Cold War, India enjoyed a close diplomatic and military relationship with the Soviet Union. But a newly declassified document reveals that the South Asian country allowed the United States to spy on the Soviets using its airspace. The revelation is contained in a 400-page history of the American U-2 reconnaissance aircraft program authored on behalf of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The formerly classified document, written in 1992 by CIA historians Gregory Pedlow and Donald Welzenbach, is titled: The Central Intelligence Agency and Overhead Reconnaissance: The U-2 and OXCART Programs, 1954-1974. It was declassified last week in response to a 2005 Freedom of Information Act request filed by Jeffrey T. Richelson, Senior Fellow at George Washington University’s National Security Archive. The Central Intelligence Agency had been involved in U-2 reconnaissance missions since 1954, when the spy program began. Known officially as Project HOMERUN, the U-2 program was a joint effort by the CIA and the National Security Agency that surreptitiously gathered signals and photographic intelligence on Soviet military sites. The program, which has been described by some historians as one of the most successful intelligence projects in US history, relied on the U-2’s ability to fly beyond 70,000 feet over the Soviet Union, thus avoiding detection or attack by Soviet forces. That assumption, however, proved to have been false. In reality, Soviet radars had been able to detect nearly every U-2 flight over Soviet territory. Eventually, on May 1, 1960, Soviet forces managed to shoot down one of the U-2 flights using a surface-to-air missile. This led to the so-called ‘U-2 incident’, during which India sided firmly with the Soviet Union, criticizing the US for violating Soviet airspace. But New Delhi’s attitude to the U-2 program appears to have changed drastically following the Sino-Indian conflict on October 1962, when Chinese forces launched a series of armed incursions into Indian territory, killing over 1,000 soldiers. Read more of this post

CIA kept file on American academic Noam Chomsky, say experts

Noam Chomsky in 1970By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A 1970 communiqué between two United States government agencies appears to show that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) kept a file on the iconic American linguist and political dissident Noam Chomsky. Widely seen as a pioneer of modern linguistics, Chomsky adopted an uncompromisingly critical stance against the US’ involvement in the Vietnam War in the early 1960s. The US Intelligence Community’s systematic surveillance of antiwar and civil rights activists at the time prompted legal scholars and historians to deduce that Chomsky’s activities must have been routinely spied on by the American government. But a number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in recent years turned up blank, with the CIA stating that it could “not locate any records” responsive to the requests. Scholars insisted, however, and a recent FOIA request unearthed what appears to be proof that the CIA did in fact compile a file on the dissident academic. The request was submitted to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) by attorney Kel McClanahan, executive director of National Security Counselors, a group specializing in “lawfully acquiring from the government material related to national security matters and distributing it to the public”. According to Foreign Policy magazine blog The Cable, McClanahan’s FOIA request revealed a memorandum sent from the CIA to the FBI on June 8, 1970. In it, the Agency seeks information about an upcoming trip by American antiwar activists to North Vietnam, which, according to the CIA, had received the “endorsement of Noam Chomsky”. The memo also asks the FBI for information on the trip’s participants, including Professor Chomsky. The Cable spoke to Marquette University Professor Athan Theoharis, domestic surveillance expert and author of Spying on Americans, who opined that the CIA request for information on Chomsky amounts to an outright confirmation that the Agency kept a file on the dissident academic. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #848

US consulate in Benghazi, LibyaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►UK officials saw ‘communist spies’ in Japan in 1983. British officials believed in the early 1980s that Japanese institutions had been “slightly” penetrated by communist intelligence services, according to documents declassified last week at the National Archives in London. The documents, from 1983, assert that there were approximately 220 communist intelligence officers working in Japan: 100 for the Soviet Union, 60 for China and 60 for other communist countries.
►►‘Dozens of CIA operatives on the ground’ during Benghazi attack. CNN claims that “dozens of people working for the CIA” were on the ground the night of the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. The news station adds that, according to one source, the CIA is involved in “an unprecedented attempt to keep [its] Benghazi secrets from ever leaking out”.
►►Australians call for national debate on privatization of intelligence. Dr Troy Whitford, Associate Investigator with the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security, and lecturer at Charles Sturt University, has called for “a national debate on the extent, cost and consequences of Australia’s security and intelligence outsourcing”. The call was apparently prompted by news that 51% of the intelligence gathering in the US is now carried out by non-government contractors.

Is mismanagement driving away some of the CIA’s best talent?

CIA headquartersBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Poor management practices and a culture that tolerates blunders by senior officials are generating cynicism and disillusionment among employees at the United States Central Intelligence Agency, according to an internal study. Completed in 2010 by the CIA’s Office of the Inspector General, the study was released in heavily redacted form last week, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. The Los Angeles Times, which filed the request in 2011, said the report identifies mismanagement and unaccountability among senior leadership as major factors contributing to the CIA’s “retention challenges”. It cites a 2009 Agency-wide anonymous survey, which found that around 12% of the CIA’s workforce was considering resigning. Over half of those said they wanted to leave because of “poor management and a lack of accountability for poor management” among senior-level staff. This feeling is stronger among younger recruits, “who have exhibited high resignation rates in current years”, according to the report. Operations officers at the National Clandestine Service —the CIA’s covert-action arm— are also more disturbed than other Agency employees by perceived mismanagement. The report also notes that the CIA has failed to introduce mechanisms for encouraging accountability, in response to growing concerns by lower-level staff. The Times said it spoke to “more than 20 former [CIA] officers”, who said the 2010 report echoed “longstanding concerns about the CIA’s culture”. Read more of this post

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