Cold War files show CIA support for guerrilla warfare inside USSR (Part II)

Latvia Forest BrothersThe role of the CIA in funding and helping to organize anti-Soviet groups inside the USSR has been known for decades. But, as intelNews explained in part I of this article, a batch of recently released documents, unearthed by Russian-language service of Latvian state television, sheds light into the CIA’s early understanding of the identity, strength and operations of these groups. They also contain new information about the background and structure of underground anti-Soviet groups like the Forest Brothers in Latvia.

Judging that Latvia’s anti-Soviet underground movement could be “of considerable operational value”, the CIA initiated project ZRLYNCH in the summer of 1950. Operated out of the CIA’s Munich station in Germany, ZRLYNCH was intended as a long-term project supervised by the Office of Policy Coordination, an early Cold War covert operations outfit that in 1952 was absorbed into the CIA’s Directorate of Operations. The Latvia operation was part of a wider effort by the CIA, which was aimed at subverting Soviet power in Eastern Europe.

For the first year of ZRLYNCH, the CIA’s Office of Policy Coordination asked for —and received— a budget of $30,000. The top-secret document unearthed recently by Latvian state television states that the budget was to be used primarily for intelligence collection inside Soviet territory, as well as for covert operations by the Forest Brothers (for information about the group, see part I of this post). The latter were to conduct sabotage activities as part of organized guerrilla warfare. These activities are not specified in the CIA documents. By the end of the first year, it appears that the CIA had recruited three Latvian agents in Europe (one in Sweden and two in Germany), who were acting as mediators between the CIA and the Forest Brothers inside the USSR. Less than three years later, the ZRLYNCH budget had risen to $134,000, with $52,000 going toward covert —mostly psychological— operations and the rest being used to fund intelligence collection efforts. The CIA was also funding the travel expenses of leading Latvian émigré figures in the US, and was diverting tens of thousands of dollars toward Latvian émigré conferences in America, which aimed to unite the various political factions of the fragmented Latvian community in the States.

But the CIA officers behind ZRLYNCH were extremely concerned about operational security. They did not want the Kremlin finding out that the Agency was behind efforts to stir up armed resistance against Soviet power in the Baltic region. One CIA document states that there would be no tolerance for “any breaches of security” that compromised ZRLYNCH. Consequently, any action that uncovered the link between the US government and the Forest Bothers would lead “to an immediate cessation of financial support” for ZRLYNCH, states the memo.

Ultimately, ZRLYNCH failed to seriously challenge Soviet power in Latvia. Most of the members of the Forest Brothers were killed during Red Army counterinsurgency operations, and much of the organization’s structure was penetrated by agents of Soviet intelligence. Eventually, the Forest Brothers became extinct in 1957, when their last members emerged from the forest and surrendered to Latvian and Soviet authorities.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 11 August 2017 | Permalink

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Court rules against German spy who was fired for dating foreign woman

BND GermanyA former employee of Germany’s spy agency, who was recalled from his post abroad after dating a foreign woman, has lost his legal battle to be compensated for lost earnings. The former intelligence officer, who has not been identified by name, worked for Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service, known by its initials, BND. From 2006 to 2008, he served as the BND’s station chief in Riga, Latvia. The post implies that he the highest-ranking German intelligence officer in the small Baltic state. According to court documents, the BND station chief had explicit directions from his employer, in writing, not to fraternize with locals while serving in the Latvian capital. The instructions expressly forbade romantic affiliations with locals.

But, according to documents from the legal case, the intelligence officer failed to comply with agency policy and began dating a Latvian national. Soon he fell in love with her and invited her to move in with him. It was allegedly after the local woman moved in with him that he notified the BND about their relationship. The intelligence agency promptly recalled him from his post and demoted him —a move that, he claims, effectively ended his career. He therefore sued the BND, asking for reinstatement of his job and €400,000 ($420,000) in lost earnings. The plaintiff’s lawyers argued that, prior to inviting the woman to move in with him, he asked Latvian intelligence to run a background investigation on her, which came out clean. They also argued that Latvia is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and that the BND cooperates with its Latvian counterpart.

However, according to German news reports, the court rejected the plaintiff’s claims and threw out the case. The former BND officer has also been ordered to pay the legal costs associated with the court case. Intelligence officers posted abroad are typically warned to avoid entering in sexual or romantic relationships with non-vetted foreign nationals. Intelligence agencies fear that these situations could give rise to infiltration by rival agencies, or even enable extortion and blackmail to be carried out by adversary intelligence operatives.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 25 November 2016 | Permalink

Mossad operative to avoid jail in extradition deal

Uri Brodsky

"Uri Brodsky"

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
An operative of Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, who was arrested in Poland on charges of forging a German passport, will avoid prison time for the offense, under a suspected Polish-German-Israeli secret deal. The man, whose travel documents identify him as Uri Brodsky, was arrested upon arriving in Poland on June 4. He is wanted by German prosecutors for procuring a forged German passport for use by a member of a Mossad hit squad, who used it to enter Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in mid-January of this year. The user of the forged passport is thought to have participated in the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a Hamas weapons procurer, who was found dead in his luxury Dubai hotel room on January 20.  German prosecutors believe that Brodsky, who worked in Germany under the name of Alexander Werin, assisted numerous Mossad operatives acquire forged identity papers of several European countries, including Estonia, Latvia, Austria and Switzerland. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0079

  • Berlin football club cancels deal over Stasi controversy. FC Union Berlin has dumped its main sponsor, International Sport Promotion, over allegations that its CEO, Juergen Czilinsky, was a member of the Stasi, the East German secret police.
  • US officials targeted by fake emails. Malicious emails claiming to be from the US Department of Homeland Security, but which actually originate from Latvia and Russia, are being sent to Pentagon and state and local officials in the US. Similar news emerged from Australia last week.
  • Emirates expel Thai ex-premier. Ousted former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra was expelled by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Tuesday, and has gone to Montenegro. Interestingly, Montenegrin authorities have supplied Thaksin with a Montenegrin passport.

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Researchers discover gigantic cyberespionage operation

Ronald Deibert

Ronald Deibert

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A team of Canadian researchers claims to have discovered a large cyberespionage ring located mainly in China. The researchers say the ring has managed to infiltrate nearly 1,300 mainly government and corporate computers in at least 103 countries around the world. The report, entitled Tracking GhostNet: Investigating a Cyber Espionage Network, was compiled after a ten-month collaboration between Ottawa’s SecDev group and the University of Toronto’s Munk Centre for International Studies. Although the report concludes that the cyberespionage ring is located mainly in China, it specifically rejects claims that GhostNet is inevitably a Chinese government operation, saying that there is no evidence that Beijing is behind the operation. University of Toronto associate professor Ronald Deibert suggested that the operation could potentially be the work of non-state pro-Chinese actors, or could be conducted by a profit-oriented group that sells the acquired information to whoever offers it the highest monetary compensation. “It’s a murky realm that we’re lifting the lid on”, said Dr. Deibert: “This could well be the CIA or the Russians”. Read more of this post

Analysis: Is Latvia Turning into a Security State?

Seventeen years after gaining its formal independence from the USSR, Latvia has been admitted to the Council of Europe, NATO and the European Union. It has even joined Washington’s visa waiver program, which gives all Latvians the right to travel to the US without a visa. George W. Bush says he “love[s] the fact that [Latvia is] a free nation and willing to speak out so clearly for freedom”. And yet last month a law-abiding Latvian economist and a pop singer were summarily arrested by the Latvian Security Service, an agency normally responsible for counterespionage and antiterrorism operations. Their crime? Daring to publicly express doubts about the Latvian government’s handling of the economy. Joseph Fitsanakis explains some strange goings on in the tiny Baltic state. Read article →