Former KGB officer says Snowden was ‘tricked into going to Russia’

Boris KarpichkovBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A former major in the Soviet KGB has told the British press that a team of Russian intelligence operatives posing as diplomats “tricked” American intelligence defector Edward Snowden into going to Moscow. Many believe that Snowden, a former computer expert for the United States Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, was recruited by Russian intelligence before defecting to Moscow in June 2013. But former Soviet and Russian intelligence operative Boris Karpichkov has said in an interview that Snowden never intended to defect to Russia, but was lured there by a team of Russians spies. Karpichkov was a major in the Soviet KGB and its domestic-security successor, the FSB, where he worked for 15 years. In the mid-1990s, however, he gradually fell out with his employer and was imprisoned for several months before managing to leave his homeland using one of several false passports that had been supplied to him by Russian intelligence. In 1998 he entered Britain, where he lives with his family today, having been granted political asylum. He told British tabloid newspaper Sunday People that Snowden had first attracted the attention of Russian intelligence in 2007, while he was posted by the CIA to Geneva, Switzerland. During his time there, Snowden posed as a diplomat while maintaining the security of the CIA’s computer facilities located on Swiss soil. According to Karpichkov, the SVR, the post-Soviet successor of the KGB’s foreign-intelligence department, first opened a file on Snowden at that time, and kept updating it for six years, having identified the American computer technician as a “potential defector”. The former KGB operative told the British newspaper that the SVR moved quickly after it emerged that Snowden had abandoned Hawaii, where he had been posted by the NSA, and was hiding in a Hong Kong hotel. He was eventually accosted by a group of SVR spies posing as Russian diplomats. The group managed to persuade him, says Karpichkov, that the Russian government would be able to offer him protection in Moscow while he made up his mind over which country to apply to for political asylum. Read more of this post

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Russian espionage in Germany rising sharply, says Berlin

Embassy of Russia in BerlinBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Russian espionage activity in Germany has reached levels not seen since the days of the Cold War, according to senior counterintelligence officials in Berlin. An article published in weekly newspaper Die Welt am Sonntag on Sunday said Russian intelligence-gathering activities in the German capital center on infiltrating German political institutions and corporations. The Berlin-based publication said Russian spies typically seek to gain “intimate knowledge” of German energy policy as well as corporate practices. Another area of interest for Russian intelligence concerns Germany’s activities in the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Citing Hans-Georg Maassen, Director of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV —Germany’s primary counterintelligence agency), Die Welt said that no foreign intelligence service is more active on German soil than Russia’s SVR —one of the KGB’s successor agencies. Most Russian intelligence officers “pose as embassy workers”, said the paper, adding that the BfV believes up to a third of all Russian diplomats stationed at the German capital have a “background in intelligence gathering”. According to Burkhard Even, who directs the BfV’s counterintelligence operations, the primary task of Russian intelligence operatives in Germany is to “closely analyze individuals who could be of interest” to Moscow. Those targeted —usually key staffers at the Bundestag (Germany’s federal parliament) or major German companies— are then systematically accosted by Russian ‘diplomats’. The latter often ask to take them out to lunch or dinner, said Maaßen, and will often pick up the bill. Read more of this post

Diplomat jailed in biggest Dutch spy affair in recent times

Raymond PoeterayBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A court in the Netherlands has sentenced a diplomat to 12 years in prison for spying for Russia, in what security observers have called one of the worst espionage scandals in recent Dutch history. Raymond Poeteray, who had worked for Holland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 1978, was convicted on Tuesday of spying for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR). Poeteray was arrested in June of 2012 at Amsterdam’s Schiphol International Airport, following an extensive investigation by German counterintelligence. The diplomat was captured as he was boarding a flight to Vienna, Austria, the first leg in a return journey to Bangkok, Thailand. Dutch prosecutors claimed during Poeteray’s trial that he had arranged to meet his Russian handlers in Bangkok and give them three USB drives loaded with classified information, which were found on in his possessions upon his arrest at Schiphol. The three-judge panel that sentenced Poeteray at The Hague said he had spied on Holland “for years [while] on assignment from the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service”, in the course of which he damaged the interests of his home country in a “substantial” way. The Dutch prosecutor’s office said Poeteray had provided Moscow with sensitive information, including military and political intelligence on the European Union, inside material on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, as well as documents belonging to the Dutch Foreign Affairs Ministry. The court heard that, in recent years, the diplomat had given the SVR information about Dutch involvement in the Libyan Civil War, classified data from European-Union-sponsored fact-finding missions in the Republic of Georgia, as well as intelligence on Dutch peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan, Kosovo, and elsewhere. Read more of this post

As many Russian spies in UK today as in Cold War: Soviet defector

Oleg GordievskyBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Soviet KGB’s former station chief in London, who defected to the United Kingdom in the 1980s, has alleged that Russia operates as many spies in Britain today as it did during the Cold War. Oleg Gordievsky, 74, a fluent speaker of Russian, German, Swedish, Danish, and English, entered the Soviet KGB in 1963. He eventually joined the organization’s Second Directorate, which was responsible for coordinating the activities of Soviet ‘illegals’, that is, intelligence officers operating abroad without official diplomatic cover. Gordievsky’s faith in the Soviet system was irreparably damaged in 1968, when Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia. In 1974, while stationed in Copenhagen, Denmark, he made contact with British intelligence and began his career as a double agent for the UK. In 1985, when he was the KGB’s station chief at the Soviet embassy in London, he was summoned back to Moscow by an increasingly suspicious KGB. He was aggressively interrogated but managed to make contact with British intelligence and was eventually smuggled out of Russia via Finland, riding in the trunk of a British diplomatic vehicle. In 2007, Gordievsky was awarded the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (CMG) by the Queen “for services to the security of the UK”. Russia, however, considers Gordievsky a traitor and the government of Vladimir Putin refuses to rescind a death sentence given to him in absentia by a Soviet court. In an interview with The Guardian newspaper this week, Gordievsky said London is currently home to 37 officers of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), one of the successor agencies to the KGB. Read more of this post

Closed-door trial of Soviet/Russian sleeper agents starts in Germany

The Anschlags' house in MeckenheimBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A married couple accused of spying on Germany on behalf of the Soviet Union and Russia for over two decades has gone on trial in Stuttgart. Andreas Anschlag, 54, and his wife, Heidrun, 48, were arrested in October 2011 by GSG-9, the elite counter-terrorism and special operations unit of the German Federal Police. They were later charged with having spied since at least 1990 for the Soviet KGB’s First Chief Directorate and its post-Soviet successor organization, the SVR. German federal prosecutors also accuse the couple of document forgery, since their Austrian passports, which they used to enter West Germany from Mexico in 1988 (Andreas) and 1990 (Heidrun) are believed to be counterfeit. There is also speculation that the couple’s surname may in fact be an alias given to them by their intelligence handlers. Upon entering West Germany in 1988 and 1990, the Anschlags initially settled in Aachen, on the German-Belgian border, before moving to Meckenheim, a small town with a population of less than 30,000 located a few miles southwest of Bonn. They concentrated on blending into German society, while raising their son daughter and leading what their neighbors describe as a “discreet life”. Over the years, they managed to recruit a number of informants, including a Dutch diplomat identified by authorities in Holland only as ‘Raymond P’. The diplomat, who was arrested last June, is believed to have given the Anschlags nearly 500 classified documents originating from the German armed forces, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union. Read more of this post

Belgium suspends senior diplomat on suspicion of spying for Russia

Belgian embassy in CopenhagenBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Belgian government has admitted suspending one of its senior diplomats following allegations in the press that he had spied for the Soviet Union and Russia for over two decades. According to Flemish-language Belgian magazine MO, the diplomat, identified only as “O.G.”, has been “suspended in the interest of the [Belgian diplomatic] service” and is currently under investigation by the Office of the Federal Prosecutor. Citing “sources in the Belgian State Security Service”, the SV/SE, the article said the subject was stationed at the Belgian embassy in Danish capital Copenhagen when he was recalled to Brussels late last year. The man is said to have spent nearly three decades as an employee of the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, having served in several Belgian embassies and consulates in Japan, India, Algeria, Nigeria, Portugal, and the United States, prior to arriving in Denmark. However, according to the MO article, he was accosted by the Soviet KGB in the late 1980s, shortly after he arrived at the Belgian embassy in Tokyo, Japan, for his first-ever diplomatic posting. Since that time, said the magazine, “O.G.” has spied for the KGB and its successor, the SVR, having stayed in contact with “several different Russian handlers”. Prior to 2011, when he ceased contact with Russian intelligence, the Belgian diplomat was allegedly tasked with providing the FSB with information that could be used to concoct false identities belonging to deceased Belgian citizens. The Russians would then use these identities to supply their intelligence operatives with high-quality Belgian identity papers and travel documentation. Late last week, another Belgian publication, The EU Observer, contacted the Belgian Foreign Ministry to inquire about “O.G.”. A Ministry spokesperson told the paper: “we can confirm that an official from our ministry was suspended from his functions a bit over one year ago, following indications of a security breach”. Read more of this post

US-based Russian illegals ‘groomed children to be spies’

Yelena Vavilova and Andrey BezrukovBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A group of Russian non-official-cover operatives, who were arrested in the United States by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2010, were grooming some of their children to become spies, according to insider accounts. Nearly a dozen covert members of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), one of the successor agencies of the Cold-War-era KGB, were detained on June 26, 2010, in a series of coordinated raids by the FBI, which marked the culmination of a lengthy counterintelligence operation against the deep-cover operatives. None of those arrested were associated with the diplomatic representation of the Russian Federation in the US; eight were married couples and all were using fake identities. But media coverage of the case, which centered overwhelmingly on the glamorous looks of one of the arrestees, Anna Chapman, paid little attention to the seven children belonging to the captured Russian operatives, whose ages ranged from 1 to 20 years at the time of their parents’ arrests. In an article published late last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that some of the SVR operatives were actively grooming their children to follow in their footsteps as unregistered agents of the Russian government in the US. The paper based its claims on discussions “with current and former US officials”, who allegedly had access to surveillance data from the FBI’s investigation against the Russians. According to the unnamed officials, the SVR operatives had secured the cooperation of at least one of the children, Tim Foley, whose parents operated in the US for over a decade under the assumed names of Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley. The couple (real names: Andrey Bezrukov, Elena or Yelena Vavilova) had allegedly revealed their secret mission to their son “well before their arrest” in 2010, and had indicated that “they wanted him to follow in their footsteps”. According to the FBI surveillance records, says The Journal, Tim had agreed and offered to travel to Russia “to begin formal espionage training”. He eventually traveled to the land of his birth at least once following the alleged arrangement with his parents. Read more of this post

Dutch diplomat arrested for spying for Russia

Anna ChapmanBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Authorities in Holland have arrested a Dutch diplomat who is said to have worked for the same Russian intelligence unit that handled a group of Russian sleeper agents captured in the United States in 2010. The 60-year-old diplomat, who has been publicly identified only as Raymond P., was arrested over the weekend in The Hague following an extensive investigation by German counterintelligence. According to German newsmagazine Focus, which first aired the story on Saturday, the diplomat is believed to have given nearly 500 classified documents to Andreas and Heidrun Anschlag, two Russian intelligence officers operating in Germany. The Anschlags, who are married to each other, and are believed to be Mexican-born, were arrested in October of 2011 in the university town of Marburg in central Germany. They are thought to have moved to Germany from Mexico in 1990, using false Austrian passports supplied to them by the SVR, the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service. At the time of the Anschlags’ arrest, Russian media claimed that the couple had “effectively retired” from the SVR several years ago and were being utilized mostly as message couriers. It now appears that Raymond P. was one of their informants, and that the three operated as part of the same espionage ring in Germany. Interestingly, the Anschlags were also said to be in frequent contact with Russian intelligence agent Anna Chapman (pictured), who was arrested by the FBI in the US in 2010. Chapman was part of a group of 11 Russian sleeper agents who were arrested on the same day by the FBI, and were later expelled to Russia. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #675

Maria del Pilar HurtadoBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Panama refuses to extradite Colombian ex-spy chief. Panama’s foreign ministry cited the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights, an international accord on asylum and Panamanian law, as reason for denying Colombia’s request to extradite Maria del Pilar Hurtado, who faces charges in Bogota over an illegal wiretapping scandal. Currently enjoying asylum in Panama are former presidents of Guatemala, Jorge Serrano Elias; and Ecuador, Abdala Bucaram; as well as erstwhile Haitian military strongman Raoul Cedras.
►►Russian spy chief to visit Syria. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday he and Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) head Mikhail Fradkov will visit Syria and meet with President Bashar al-Assad on February 7. The visit will be made on instructions from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Lavrov did not reveal any details of the upcoming the visit.
►►US spy chief: ‘we don’t know if Iran is building a bomb’. At a hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last Tuesday, James Clapper, the US Director of National Intelligence, released the following statement: “We assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons, in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so.  We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons”.

New book on British double spy Kim Philby published in Russia

Kim Philby

Kim Philby

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An important new biography of H.A.R. “Kim” Philby, the British MI6 officer who defected to Russia during the Cold War, has been published in Moscow. It is based on candid interviews with his surviving fourth wife, Rufina Pukhova-Philby, as well as on an array of declassified documents from Russian state archives. The book, titled just Kim Philby, is authored by Nikolai Dolgopolov, editor of Moscow-based daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta, which acts as the official organ of the Russian state. Aside from Pukhova-Philby, the book, whose publication is set to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Kim Philby’s birth, on January 1, enjoyes the official blessing of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), the successor organization to the KGB’s external intelligence directorate. The SVR allowed Dolgopolov access to previously secret documents on Philby, including a newly declassified Russian translation of the British double spy’s personal account of the events that led to his 1963 defection, as well as a description of his escape to Russia through Lebanon. Dolgopolov’s books describes Philby as “one of the greatest Soviet spies”, thus siding with the mainstream view in intelligence research literature, which recognizes Philby as one of the most successful double spies in history. While working as a senior member of British intelligence, Philby spied on behalf of the Soviet NKVD and its successor, the KGB, from the early 1930s until his 1963 defection. Two years later, he was awarded the Order of the Red Banner. The Soviet authorities buried him with honors when he died in 1988. Read more of this post

Newspaper reveals name of Russian ‘spy’ expelled from Britain

Mikhail Repin

Mikhail Repin

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In December of 2010, the British government quietly ordered the expulsion of a diplomat from the Russian embassy in London, whom it accused of “activities incompatible with his diplomatic status” —technical terminology implying espionage. Moscow quickly responded with an expulsion of a British diplomat stationed in the Russian capital. The tit-for-tat incident saw no publicity, and neither man was named, as is customary in such cases. But, in its Saturday edition, British newspaper The Daily Telegraph identified the expelled Russian diplomat as Mikhail Viktorovich Repin, Third Secretary in the Political Section at the Russian embassy in London. The paper said that Repin, a fluent English speaker, was a junior officer of the political directorate of the SVR, Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, operating under standard diplomatic cover. Repin arrived in London in late 2007, shortly after the British government expelled four Russian diplomats in connection with the fatal poisoning of former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko, who had defected to Britain. A “tall, suave, urbane young man”, “Michael”, as he identified himself, quickly became a permanent fixture on the embassy reception circuit and the various events hosted by London-based organizations and think tanks. He specifically joined —and regularly attended meetings of— the Royal United Services Institute, the International Institute of Strategic Studies, and Chatham House —formerly known as the Royal Institute of International Affairs. Most people that met him in those gatherings took him for “a fast-track civil servant, defense industry high flier or political adviser”, says The Telegraph. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #622

SVR seal

SVR seal

►►Russian spies in Germany focused on politics and military. A married couple arrested on suspicion of spying for Russia is believed to have been gathering information on political developments and military affairs, according to German newsmagazine Der Spiegel. The two have been identified as Andreas and Heidrun Anschlag. German prosecutors accuse them of spying for SVR, the successor to the KGB’s First Chief Directorate.
►►Israel releases spy who gave information to Iran. Israel has released Nahum Manbar, who was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 1997, after he was convicted of harming state security and selling information and supplies to create chemical weapons to Iran. Israel’s Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein approved the early release of Manbar on Monday, one and a half years before the end of his sentence. This was the third time Manbar had requested to be released early.
►►FBI releases Russian illegals’ photos and videos. Documents released Monday, including photos, videos and papers, offered new details about the FBI’s decade-long investigation into a ring of Russian sleeper agents who, US officials say, were trying to burrow their way into American society to learn secrets from people in power. The investigation was apparently code-named Operation GHOST STORIES because six of the 10 Russian agents had assumed the identities of dead people. If you are wondering what these spies are doing now, read this informative update from the Associated Press.

Alleged Russian spies in Germany used low-tech methods to evade detection

Anna Chapman

Anna Chapman

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A couple arrested in Germany last week on suspicion of working for Russian intelligence, was using low-tech radio communications to receive orders from Moscow, according to media reports. The two arrestees have been identified as Andreas and Heidrun Anschlag; German prosecutors accuse them of spying for SVR, the successor to the KGB’s First Chief Directorate (PGU), responsible for foreign operations and intelligence collection abroad. They are said to have worked as non-official-cover operatives for the KGB and SVR since at least 1990, when they entered Germany from Mexico, using forged Austrian travel documents. Authorities in Germany say that Heidrun Anschlag, 51, was caught by German police in the act of listening to encrypted radio messages from Moscow. German investigators are reportedly puzzled by the fact that, in the Internet age, when most intelligence operatives employ digital secure communications, the Anschlags insisted on using a low-tech method that mostly died with the end of the Cold War. But intelNews readers will remember the case of former United States State Department analysts Walter and Gwendolyn Myers, who were arrested in 2009 for spying on the US for Cuba for over 30 years. Shortly after the Myers’ arrest, we wrote that the couple appeared to have avoided capture for decades, precisely because their communications with the government of Cuba were too low-tech to be detected by sophisticated US monitors. The latter tend to focus on scanning for encrypted satellite or microwave communications which —among other hi-tech means— are now the communication method of choice for modern clandestine spy networks. But some intelligence agencies, including —apparently— the SVR, appear to insist on using old-school oral cipher signals, based on straightforward number-to-letter codes, which they broadcast to their agents over predetermined shortwave frequencies at specified times. Read more of this post

Canada memos decry use of Canadian passports by Russian spies

Canadian passport

Canadian passport

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In June of 2010 media headlines were dominated by news of a Russian spy ring in the United States that was busted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. On June 27, eleven people, all sleeper agents of the SVR, Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, were arrested in early morning raids across several US states. The arrestees, who included media sensation Anna Chapman, were later exchanged for four alleged CIA agents serving time in Russian jails. What is less known however, is the fact that four of the members of the busted spy ring were claiming to be Canadian citizens. SVR operative Natalia Pereverzeva was caught using a forged Canadian passport under the fake name ‘Patricia Mills’. Two other SVR officers, Andrei Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova, were claiming Canadian nationality under the forged names Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley. A fourth alleged member of the spy ring, ‘Christopher Metsos’, was apprehended in Cyprus, after using a forged Canadian passport to enter the Mediterranean island. He later disappeared, having skipped bail. Now, sixteen months after the arrests of the Russian spies, The Canadian Press has acquired several hundred pages of memoranda and internal emails from Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT). Substantial portions of the documents, which were acquired through Canada’s Access to Information Act, remain censored; but The Press reports that they show that employees of DFAIT’s Passport Canada office held “urgent meetings and high-level briefings” in the days following the FBI arrests, in order to address the revelations concerning SVR’s illegal use of Canadian passports. In the documents, Canadian officials opine that the use by Russian spies of forged Canadian travel documents poses a “troubling threat to the integrity of Canadian [passports] and identity security”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #560 (new books edition)

Khalil al-Balawi

Khalil al-Balawi

►►New book on CIA’s Khost bomb disaster. Washington Post reporter Joby Warrick has authored a new book, examining the December 31, 2009, killing of seven CIA operatives by Jordanian doctor Humam Khalil al-Balawi in Khost, Afghanistan. In the book, entitled The Triple Agent, Warrick quotes several “anonymous” sources from within CIA and Jordan’s General Intelligence Department (GID), which was involved in running al-Balawi. Aside from blaming GID, Warrick says the CIA’s Amman station chief was partly responsible for the botched operation.
►►Hollywood producer was Mossad spy, says new book. The book Confidential: The Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon Arnon Milchan, says that Milchan was a full-fledged operative for Israel’s now-defunct intelligence agency, Lakam. The agency, which was also known as Israel’s Bureau of Scientific Relations, collected scientific and technical intelligence abroad. It was disbanded in 1986 following the arrest of US Navy analyst Jonathan Pollard for engaging in espionage on behalf of Israel. The book’s authors, Meir Doron and Joseph Gelman, argue that Milchan, who produced such movies as Love and Other Drugs and Knight and Day, worked for Israeli intelligence by supervising government-backed accounts and front companies that financed “the special needs of the entirety of Israel’s intelligence operations outside the country”.
►►Book alleges US-Russian spy swap deal. In 2010 the CIA considered a swap deal that would have delivered to Moscow two Americans currently imprisoned in the US for spying for Russia. This information is included Read more of this post

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