WWII files reveal ‘glamorous’ female spy used to test trainees

Special Operations Executive plaqueBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
British records from World War II released this week have revealed for the first time the existence of a “glamorous” female intelligence operative who used her good looks to test the ability of spy trainees to keep sensitive information. The agent’s name was Marie Chilver, and she was the daughter of a Latvian mother and an English father. She appears to have drawn the attention of British intelligence in 1941, shortly after she helped a British airman shot down over France return to Britain. Chilver came in contact with the Special Operations Executive, a top-secret organization established in 1940 by the British government in preparation for the war in Europe. Its mission was to organize espionage and sabotage operations in Axis-occupied Europe and to assist underground resistance groups. The documents show that the SOE initially thought Chilver was a German spy. However, once her identity was verified through several background checks, the highly secret agency employed Chilver as a counterintelligence operative. She was given the operational codename “FIFI”. Her duties apparently involved accosting SOE spy trainees at restaurants and bars and trying to entice them into revealing government secrets, in an effort to evaluate whether spies-in-training could “keep their mouths shut”. Utilizing her “glamorous looks”, blonde hair and elegant dresses, Chilver would pose as a French freelance reporter and would approach selected SOE trainees to see “if they had learned how to keep secrets”, according to the wartime documents. But the files reveal that, more often than not, FIFI was able to extract classified information from the trainees. In one case, Chilver reported that a Belgian SOE trainee had told her nearly “all there was to know about him” by the end of a short evening. The SOE proceeded to promptly dismiss the young Belgian a few days later. The declassified documents include a transcribed interview with FIFI, who claimed that her counterintelligence methods were “absolutely fair” and were “mild and innocent” when compared to what the SOE trainees would have to face in the field. Read more of this post

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Canada intelligence agency warns officials of espionage, honey traps

Richard FaddenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Canada’s foremost intelligence agency has authored a publication warning government officials they are as much targets of espionage today as they were during the Cold War. The warning is contained in a 2012 publication titled Far From Home: A Travel Security Guide for Government Officials, penned by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). It is aimed at Canadian diplomats and other federal employees who may, according to CSIS, become the targets of international espionage activities while traveling abroad. A copy of the guide was accessed by the Canadian Press agency under Canada’s Access to Information Act. In a brief forward to the guide, the then Director of CSIS, Richard Fadden, warns readers that international espionage is believed to be “at a level equal to that seen during the Cold War” (intelNews readers will remember Fadden has made similar claims in public before). He adds that Canada remains a “valued target” on the international intelligence scene, due to its sophisticated technology, energy and financial services sectors. Fadden, who left CSIS in May to become Canada’s Deputy Minister of National Defense, goes on to state that Canada is spied on by foreign intelligence agencies because of its “prized political connections” with the United States and its membership in “important international bodies”. In the guidebook, Canadian federal employees are advised to consider the information they carry with them while abroad as “a prized target” and to take conscious steps to protect it. Advice includes being cautious of information shared with taxi drivers, waiters or bar tenders, keeping personal electronic devices under watch at all times, and avoiding the use of hotel safes to store confidential material, as “intrusions are frequently accomplished with the co-operation of […] hotel staff”. The instructional book, stamped “For Official Use Only”, makes specific mention of “honey traps” —espionage lingo for intelligence collection through sexual seduction. It notes that honey traps often involve clandestine recordings of intimate encounters, which are later used to blackmail or publicly embarrass the target of the espionage operation. Read more of this post

Court papers reveal Australian official’s affair with Vietnamese spy

Elizabeth MasamuneBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A statement filed with a federal court in Australia reveals that a Vietnamese intelligence officer, who is accused of having received millions of dollars in bribes to secure an international business contract, had an affair with an Australian government official involved in the deal. Australian federal authorities allege that the officer, Anh Ngoc Luong, a Colonel with Vietnam’s General Department of Military Intelligence, received AU$20 million (US$20.8 million) from Securency, a subsidiary of the government-owned Reserve Bank of Australia. According to Australian government prosecutors, who are suing eight Reserve Bank executives for bribing Anh, the Vietnamese intelligence officer was secretly paid to help secure a contract for the provision of banknote technology services between Securency and the State Bank of Vietnam. But it now appears that, while helping secure the lucrative deal, Anh had at least “two isolated sexual encounters” with Elizabeth Masamune, who at the time was a senior official with the Australian Trade Commission. Known informally as Austrade, the Commission operates under the country’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and has offices in most Australian embassies and consulates around the world. It is tasked with representing Australia’s business interests abroad and helping Australian companies secure international business contracts. In a statement filed in court on Monday, Masamune said Anh had asked her out to dinner in the spring of 2002, while she was stationed in Vietnam. At the end of the dinner, the Vietnamese intelligence officer suggested that Masamune “go upstairs with him to a room in the hotel”. According to her statement, the Australian trade official agreed to do so “on the spur of the moment”. She added that her decision was motivated by her attraction to Anh and problems she was having in her marriage at the time. Read more of this post

Did Czechoslovakian spies plan to blackmail British leader?

Ted HeathBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In 1975, Czechoslovakian intelligence officer Josef Frolík, who had defected to the United States, published a book titled The Frolik Defection: The Memoirs of an Intelligence Agent. Among several revelations in the book was an alleged plot by the ŠtB, Czechoslovakia’s Cold-War-era secret intelligence service, to sexually blackmail British Conservative politician Edward “Ted” Heath. According to Frolík, the ŠtB had concluded that Heath, a lifelong bachelor and Britain’s Prime Minister from 1970 to 1974, was gay. Based on this —highly questionable— belief, Jan Mrázek, an ŠtB officer working out of the Czechoslovakian embassy in London, had allegedly devised a plan in the mid-1960s, which aimed to expose Heath to homosexual blackmail. Frolík claims in his book that Mrázek developed the plot around Heath’s well-known preoccupation with classical music. Specifically, he planned to recruit Czechoslovakian classical organist Jiří Reinberger, who would be instructed to meet the British conservative politician in London and invite him to Prague for a concert. While there, the ŠtB hoped that a romantic affair would ensue, under the watchful eye of Czechoslovakian spies, who would make sure to capture the more intimate moments of the two men on camera. The audiovisual evidence would, the ŠtB believed, convince Heath to spy for Czechoslovakian intelligence. According Frolík, the plan was put to action but was eventually scrapped after MI5, Britain’s counterintelligence agency, warned Heath that a trip to Czechoslovakia would expose him to blackmail by that country’s intelligence service. When Frolík’s book came out, Heath, who had stepped down from his post as Britain’s Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party, dismissed the story as a fabrication, and threatened to sue the author. But was Frolík telling the truth? Read more of this post

News you may have missed #716 (analysis edition)

Mordechai VanunuBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Kabul attacks show intel failures in Afghanistan. Dozens, possibly hundreds of people would have been involved in training, equipping and then infiltrating into the heart of Kabul the large number of insurgents who were prepared to fight to a certain death in the Afghan capital last Sunday. Yet neither Afghan nor foreign intelligence operatives appeared to have any idea that an unprecedented wave of attacks was about to engulf both Kabul and several other key locations around the country. So it seems that Afghan President Hamid Karzai may have a point when he says that the “infiltration in Kabul and other provinces is an intelligence failure for us and especially for NATO and should be seriously investigated”.
►►Report claims China spies on US space technology. China is stealing US military and civilian space technology in an effort to disrupt US access to intelligence, navigation and communications satellites, according to a report authored by the State and Defense Departments. The report (.pdf) argues China should be excluded from recommendations made to the US government to ease restrictions on exports of communications and remote-sensing satellites and equipment. Chinese officials have denied the report’s allegations, calling it a “Cold War ghost”.
►►The long and sordid history of sex and espionage. Using seduction to extract valuable information is as old as the Old Testament —literally— Whether from conviction or for profit, women —and men— have traded sex for secrets for centuries. The Cold War provided plenty of opportunities for so-called “honey-pot” scandals. Perhaps the most dramatic case of seduction in recent times involved Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu. In 1986 he visited London and provided The Sunday Times with dozens of photographs of Israel’s alleged nuclear weapons program. But Mossad was on his trail and a female agent —Cheryl Ben Tov— befriended him (reportedly bumping into him at a cigarette kiosk in London’s Leicester Square). She lured him to Rome for a weekend, where he was drugged and spirited to Israel.

News you may have missed #707

Gareth WilliamsBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Russian colonel charged with spying for the US. Russia charged a reserve colonel with espionage on Tuesday, for selling what officials said were classified topographical maps to the United States Department of Defense. The officer, Vladimir Lazar, purchased a disk with over 7,000 topographical images of Russian territory from a collector he met on the Internet in 2008, smuggled it into neighboring Belarus and gave it to a Russian citizen working for the United States, the prosecutor general’s office said in a statement. An investigation found that the materials could be used for planning military operations, including missile strikes. Officials did not disclose when Lazar was arrested or give his current whereabouts.
►►FBI denies Russian spy tried to sexually entice US cabinet official. On April 1, British newspaper The Independent quoted C. Frank Figliuzzi, the assistant FBI director for counterintelligence, saying that the recently discovered Russian illegals spy ring, which included Anna Chapman, was “getting close enough to a sitting US cabinet member that we thought we could no longer allow this to continue”. Now the FBI says that Figliuzzi “was misquoted”, and that “there is no allegation or suggestion in the complaint that Anna Chapman or anyone else associated with this investigation attempted to seduce a US Cabinet official”.
►►London police admits ‘errors’ in MI6 officer’s death investigation. A coroner was given a wrong name for a witness in the case of an MI6 officer Gareth Williams, whose body was found in a bag in a London flat in August of 2010. The Metropolitan Police said “administrative errors” led to the coroner being given three different names for Elizabeth Guthrie. She is expected to be questioned about her contact with the MI6 officer in the months before his death. At a pre-inquest hearing last week coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox said “there has been some confusion” over the identity of the witness.

News you may have missed #665

Matthew M. AidBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Joseph Fitsanakis interviewed on ABC Radio National. IntelNews‘ own Dr Joseph Fitsanakis was interviewed on Friday by reporter Suzanne Hill, for ABC Radio National’s flagship evening news program ‘PM‘. In the interview, which was about the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, Fitsanakis points the finger at the Mossad, and explains why he doesn’t believe the United States had anything to do with the killing. You can listen to the interview here. The transcript is here.
►►India releases diplomat jailed for spying. Last April, Madhuri Gupta, second secretary at the Indian high commission in Islamabad, Pakistan, was arrested for working for Pakistan’s ISI spy agency. She apparently had a “relationship of personal affection” with an aide of her Pakistani handler. On Tuesday, she was granted bail by an Indian court, after 21 months in prison.
►►Matthew Aid interviewed about his new book. Matthew M. Aid, author of The Secret Sentry, has written a new book, Intel Wars: The Secret History of the Fight Against Terror. You can listen to an extensive interview he gave on January 11 on NPR’s Fresh Air, in which Aid outlined his view that “overlapping jurisdictions, bureaucratic policies and a glut of data have crippled the intelligence community in its war against would-be terrorists”.
►►British spies to be cleared on torture allegations. The British government, including Scotland Yard and the Crown Prosecution Service, has just finished a four-year inquiry into the country’s security and intelligence services, sparked by allegations by terrorist suspects released from Guantanamo Bay, that they were severely tortured. The results have not yet been announced. But British media report that, according to information from trusted sources, the inquiry has concluded that (…drumroll…) there is no evidence that officers from either MI5 or MI6 were aware of the mistreatment of prisoners.