Is Estonia’s Russian counterintelligence program the world’s best?

EstoniaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Until not so long ago, the former Soviet Republic of Estonia was known as a playground for Russian intelligence. The tiny Baltic state, with a population of just under 1.4 million, a fourth of whom are ethnic Russians, struggled to build its security and intelligence infrastructure following its emergence from communism. Some of the country’s low points during that process include the infamous 2007 cyberattacks, which are believed to have been orchestrated by Moscow, and which kicked the entire country off the World Wide Web for over a week. A year later, authorities in Tallinn announced the arrest of Herman Simm, a senior official at the Estonian Ministry of Defense, who was apprehended along with his wife for spying on behalf of Russian intelligence for nearly 30 years. Since that time, however, Tallinn has been able to transform its Russian counterintelligence program into something resembling the envy of the world, according to Foreign Affairs columnist Michael Weiss. In an intriguing analysis published on Tuesday, Weiss argues that Estonia’s claim to fame in the counterintelligence world centers on its initiative in hosting the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence, which was founded in response to the 2007 cyberattacks. But, says Weiss, much more quietly, the tiny Baltic state has become a global leader in “old-fashioned counterintelligence” directed against Russian spy operations on its territory. He quotes one observer as saying that Estonia’s Russian counterintelligence program “is now better by a long way than that of any other country in Europe”. John Schindler, a professor at the United States Naval War College and former analyst at the National Security Agency, tells Weiss that, unlike the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Estonia’s counterintelligence service, Kaitsepolitseiamet, known as KaPo, “intuitively understands Russian intelligence culture”. The agency, says Schindler, used the Simm case as an impetus to upgrade its offensive and defensive counterintelligence posture. This effort led to the well-publicized arrests of Aleksei and Viktoria Dressen, as well as Vladimir Veitman, all Estonian citizens who had been spying for Russia for many years. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #866

Blackwater/Academi headquartersBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Academic study into the behavioral traits of contract killers. Using off-the-record interviews with informants, interviews with offenders and former offenders, court transcripts and newspaper archives, academics from Britain’s Birmingham City University identified patterns of ‘hitman’ behavior in an attempt to demystify their secret world. The criminologists, who examined 27 cases of contract killing between 1974 and 2013 committed by 36 men and one woman, found that the killers typically murder their targets on a street close to the victim’s home, although a significant proportion get cold feet or bungle the job.
►►Interview with Blackwater founder Erik Prince. The founder of private security group Blackwater is now based in Hong Kong and chairs Frontier Services Group, an Africa-focused security and logistics company with intimate ties to China’s largest state-owned conglomerate, Citic Group. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Prince says he would “rather deal with the vagaries of investing in Africa than in figuring out what the hell else Washington is going to do to the entrepreneur next”. The controversial businessman calls the US State Department “fickle” and the US “federal bureaucracy” a “bunch of rabid dogs”.
►►New book accuses Edward Snowden of ‘treason’. Economist columnist Edward Lucas says his new book, The Snowden Operation: Inside the West’s Greatest Intelligence Disaster, does not argue that Snowden is a Russian agent. But he says that the damage caused by the former NSA technical expert’s revelations “neatly and suspiciously fits the interests of one country: Russia”. Moreover, argues Lucas, “Snowden’s published revelations include material that has nothing to do with his purported worries about personal privacy”.