New book names ex-KGB defector who outed FBI agent Robert Hanssen as Russian spy

Robert HanssenA new book reveals for the first time the name of a former intelligence officer of the Soviet KGB who helped American authorities arrest Robert Hanssen, an American spy for the Soviet Union and Russia. The son of a Chicago police officer, Hanssen joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1976 and was eventually transferred to the Bureau’s Soviet analytical unit, where he held senior counterintelligence posts. It wasn’t until 2000, however, that the FBI realized Hanssen had spied for Moscow since 1979. Following Hanssen’s arrest in 2001, it emerged that he had betrayed the names of 50 FBI and CIA assets or informants, many of whom perished in the hands of the Russian intelligence services.

In 2002, the US Department of Justice opined that Hanssen had caused “possibly the worst intelligence disaster in US history”. He is currently serving 15 consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole. But despite numerous articles, reports and books on the Hanssen spy case, the story of the FBI investigation that led to his arrest remains at best fragmentary. A major question concerns the identity of the mysterious person that helped FBI counterintelligence investigators zero in on Hanssen after years of fruitless efforts to confirm suspicions of the existence of a Russian mole. It is known that the FBI paid the sum of $7 million to a former KGB officer, who delivered the contents of Hanssen’s Russian intelligence file. But the identity of that informant has not been revealed.

That may have changed as of last month, however, thanks to The Seven Million Dollar Spy, a book written by the late David Wise, a journalist and best-selling intelligence author who died on October 8, aged 88. Wise’s book, published posthumously on October 23 in audio book format, received little media attention. But Newsweek intelligence correspondent Jeff Stein said last week that the book might bring us a step closer to uncovering the identity of the individual who led to Hanssen’s capture. Stein explains that the mysterious informant had previously developed a business relationship with Jack Platt, a retired CIA case officer who after the end of the Cold War co-founded an international security consultancy with ex-KGB operative Gennady Vasilenko. The two men staffed their company with several American and Russian former spies. Among them was Anatoly Stepanov, a former case officer in the KGB. Stein reports that, according to Wise’s posthumous book, Stepanov is in fact the pseudonym of former KGB officer Aleksandr Shcherbakov. It was he who delivered Hanssen’s file to the FBI, thus facilitating his eventual capture. It is believed that Shcherbakov defected to the United States in 2010 where he continues to live today under an assumed identity.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 06 November 2018 | Permalink

Magazine publishes CIA-trained burglar’s fascinating story

A captivating article about a break-in specialist for the United States Central Intelligence Agency, who turned against the Agency in the 1990s, appears in the October issue of The Smithsonian magazine. Written by David Wise (The Invisible Government, The Spy Who Got Away), the article contains some new information about “The Shop”, a secretive unit under the CIA’s Special Operations Division, which conducts what the agency describes as “surreptitious entries”. Based on “more than 80 interviews with 25 people”, including over a dozen former CIA officers, Wise says the unit features highly specialized teams of lock pickers, safecrackers, photographers, experts in disabling alarm systems, and others. Their mission, he says, is to break into foreign embassies around the world in order to steal classified documents and —most of all— codebooks used by foreign diplomats to communicate securely with their colleagues back home. Unlike most CIA personnel stationed abroad, the Agency’s non-destructive entry specialists do not enjoy the protection of diplomatic cover, says Wise, which means they cannot claim diplomatic immunity if caught red-handed. The author’s main source for the article appears to be Douglas Groat, a former US Special Forces captain, underwater explosives expert and Mandarin-Chinese speaker, who joined the CIA in 1980. Wise claims that Groat, who started working for The Shop in 1982, eventually became the Agency’s “top burglar and premier lock picker”. He designed or participated in approximately 60 different CIA- or National Security Agency-sponsored operations in dozens of countries in the Middle East, Africa, South America and Europe, which earned him several commendations, medals and awards from the NSA and the CIA. The article describes one joint CIA/NSA operation that took place in 1989 at the embassy of the German Democratic Republic in Katmandu, Nepal, which Groat’s team burgled in order to steal a code machine. The operation failed, as did another a few years later in “a Middle Eastern capital”, due to sloppy preparation on behalf of the CIA, says Groat. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #572

David Wise

David Wise

►►New Zealand spy service now welcomes online tip-offs. Ten years ago, the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) introduced a free telephone number that people could ring if they suspected any suspicious intelligence activity. Now the spy service has entered the 21st century by changing its website so the public can provide details online.
►►Book claims Coco Chanel spied for Nazis. Frankly, who gives a damn? Is anyone surprised to hear that yet another member of French high society was pro-Nazi in the lead-up to World War II? It is disappointing to see how many news outlets are going over-the-top with this story, while mostly ignoring the truly important historical revelation of the last few days, namely the declassification of the CIA’s Official History of the Bay of Pigs Invasion.
►►David Wise on Sino-American spy wars. Longtime investigative journalist David Wise, who focuses on the intelligence community, talks to Democracy Now! and Amy Goodman about his new book Tiger Trap: America’s Secret Spy War with China.

News you may have missed #517

  • New Zealand to launch new cybersecurity agency. The new National Cyber Security Centre will protect high-risk government agencies from attacks by cyber spies and criminals. It will also take on the functions of the Centre for Critical Infrastructure Protection, which helps protect critical national infrastructure such as the computer networks of banks and power companies.
  • New book on China-US spy wars. An extensive review by Joseph Goulden (author of SpySpeak: The Dictionary of Intelligence) of David Wise‘s new book, Tiger Trap: America’s Secret Spy War with China, which has been published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  • Over 1,000 cyber attacks against UK MoD last year. Criminals and foreign spy agencies launched more than 1,000 cyber attacks on Britain’s Ministry of Defence last year in an effort to steal secrets and disrupt services, Britain’s Defence Secretary Liam Fox has revealed.

News you may have missed #0067

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