Mystery surrounds arrest of alleged Russian spy couple in Sweden

Russian Embassy SwedenNUMEROUS UNANSWERED QUESTIONS SURROUND the arrest of a Russian married couple in Sweden, on charges of espionage. The arrest took place in dramatic fashion in the early hours of Tuesday, November 22. According to the Swedish media, members of the security forces descended via tactical ropes from two Blackhawk helicopters, as startled residents in the typically quiet Stockholm suburb of Nacka looked on.

The raid was apparently conducted based on information received by Sweden’s counterintelligence agency, the Swedish Security Service (SAPO), coupled with tips from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The targets of the operation were Sergei Nikolaevich Skvortsov and Elena Mikhailovna Kulkova, a Russian-born married couple, who moved to Sweden from Russia in 1999. According to their identity documents, Skvortsov was born in Perm on July 28, 1963, and Kulkova in Moscow on May 22, 1964.

Both Skvortsov and Kulkova are university-educated, with a background in science, mathematics and cybernetics. Upon settling in Sweden, they worked in the import-export technology sector. By 2013 they had become Swedish citizens and had a son. Kulkova also had a daughter from a previous marriage. The Russian investigative source The Insider reports that Kulkova’s daughter’s boyfriend worked for Swedish military intelligence.

Swedish authorities allege that the two suspects migrated to Stockholm on orders of the Main Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff, known as GRU. The GRU allegedly did not activate them until after they had acquired Swedish citizenship. According to the court indictment, Skvortsov and Kulkova began to actively spy against the United States in 2013 and against Sweden in 2014.

Some sources claim that the case of the Russian couple may be connected to the recent arrests of Payam and Peyman Kia, two Iranian-born Swedish brothers, who were arrested in 2021 and are now facing charges of engaging in espionage on behalf of the GRU. Payam Kia worked for SAPO and had access to classified information from a host of Swedish government agencies. SAPO reportedly launched the probe in 2017, following suspicions that it harbored a spy in its personnel ranks.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 05 December 2022 | Research credit: A.G. | Permalink

Sweden charges two brothers with spying for Russian military intelligence

Säpo swedenAUTHORITIES IN SWEDEN HAVE charged two brothers, one of whom worked in a highly secretive Swedish intelligence unit, with spying for Russian military intelligence for a decade, according to news reports. The charges resulted from a six-year investigation led by the Swedish Security Service (SAPO), which is the country’s counterintelligence agency. SAPO reportedly launched the probe in 2017, based on suspicions that it harbored a spy in its personnel ranks.

The two brothers have been named by Swedish media as Payam Kia, 35, and Peyman Kia, 42. They were reportedly born in Iran and became Swedish citizens in 1994. It is also reported that Payam Kia worked for SAPO and had access to classified information from a host of Swedish government agencies. SAPO accuses the two men of having worked “jointly” to pass information to the Main Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces’ General Staff, known broadly as GRU.

According to Swedish authorities, the two men began spying for Russia in September of 2011 and continued until the fall of 2021. Peyman Kia allegedly acted as a courier, passing information and payments between his brother and his Russian handlers. Per Lindqvist, chief prosecutor for Sweden’s National Security Unit, told the Associated Press news agency that the Kia brothers case involved “extremely sensitive topics”, but did not elaborate. Some reports claim that Payam Kia had access to the files of Swedish spies operating abroad.

The younger of the two brothers was reportedly arrested in September of 2021. His older brother was arrested in November of the same year. They face up to life imprisonment. They both deny the charges against them.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 14 November 2022 | Permalink

Norway arrests alleged Russian illegal who spent years building cover in Canada

José Giammaria Mikhail MikushinAN ALLEGED RUSSIAN DEEP-cover intelligence operative, who was arrested by Norwegian police last week, spent years building his fake cover in Canada, while studying there as a Brazilian citizen, according to reports. Norway’s Police Security Service (PST) announced last week that it had arrested José Assis Giammaria, a 37-year-old Brazilian citizen, on suspicion of entering Norway on false pretenses. According to the PST, Giammaria is in fact a Russian citizen, who has been operating in Norway as a non-official-cover (NOC) intelligence officer.

According to Norwegian authorities, Giammaria worked as a researcher at the Arctic University of Norway. Known as UiT, the university is located in the northern Norwegian city of Tromsø. It has a worldwide reputation for research, and approximately 10 percent of its 17,000 students are international. While there, Giammaria was a volunteer researcher for a UiT GreyZone, a scholarly project that studies contemporary hybrid threats and grey zone warfare. His area of specialization appears to have been Arctic security.

Last Friday, the office of the Norwegian state prosecutor said it believed the suspect’s actual name is Mikhail Mikushin, a Russian citizen born in 1978. In a press statement, a Norwegian government representative said authorities were “not positively sure of his identity”, but it was clear that he was not a Brazilian national. Later on Friday, the Oslo-based Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang (VG), in association with the investigative website Bellingcat, reported that Mikushin is a military intelligence officer, who holds the rank of colonel in the Main Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces’ General Staff, known as GRU. The newspaper claims that Mikushin left Russia in 2006 with a cover, a term that refers to a fake operational identity used for purposes of espionage. Read more of this post

Germany ‘erroneously’ granted entry visa to known Russian intelligence officer

BfV GermanyLAST SUMMER, GERMAN EMBASSY staff in Russia issued an entry visa to a Russian national, despite warnings by at least two European security agencies that he was a known intelligence officer, according to a report. The incident has fueled persistent allegations that Berlin’s counterintelligence posture against Russia is ineffective.

According to the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, it was in July of this year when the German Embassy in Moscow received an application for an entry visa to Germany by a Russian national. The application included an official invitation issued to the visa applicant by the Russian Consulate General in the eastern German city of Leipzig. However, the application prompted a strong counterintelligence warning by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany’s domestic security agency. According to Spiegel, at least one more European intelligence agency warned against allowing the Russian national to travel to Western Europe. The reason for the warnings was that the visa applicant was known to operate internationally under diplomatic cover, on behalf of a Russian intelligence agency.

The counterintelligence warnings were examined and caused the visa application to be rejected. However, a month later the applicant submitted a second application for an entry visa to Germany. Remarkably, the German embassy approved the second application, after “no longer recogni[zing] any suspicion of espionage” in association with this case. One possible reason, according to Spiegel, was that Russian officials had applied pressure on the German government, asking for a review of the application. When the issue was raised in Berlin, an internal review was launched. It reportedly found that the espionage warnings had been “overlooked due to an [administrative] error”. The visa was thus promptly canceled. Der Spiegel claims it is “possible that the accidental visa issue was related to [Berlin] wanting to show good will to the Russian side”.

What does that mean? Back in April, Germany expelled 40 suspected Russian intelligence officers, in response to Russian war crimes in Ukraine. As expected, Russia promptly expelled an equal number of German diplomats in a tit-for-tat move. The Russian Foreign Ministry made sure to point out that it would respond in a similar fashion, should Berlin choose to expel more Russian diplomats in the future. Such an eventuality, according to Spiegel, would run the risk of decimating Germany’s diplomatic presence in Russia, given that its size is considerably smaller than that of Russia’s in Germany. Germany, in other words, is not prepared to risk a complete breakdown in its diplomatic relations with Russia.

Some claim, however, that the current arrangement between the two countries is being exploited by the Kremlin. Der Spiegel notes that, according to intelligence experts, no European country hosts more Russian intelligence officers under diplomatic cover than Germany. It is estimated that at least 100 bogus diplomats are currently stationed in Russia’s diplomatic facilities throughout Germany.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 10 October 2022 | Permalink

Reuters investigation focuses on alleged loss of CIA spy networks in Iran

US embassy IranA YEAR-LONG INVESTIGATION by the Reuters news agency attempts to shed light on the alleged arrests of more than a dozen Iranian spies, who claim to have worked for the United States Central Intelligence Agency. Periodically Iran claims to have captured members of alleged CIA spy rings operating across its territory. For instance, in 2019 Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence announced the arrest of a “CIA network” consisting of 17 individuals who worked in the private sector and a number of government agencies.

The news agency said two of its reporters, Joel Schectman and Bozorgmehr Sharafedin, spent dozens of hours interviewing six Iranian former CIA assets, as well as 10 former employees of the United States Intelligence Community, who have “knowledge of Iran operations”. All six of the Iranians interviewed spent between five and 10 years in prison for their CIA connections. Two of them left Iran after serving their prison sentences, and are now refugees in central and northern Europe. At least one of them claims he was never contacted by the CIA after his release in 2019.

According to the Reuters investigation, CIA assets in Iran operate in a high risk environment, given that the United States has not had diplomatic facilities in the Middle Eastern country since 1979. Diplomatic facilities are regularly used to shelter CIA personnel, who recruit, train and handle foreign assets. Despite the absence of such facilities, the CIA is willing to take great risks in running agents inside Iran, because of the country’s geopolitical significance. The agency’s intensity in operating in Iran is matched by the Islamic Republic’s aggressive counterintelligence posture, which, according to the Reuters investigation, has “netted dozens of CIA informants” in recent years.

It is claimed that Iran’s counterintelligence efforts were inadvertently aided by a mass-produced CIA covert communications system, which the spy agency operated until 2013 in at least 20 countries around the world, including Iran. The Internet-based system was intended for use by CIA sources who were not fully vetted, but were still considered useful due to their access to secret information, according to Reuters. This appears to be a major update on a story that was first reported by Yahoo News in 2018. It claimed that that the CIA had suffered a “catastrophic” compromise of the system it used to communicate with spies, which caused the death of “dozens of people around the world” according to sources.

Reuters said it contacted CIA spokeswoman Tammy Kupperman Thorp, who declined to comment on specific allegations. The CIA spokeswoman dismissed the “notion that CIA would not work as hard as possible to safeguard” its assets around the world as “false”. The news agency said it also contacted Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its Mission to the United Nations in New York, but received no responses.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 03 October 2022 | Permalink

Research sheds light on Japan’s wartime espionage network inside the United States

Imperial Japanese NavyMUCH HAS BEEN WRITTEN about the wartime intelligence exploits of the Allies against Japan. Such exploits range from the United States’ success in breaking the Japanese JN-25 naval code, to the extensive operations of the Soviet Union’s military intelligence networks in Tokyo. In contrast, very little is known about Japan’s intelligence performance against the Allies in the interwar years, as well as after 1941. Now a new paper by an international team or researchers sheds light on this little-studied aspect of intelligence history.

The researchers, Ron Drabkin, visiting scholar at the University of Notre Dame, K. Kusunoki, of the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force, and Bradley W. Hart, associate professor at California State University, Fresno, published their work on September 22 in the peer-reviewed journal Intelligence and National Security. Their well-written article is entitled “Agents, Attachés, and Intelligence Failures: The Imperial Japanese Navy’s Efforts to Establish Espionage Networks in the United States Before Pearl Harbor”.

The authors acknowledge that the history of the intelligence efforts of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) has received very little attention by scholars. Consequently, it remains unexplored even in Japan, let alone in the international scholarship on intelligence. There are two main reasons for that. To begin with, the IJN systematically destroyed its intelligence files in the months leading to Japan’s official surrender in 1945. Then, following the war, fearing being implicated in war crimes trials, few of its undercover operatives voluntarily revealed their prior involvement in intelligence work.

Luckily, however, the past decade has seen the declassification of a number of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) counterintelligence files relating to Japanese intelligence operations targeting the United States. Most of these files date from the 1930s and early 1940s. Additionally, a number of related documents have been declassified by the government of Mexico, which is important, given that Mexico was a major base for Japanese intelligence operations targeting the United States. Read more of this post

Hawaii couple alleged to be Russian spies using fake names held without bail

Walter Glenn Primose, Gwynn Darle MorrisonA FEDERAL JUDGE IN HAWAII has denied bail to a married American couple, who are believed to have assumed the identities of dead children in order to lead double lives for over 20 years, according to prosecutors. Local media reports allege that Bobby Edward Fort and Julie Lyn Montague, who were arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on July 22 on the island of Oahu, are Russian spies, and that their names are parts of their assumed identities.

According to the reports, the real names of the couple are Walter Glenn Primose, 66, and Gwynn Darle Morrison, 54. Government prosecutors allege that, in the late 1980s, the couple hurriedly left their home in the state of Texas, telling family members that they were entering the US Federal Witness Protection Program. They are also said to have given some family members permission to take whatever they wanted from their home, before it was foreclosed.

The government claims that the couple then assumed the identities of two infants, Bobby Edward Fort and Julie Lyn Montague, who had died in Texas in 1967 and 1968 respectively. They then used these infants’ birth certificates to obtain social security cards, drivers’ licenses, and even US passports. In 1994, while living in Hawaii under his assumed name, Primrose enlisted in the US Coast Guard, which is the maritime security and law enforcement service branch of the US military. He served there for over 20 years as an avionic electrical technician with a secret level clearance. Following his retirement in 2016, Primrose is said to have worked as a private contractor for the US Department of Defense until his arrest on July 22 of this year. Read more of this post

An assessment of Russia’s espionage network in Switzerland

Russian embassy SwitzerlandSINCE LATE FEBRUARY, WHEN Russian troops invaded Ukraine, over 500 Russian diplomats have been expelled from Western countries. Even former Russian allies have contributed to the growing list of expulsions —most recently Bulgaria, which ousted a near-unprecedented 70 Russian diplomats last week, citing espionage concerns. Amidst that sea of expulsions, Switzerland remains an island. It is among the few European countries that have yet to officially expel Russian diplomats. Abiding by its centuries-old policy of neutrality, it has resisted calls to take sides in the intelligence war between the West and Russia.

“No-Questions-Asked” Approach to Espionage

Russia has been able to take advantage of Switzerland’s neutrality policy since February. Instead of returning to Moscow, at least some of the expelled Russian diplomats have been reposted to Switzerland. They continue to operate there under a “no-questions-asked” policy, which has prevailed since the days of the Cold War. For this and other reasons (i.e. proximity to prime intelligence targets, safety, advanced telecommunications systems), Switzerland has been a major intelligence hub for decades. According to the Nachrichtendienst des Bundes (NDB), Switzerland’s Federal Intelligence Service, the past few years have witnessed higher levels of activity by foreign intelligence services than any other period since the Cold War.

Russia’s Intelligence Presence in Switzerland

During that time, Russia has been able to build a pan-European espionage hub in the small alpine state. That is the conclusion of a report by Jonas Roth, which was published last week in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ), Switzerland’s newspaper of record. The report, entitled “So Spioniert Russland in der Schweiz” (“How Russian spies operate in Switzerland”), features commentary by several experts and government officials. One source tells Roth that, despite the intense diplomatic pressure Russia has faced globally since February, its espionage structures in Swiss cities like Geneva and Bern “are still intact”.

How many Russian intelligence officers are currently operating in Switzerland? According to the report, at least a third of Russia’s 220-strong diplomatic presence in the country consists of intelligence officers. These 70 or so intelligence officers represent all three of Russia’s primary intelligence agencies, namely the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), the Main Directorate of the Armed Forces’ General Staff (GRU), and the Federal Security Service (FSB). Officers from these agencies handle an unknown number of informants and agents; these are Swiss or third-country nationals, who provide the Russians with intelligence on a regular basis. Special activities are carried out by Russian intelligence personnel who travel to Switzerland on an ad hoc basis. Read more of this post

In rare speech, Australian intelligence chief stresses urgent need to recruit more spies

Paul SymonAUSTRALIAN INTELLIGENCE MUST recruit foreign spies with more urgency than at any time since the opening years of the Cold War, according to the head of Australia’s main foreign intelligence agency. Paul Symon, director of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), was speaking at a public event to mark the 70th anniversary of the organization’s history. It was a rare public speech by the head of Australia’s secretive main foreign intelligence service.

Symon’s talk was hosted in Sydney by the Lowy Institute, an independent Australian think-tank that focuses on international affairs. During his talk, which was made available afterwards on the Lowy Institute’s website, Symon spoke about a range of issues relating to Australia’s geopolitical priorities and their connection to intelligence operations. He told the audience that the primary task of ASIS, which is to recruit foreign subjects to spy on behalf of Australia, remained as crucial as ever.

He added, however, that a growing number of pressing concerns made “the need to recruit new spies” more essential than ever before. According to Symon, ASIS needs to “recruit and work with even more vigor and urgency than at any other point in our 70-year history”. In this task, China remains a strategic focus for ASIS, given its role in the region. Symon claimed there were signs that increasing numbers of Chinese state “officials [and] individuals” were “interested in a relationship” with ASIS. This was because many Chinese are becoming concerned about what he described as the rise of “an enforced monoculture” in China, and wish to stop it, said Symon.

Later in his speech, the ASIS director touched in broad terms on the challenge posed by technology on human intelligence (HUMINT) operations, in which ASIS specializes. He described these challenges as “extraordinary”, and said they resulted from an interaction between “a complex strategic environment [and] intensified counter-intelligence efforts” by Australia’s adversaries, as well as a host of “emergent and emerging technologies”. These technologies are in many ways posing “a near-existential” risk to the types of HUMINT operations carried out by ASIS, as the organization’s collection activities run the risk of becoming “increasingly discoverable”, said Symon.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 10 May 2022 | Permalink

South Korea busts alleged North Korean spy ring, handler remains at large

North and South KoreaSOUTH KOREAN AUTHORITIES HAVE busted an alleed spy ring run by a North Korean handler, who remains at large. Two men have been arrested so far in connection with the ring. One of them, identified only as “Lee”, is reportedly the chief executive of a South Korean cryptocurrency exchange. The other man, a Republic of Korea Army officer, is identified as “Captain B.” in court documents.

Lee was arrested on April 2, while Captain B. was arrested on April 15. They are facing charges of violating South Korea’s 1948 National Security Act. Prosecutors alleged that the two men divulged to their North Korean handler the log-in credentials to the online command-and-control portal of the Republic of Korea Armed Forces. The men are accused of having received substantial financial compensation in return for their services.

According to the prosecution, Lee was approached in July 2021 by a North Korean intelligence officer, who recruited him to work for North Korean intelligence. In August of the same year, Lee approached Captain B., and recruited as a subcontractor, with the promise of substantial financial compensation in the form of bitcoin. Captain B. then began giving military secrets to Lee, who passed them on to the North Koreans.

Eventually, Lee’s handler allegedly provided him with a miniature camera hidden inside an electronic watch. Lee gave this spy device to Captain B., along with a hacking device hidden inside a flash drive, which is commonly known as a “poison tap”. This device gave the North Korean handler access to the laptop used by the men to access the South Korean military’s command-and-control portal. The two alleged spies were compensated with nearly $600,000 in bitcoin for their services.

South Korean authorities claim that the North Korean handler of the spy ring, as well as a man who worked as a courier between the handler and the two agents, remain at large. Public court documents do not specify the kind of information that was allegedly accessed by the North Koreans as a result of this breach.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 29 April 2022 | Permalink

China steps up ‘people’s war’ against alleged Western espionage offensive

Supreme People’s ProcuratorateCHINESE STATE-OWNED MEDIA has stepped up warnings of an alleged Western espionage offensive, to mark China’s annual “national security education day”, a new initiative promoted by the Chinese Communist Party (CPC). The decision to designate April 15 “national security education day” was adopted by the CPC in 2015, during its 12th National People’s Congress. Since then, the Chinese government has promoted the day as an effort to create a “positive atmosphere of national security” across the nation.

In recent months, Beijing has called on the country’s citizens to combat an alleged espionage offensive against China. According to Chinese officials, the alleged offensive is being led by the United States. Chinese citizens are being called to “wage a people’s war” against foreign espionage, by reporting suspicious activities by foreigners and locals alike to the authorities.

The call to war against alleged espionage follows a resolution by the CPC in November of last year, which critiqued the country’s inability to maintain a high level of national security. The resolution called on various elements of the government and general population to address the nation’s “ability to respond to various major risks […] and the coordination mechanisms for maintaining national security”. Notably, the resolution described these efforts as “currently not strong”.

On Friday, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP), China’s highest government agency responsible for investigating and prosecuting criminal activity, issued a call to Chinese citizens to be watchful of using “popular social media platforms”. The SPP noted that such platforms had become “a hotbed for the infiltration of foreign hostile forces”. The warning made special mention of employment and dating websites, which prayed on “students, migrant workers and unemployed youth who know little about national security”.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 18 April 2022 | Permalink

Security guard at British embassy in Berlin charged with spying for Russia

British embassy in BerlinA BRITISH CITIZEN, WHO worked as a security guard at the British embassy in Berlin, has been charged with spying for the Russian intelligence services. Authorities in the United Kingdom announced on Wednesday that David Ballantyne Smith, 57, who lives in Potsdam, Germany, has been charged on nine different offenses under the 1911 Official Secrets Act.

The BBC reports that Smith was arrested by Germany’s Federal Police on August 10 of last year. Shortly after his arrest, German counterintelligence officers searched Smith’s home and office, according to a statement issued on Wednesday by Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Smith has now been charged with offenses relating “to the collection and communication of information useful to the Russian state”.

On Wednesday evening, Smith was flown to the United Kingdom. He is scheduled to appear before the Westminster Magistrates’ Court later today. According to the CPS, Smith engaged in espionage for Russia between October 2020 and his arrest in August of 2021. He is accused of having committed seven offenses during that time, which relate to the collection of information with the intent of passing it on to the Russian state. Smith has also been charged with attempting to communicate information to Russian government agents, as well as with providing information to an individual he believed worked for Russian intelligence.

According to British television channel SkyNews, Smith was the subject of a joint counterintelligence operation by Britain’s Security Service (MI5) and Germany’s Federal Police. No information is currently available about the type of information Smith is accused of having collected on behalf of Russia. It is also not known whether Smith’s alleged Russian handler(s) were identified during the counterintelligence operation that led to his arrest.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 07 April 2022 | Permalink

Ukrainian agency publishes personal data of 600 alleged Russian intelligence officers

Kyrylo BudanovUKRAINE’S MILITARY INTELLIGENCE AGENCY has published a list that contains the names, addresses and passport numbers of 600 Russians, who it alleges are employees of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). The FSB is Russia’s domestic security and counterintelligence agency, but its personnel also operate in former Soviet republics, including Ukraine. It has been claimed that the FSB is the main source of intelligence that the Kremlin has used to plan and execute the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

The list of alleged FSB personnel was published on Monday on the website of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, which is Ukraine’s primary military intelligence agency. The list is titled, “Russian FSB officers involved in criminal activities by the aggressor state in Europe”. Most entries include the names, birth dates and passport numbers of the alleged FSB officers. Their residential addresses are also listed. Some entries include subscriber identity module (SIM) card numbers, as well as vehicle registration numbers. Some observers noted on Monday that at least some of the names on the list appear to come from prior leaks of alleged FSB officers, which have been leaked online over the years. Other listings, however, appear to contain names that were not previously associated with the FSB.

In a separate but potentially related development, Kyrylo Budanov (pictured), the director of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, said on Monday that his agency had a number of assets inside the Kremlin. In an interview to an American newsmagazine, Budanov claimed that Ukrainian intelligence had “managed to infiltrate many sectors of Russia’s leading military, political and financial institutions”. He added that the Ukrainian military’s recent combat successes in eastern Ukraine had been achieved due to intelligence supplied by assets inside the Russian government.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 29 March 2022 | Permalink

More Russian spies in Mexico than anywhere else in the world, US official claims

Glen VanHerckTHE PRESIDENT OF MEXICO has stated that his country is “sovereign” in response to comments, made by a senior United States military official, that Mexico hosts more Russian intelligence personnel than any other country in the world. These claims were made on Thursday by US Air Force General Glen VanHerck (pictured), during his appearance before the Senate Committee on Armed Services. General VanHerck is commander of the US Northern Command, which is one of the US Department of Defense’s eleven unified combatant commands.

While speaking at the open-door hearing on Thursday, General VanHerck said the Russian embassy in Mexico City was among the largest in all of Latin America. He added that the embassy hosts an unusually high number of officers of the Main Directorate of the General Staff of Russia’s Armed Forces. Known by its Russian initials, GRU, the Directorate is Moscow’s primary military intelligence agency. According to General VanHerck, the GRU uses Russian diplomatic facilities in Mexico as a base from which to access the United States.

The general added that Russian and Chinese intelligence operatives were “very aggressive and active” in the entire area that falls under the regional mission of the US Northern Command, including in Caribbean islands, such as the Bahamas. As the intelligence competition between the US and Russia heats up over Ukraine, Latin America and the Caribbean have the potential to attract intelligence personnel from both the United States and Russia.

Speaking on Friday at a scheduled press conference in Mexico City, Mexico’s President, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, appeared to evade a question by a journalist about General VanHerck’s allegations. When asked to respond to the allegations, President Obrador said he and his team “don’t have information on this”. He went on to state that Mexico is a “free, independent, sovereign country”, adding that the country’s territory was not a base from which “Moscow […] Beijing or Washington” could “spy on anybody”. The Russian embassy in Mexico City has not yet commented on General VanHerck’s claims.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 28 March 2022 | Permalink

US indicts five members of Chinese spy ring, handler remains at large

Chinese Ministry of State SecurityAUTHORITIES IN THE UNITED States have indicted five members of an alleged spy ring for the Chinese Ministry for State Security (MSS), who engaged in sabotage, bribing, harassment, intimidation and entrapment operations. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) alleges [PDF]  that the five men, Qiming Lin, 59, Shujun Wang, 73, Quiang ‘Jason’ Sun, 40, Matthew Ziburis, 49, and Fan ‘Frank’ Liu, 62, operated at the behest of the government of China, conducting several operations on US soil, with an “unlimited budget”.

Lin, Wang, Liu and Ziburis have been arrested. They each face between 10 and 20 years in prison, if convicted. Sun, who is the alleged handler of the spy ring, remains at large. The FBI claims Sun is an MSS officer and is currently in China. The FBI alleges that the five men were tasked with destroying the personal lives and careers of Chinese dissidents living in the United States. Their victims included a Chinese-born American citizen, who is running for Congress. The dissident is not identified in the FBI indictment. However, according to the Business Insider, he is believed to be Yan Xiong, a Long Island resident who escaped to the US after participating in the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations.

Members of the Chinese spy ring allegedly tried to thwart Yan’s Congressional election campaign. Specifically, they are accused of conspiring to extort Yan, by luring him in a ‘honey trap’ operation involving prostitutes. They also conspired to plant child pornography in Yan’s personal computer, and even using physical beatings and intimidation in order to subvert his political career. The spy ring is also believed to have targeted Weiming Chen, a Chinese-born, California-based artist, who has produced sculptures and other artwork critical of the Chinese government.

In most cases, members of the spy ring tried to acquire personal data belonging to their victims, including their US social security numbers, as well as copies of their passports. In several cases, members of the spy ring installed covert surveillance equipment in the cars, residences and work places of their targets. These allowed them to monitor their victims’ personal lives and whereabouts. In announcing the indictments on Wednesday, US Department of Justice representatives said efforts by Chinese spies to intimidate and silence expatriate dissidents living in the US had risen at an “alarming rate” in the past year.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 17 March 2022 | Permalink

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