Russian, Portuguese intelligence officers arrested in Rome on espionage charges

Frederico CarvalhãoTwo intelligence officers, one Russian and one Portuguese, have been arrested by Italian authorities on charges of espionage. The arrests took place in Rome on Monday by Italian police, who were reportedly accompanied by Portuguese counterintelligence officers. It is suggested in Portuguese media that the two men were arrested in the act of exchanging classified documents and money. The Portuguese intelligence officer has been identified in news reports as Frederico Carvalhão, a section chief for Portugal’s Security Information Service, which is tasked with domestic security and counterintelligence. The Russian intelligence officer has not been identified, but is believed to be an employee of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, known as SVR. Interestingly, the Russian officer does not have diplomatic status and was therefore arrested, since he holds no diplomatic immunity.

A press release by the Portuguese government prosecutor said that Carvalhão had been arrested “along with a foreign subject linked to an intelligence organization” after a lengthy investigation into “concerns that [classified] information was being exchanged for money”. It is believed that Portuguese authorities began investigating Carvalhão in 2015, and now believe that he frequently traveled abroad to meet his Russian handler. He is thought to have been recruited by the Russians in 2014. According to Portuguese media reports, the documents that Carvalhão appears to have been giving the SVR contain information about the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, of which Portugal is a member.

Carvalhão is said to have flown from Lisbon to Rome on Friday of last week in order to meet his SVR handler. The two men were meeting in a café on Saturday when they were arrested. The Portuguese government prosecutor said that Saturday’s arrests resulted from “rigorous collaboration between Portuguese and Italian authorities”. He also thanked Eurojust, a European Union agency based in the Netherlands, which focuses on cross-national judicial cooperation between European Union member-states. Security officers also raided Carvalhão’s home in Portugal, where they allegedly seized “documents and cash”. Both he and his alleged Russian hander remain in detention in Rome, while Italy is preparing to extradite them to Portugal.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 26 May 2016 | Permalink | News tip: C.W.

Interview with children of Russian deep-cover spies caught in the US

First Post HThe two sons of a Russian couple, who were among 10 deep-cover spies arrested in the United States, have given an interview about their experience for the first time. Tim and Alex Foley (now Vavilov) are the sons of Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley, a married couple arrested in 2010 under Operation GHOST STORIES, a counterintelligence program run by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. Following their arrest, their sons, who had grown up thinking their parents were Canadian, were told that they were in fact Russian citizens and that their real names were Andrei Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova. Their English-sounding names and Canadian passports had been forged in the late 1980s by the KGB, the Soviet Union’s primary external intelligence agency.

The two boys were at the family’s home in suburban Cambridge, MA, on Sunday, June 27, 2010, when FBI agents conducted coordinated raids across New England, arresting their parents and eight more Russian ‘illegals’. That term is used to signify Russian non-official-cover operatives, namely intelligence officers who operate abroad without diplomatic cover and typically without connection to the country they spy for. It is now believed that Bezrukov and Vavilova were recruited as a couple in the 1980s by the KGB’s Department S, which operated the agency’s ‘illegals’ program. They were trained for several years before being sent to Canada, where their mission was to blend into the society and establish a ‘legend’, a background story of their lives that could be supported by forged documentation supplied by the KGB. In 1995, the family moved to Paris, France, where Bezrukov, using the name Donald Heathfield, earned Master in Business Administration from the École des Ponts. Both their children had been born by 1999, when the family moved to Massachusetts so that Bezrukov could study at Harvard University. He then joined a consultancy firm, which he apparently planned to use as a vehicle in order to get close to influential American lawmakers.

Their two sons, who are now living in unspecified locations in Europe and Singapore, told British newspaper The Guardian that their childhood was “absolutely normal” and that they never suspected their parents of being spies. They told The Guardian’s Shaun Walker that their parents never discussed Russia or the Soviet Union, never ate Russian food, and never met Russian people while in Massachusetts. The sons, whose Russian names are Alexander and Timofei Vavilov, said they remember meeting their grandparents “somewhere in Europe” when they were very young, but that they later disappeared from their lives. Their parents told them that they lived in rural Alberta, Canada, and that they found it difficult to travel.

The two brothers said that, shortly after their parents were arrested by the FBI, they were put on a plane to Moscow. When they arrived there, a group of people appeared on the plane door and introduced themselves to them as “colleagues of their parents”. They were then placed in a van and taken to a Moscow apartment, where they were given information about their parents’ true backgrounds, including photographs of them from their teenage lives and military service in the USSR. It was then, they told The Guardian, that they finally believed that their parents were indeed Russian spies.

The family reunited a few days later in Moscow, after Bezrukov, Vavilova, and the other Russian ‘illegals’ were exchanged with four men held in Russian jails for spying for the West. The two brothers now want to regain their Canadian citizenship, which was taken from them by the government of Canada after their parents were found to have been using forged Canadian citizenship papers. They argue that they feel Canadian, not Russian, and that they are not responsible for their parents’ actions, which were hidden from them until their arrest in 2010.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 09 May 2016 | Permalink

US warns China against use of non-official-cover operatives

Chinese Ministry of State SecurityThe White House has warned the Chinese government to stop deploying on American soil intelligence operatives masquerading as tourists, business executives or other false covers. Nowadays the standard practice for intelligence personnel deployed abroad is to be posted as diplomatic staff in a foreign embassy or consulate. But there are some intelligence officers who do not follow that practice. These are known as non-official-cover operatives, or NOCs in American intelligence parlance. NOCs are typically high-level principal agents or officers of an intelligence agency, who operate without official connection to the diplomatic authorities of the country that is employing them. They typically pose as business executives, students, academics, journalists, or non-profit agency workers. Unlike official-cover officers, who are protected by diplomatic immunity, NOCs have no such protection. If arrested by authorities of their host country, they can be tried and convicted for operating as unregistered agents of a foreign government.

According to The New York Times, a significant number of Chinese NOCs have recently entered the United States as part of the Chinese government’s Operation FOX HUNT. Supervised by China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS), FOX HUNT is aimed at the thousands of former officials and other fugitives from China, who are alleged to have embezzled funds and are now living abroad, usually in considerable wealth. As part of the MSS operation, teams of intelligence agents are said to have been dispatched around the world in order to hunt down these fugitives, many of whom are believed to have embezzled hundreds of millions of dollars in government funds. Chinese media reports claim that nearly 1000 such fugitives have been “repatriated”, either voluntarily or involuntarily, since the launch of FOX HUNT. The tactics used by the Chinese NOCs are not clear, and some suspect that they include direct or indirect threats against the fugitives’ family members in China. Chinese reports have described FOX HUNT operatives as “mostly young, highly skilled”, and accustomed to “rapid-fire deployment” around the world.

The Times said that Washington views the parts of Operation FOX HUNT that take place on US soil as “a departure from the routine practice of secret government intelligence gathering” that both America and China practice against each other. The US, therefore, does not want Chinese officers without official diplomatic credentials, but posing instead as students, tourists or business representatives, engaging in intelligence operations on US soil, said the paper. It added that Washington’s warning had been delivered to Beijing “in recent weeks”. The Times article did not include specific descriptions of FOX RUN activities on American soil.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 17 August 2015 | Permalink

Cold War files show secret war between CIA and KGB in Canada

Natalie (Natalka) BundzaA set of declassified intelligence documents from the 1950s and 1960s offer a glimpse into the secret war fought in Canada between American and Soviet spy agencies at the height of the Cold War. The documents were authored by the United States Central Intelligence Agency and declassified following a Freedom of Information Act request filed on behalf of the Canadian newspaper The Toronto Star. According to the paper, they show that Toronto was a major hub of a prolonged espionage conflict fought between the CIA and the Soviet KGB.

Much of the espionage activity by the two spy agencies concentrated on Toronto’s sizable Eastern European expatriate community, especially on immigrants with Ukrainian and Polish roots. In one document dating from 1959, a CIA officer details the profiles of 18 Canadian citizens, most of them Toronto residents, who were suspected by Langley to be working for the KGB. Most of them were believed to be non-official-cover operatives, or NOCs, as they are known in the US Intelligence Community. The term typically refers to high-level principal agents or officers of an intelligence agency, who operate without official connection to the diplomatic authorities of the country that employs them. The declassified document explains that the suspected NOCs had secretly traveled to the USSR after being recruited by the KGB. They were then trained as spies before returning to Canada years later under new identities.

Others, like a naturalized Canadian identified in the documents as Ivan Kolaska, were believed by the CIA to have immigrated to Toronto as part of a broader KGB effort to infiltrate the ranks of the anti-communist Eastern European expatriate community in Canada. Some of these infiltrators were able to settle in Canada, marry locals, get jobs and have families, while living a double life. The Star spoke to one Ukrainian immigrant to Canada whose name features in the declassified CIA files. Natalie Bundza, now 78, worked as a travel agent in 1950s’ Toronto and regularly led tourist groups to communist countries. She was a Ukrainian nationalist and anticommunist, but the CIA believed she was pretending to have these beliefs in order to infiltrate the Ukrainian expatriate community in Toronto. The American agency kept tabs on her and was able to compile a sizable file with information about Bundza’s friends and associates, her travel itineraries, and even the contents of her suitcases she took with her on international trips.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 3 July 2015 | Permalink: https://intelnews.org/2015/07/03/01-1728/

Nazi letter to one of history’s greatest double spies found in Tokyo

Richard SorgeA congratulatory letter sent by a senior Nazi official to Richard Sorge, a German who spied for the USSR, and is sometimes credited with helping Moscow win World War II, has been found in Japan. The letter was sent by Joachim von Ribbentrop, a senior German Nazi Party member and Adolf Hitler’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. It is directly addressed to Sorge, who was himself a member of the Nazi Party, but spied for the USSR throughout the 1930s and early 1940s.

Born in what eventually became Soviet Azerbaijan to a German father and a Russian mother, Sorge fought as a German soldier in World War I and received commendations for his bravery. But he became a communist in the interwar years and secretly went to Moscow to be trained as a spy by the Fourth Directorate of the Soviet Red Army, which was later renamed GRU —Soviet military intelligence. He then traveled back to Germany as a non-official-cover principal agent for the USSR, joined the Nazi Party and became a journalist for Die Frankfurter Zeitung, one of Germany’s leading newspapers at the time. When the paper sent him to Tokyo to be its Japan correspondent, Sorge struck a friendship with German Ambassador to Tokyo Eugen Ott, who eventually hired him as his trusted press secretary and advisor. It was from him that Sorge found out that Hitler was preparing to violate his non-aggression pact with the USSR, and promptly notified Moscow. His warnings, however, were dismissed as fantastical by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, whose government was caught by complete surprise by the eventual German onslaught. Several months later, when Sorge told Moscow that German ally Japan was not planning to invade Russia from the east, Stalin took the tip seriously. The information provided by Sorge partly allowed Stalin to move hundreds of thousands of Soviet troops from the Far East to the German front, which in turn helped beat back the Nazi advance and win the war.

The letter was found by Yoshio Okudaira, a document expert working for Japanese antique book dealer Tamura Shoten in Tokyo. It was among a stack of World War II-era documents brought to the antique dealer by a resident of the Japanese capital. The documents belonged to a deceased relative of the man, who was reportedly unaware of their contents or significance. According to the Deutsche Welle news agency, the letter was addressed to Sorge on the occasion of his 43rd birthday, and is dated 1938. It was written by von Ribbentrop’s personal secretary and includes a signed black-and-white photograph of Hitler’s foreign-affairs minister. The accompanying note commends the double spy on his “exceptional contribution” to the Third Reich as press secretary of the German embassy in Tokyo.

Okudaira, the document expert who realized the significance of the letter, said it is of historical interest because it confirms the high level of trust that the Nazi Party had in Sorge, who was never suspected by Berlin or by his German colleagues in Tokyo of having any connection with the Soviet government. However, Sorge’s espionage was eventually uncovered by Japanese counterintelligence, who promptly arrested and tortured him severely, before executing him in November of 1941. In 1961, the Soviet government awarded him posthumously the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, which was the country’s highest distinction during the communist era.

Ex-Soviet spy living in America comes out 25 years after Cold War

Jack Barsky, real name Albrecht DittrichBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
An Eastern Bloc spy, who still lives in the United States after arriving there in 1978 on orders of the Soviet KGB, has spoken out for the first time. The spy assumed a forged American identity and remained operational for a decade before abandoning his post and quietly blending into American suburbia, toward the end of Cold War. He spoke last weekend to CBS’ flagship investigative program 60 Minutes. He told the program that he now lives in the US as Jack Barsky, an identity he assumed soon after arriving in New York with a forged Canadian passport.

But his real name is Albrecht Dittrich, and he was born in communist-era East Germany. He was a PhD student in chemistry when, in 1970, he was approached by the Stasi, the East German secret police, and asked whether he would consider training as an intelligence operative. He accepted and trained for three years under the supervision of the Soviet KGB. In 1973, he was taken to East Berlin and detailed to the KGB for training as an operations officer. He was later transferred to Moscow, where he underwent a full year of phonetics training and was taught to speak English with “no trace of a German accent”, he says.

Soon after arriving in the US, in 1978, he acquired a social security card using a birth certificate issued for Jack Philip Barsky, an American child who had died at the age of 10 in the Washington, DC, area. He told everyone that he was born in Orange, New Jersey. He eventually enrolled in a Manhattan college, where he studied computer systems. His first job out of college was as a computer programmer for Metropolitan Life Insurance, commonly known as MetLife. While there, he stole computer code for the KGB, including “a very prominent piece of industrial software still in use today”, which was “helpful to the Soviet Union”, he says. Barsky traveled back to East Germany often, using a series of false passports. During one of those visits, he married his longtime girlfriend and had a son with her. But he also married in the United States, and had two children with his wife, so as to better blend into American society. The two families knew nothing of each other’s existence.

Then, in 1988, the KGB informed Barsky that he was to return home immediately because of fears that the Federal Bureau of Investigation may be closing in on him. But the spy disobeyed orders; he decided to abandon his post and continue living in the US. He lived a comfortable life in rural Pennsylvania, until 1997, when the FBI began monitoring him. His name had been provided to the US government by Vasili Mitrokhin, a retired archivist for the KGB, who in 1992 defected to Britain, taking with him several suitcases of classified KGB material. The FBI purchased a house next to Barsky’s and eventually bugged his home. The former KGB spy was arrested in May 1997, but struck a deal with the FBI and was spared a jail sentence in return for sharing everything he knew about his training, mission and operations with the Bureau. Today he still lives in the US. He is divorced, but says his life is in America, not in Germany.

More on Russian citizens charged with espionage by the FBI

TASS news agency headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A criminal complaint unsealed Monday in a Manhattan court has revealed more details about a complex counterintelligence operation by American authorities against three Russian citizens in New York. The Federal Bureau of Investigation filed charges against two Russian diplomats, Igor Sporyshev and Victor Podobnyy, as well as Evgeny Buryakov, an employee of a major Russian bank in Manhattan. All three are believed to be officers of the SVR, Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, one of the direct institutional descendants of the Soviet-era KGB. According to the criminal complaint, the two diplomats met Buryakov nearly fifty times between March 2012 and September 2014. FBI counterintelligence agents witnessed the Russians pass “small objects or notes” between each other in public, said the indictment. As intelNews reported yesterday, the three Russians were in regular contact with individuals “associated with a leading Russian state-owned news organization” in the US. According to The Daily Beast, the news organization in question is the Moscow-based TASS news agency, which is owned by the Russian government. The court documents also reveal that Sporyshev and Podobnyy broke basic rules of intelligence tradecraft, by contacting Buryakov using an unencrypted telephone line and addressing him by his real name, rather than his cover name. These conversations, which occurred in April 2013, turned out to be monitored by the FBI’s counterintelligence division, which promptly recorded them. In subsequent telephone conversations, Sporyshev and Podobnyy exchanged views on how to recruit female assets in New York. According to the transcripts provided by the FBI, Sporyshev expressed the view that female assets posed problems, in that they would not let male SVR case officers “get close enough” unless they entered a sexual relationship, which made recruitment of assets complicated. Eventually, the FBI set up a sting operation targeting Buryakov. He was approached by an undercover FBI agent posing as an American investor, offering to provide the Russian with classified documents from the US Treasury. In exchange for the documents, he wanted assistance from the Kremlin to build a chain of casinos in Russia. Buryakov spoke with Sporyshev on the phone about the investor’s offer, and was advised by the diplomat that it could be “some sort of a set up —a trap of some kind”. When Sporyshev told Buryakov to proceed cautiously, the latter received from the undercover FBI agent documents purporting to be from a US Treasury source. The Russian was promptly arrested and now faces up to 20 years in prison on charges of operating as an unregistered agent of a foreign power.

US busts Russian spy ring, charges three with espionage

Russian mission to the UNBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Authorities in the United States have charged three Russian citizens, two of them diplomats, with operating a New York-based spy ring on orders from Moscow. Early on Monday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation named the diplomats as Igor Sporyshev, 40, and Victor Podobnyy, 27. It said the two were employees of the trade office of the Russian permanent mission to the United Nations in New York. But the FBI had apparently been monitoring the two accredited diplomats since March of 2012. Its agents eventually uncovered that Sporyshev and Podobnyy were in fact employees of the SVR, Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, one of the direct institutional descendants of the Soviet-era KGB. According to their indictment, the two were employed by the SVR’s ‘ER’ Directorate, which focuses on economics and finance. The two SVR employees, operating under diplomatic guises, regularly met with a third member of the alleged spy ring, Evgeny Buryakov, 39, also an SVR officer. However, unlike Sporyshev and Podobnyy, Buryakov was operating under non-official cover, posing as an employee in the Manhattan office of a major Russian bank. Non-official-cover operatives, or NOCs, as they are known in the US Intelligence Community, are typically high-level principal agents or officers of an intelligence agency, who operate without official connection to the diplomatic authorities of the country that is employing them. They typically pose as business executives, students, academics, journalists, or non-profit agency workers, among other covers. Unlike official-cover officers, who are protected by diplomatic immunity, NOCs have no such protection. If arrested by authorities of their host country, they can be tried and convicted for conducting espionage. US government prosecutors suggested on Monday that the three alleged SVR operatives were also in regular contact with individuals “associated with a leading Russian state-owned news organization”, presumably in the US. They also tried to recruit American citizens to spy for Moscow, including employees of “major companies” and “several young women with ties to a major university in New York”, according to the indictment. It is believed that the three Russians were primarily interested in information relating to potential US government sanctions against Russian financial institutions, as well as Washington’s efforts to promote the development of alternative resources of energy. The FBI said Sporyshev and Podobnyy, who are protected by diplomatic immunity, “no longer reside in the US”. Presumably they were expelled. Buryakov, however, appeared in a Manhattan court on Monday.

Canada bans Chinese reporters over spy concerns

Stephen HarperBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The office of the prime minister of Canada has banned reporters working for China’s state-owned media from covering the Canadian leader’s official trip to the Arctic, due to concerns that they may be spies. For the past several summers, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper has undertaken official tours of the Canadian Arctic, in an effort to promote the country’s northern economy and attend military exercises. However, in a move that has raised eyebrows in Ottawa and Beijing, the organizers of the trip have issued a ban on a number of Chinese reporters from joining the Canadian prime minister’s entourage. The Winnipeg Sun reported on Wednesday that the unprecedented step was taken over concerns that the Chinese journalists in question may in fact be intelligence operatives in the service of China. The paper cited a quote by a spokesman from the office of the prime minister, who reportedly told the Québecor Média International news agency that “certain news outlets are no longer welcome” to travel with the prime minister. It appears that the reporters in question include primarily those working for The People’s Daily newspaper and the Xinhua news agency, both of which are owned by the government of China. Two Chinese journalists working for these outlets, Li Xue Jiang, and Zhang Dacheng, caused controversy during Harper’s trip to the Arctic in 2013. The two appeared to show more interest in photographing their fellow journalists and the interior of Canada’s prime ministerial airplane than covering Harper’s trip. Li even wrote an article for the Chinese-language edition of The People’s Daily at the time, in which he mentioned that he had come under suspicion of spying for China, saying that a secretary from the office of the Canadian prime minister had tasked an officer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to keep an eye on him. IntelNews readers will recall that in 2012 Canadian reporter Mark Bourrie resigned his post as parliamentary correspondent for Xinhua, accusing the Chinese news agency of running spy operations in Canada. Read more of this post

CIA to cut back ‘unsuccessful’ non-official-cover program

CIA headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The United States Central Intelligence Agency is scaling down an ambitious human intelligence program that places case officers in non-diplomatic cover jobs, because it has been ineffective, according to media reports. When stationed abroad, the vast majority of CIA case officers pose as American diplomats. This type of cover allows them to mingle with —and attempt to recruit— foreign officials. It also offers them the added benefit of diplomatic immunity, which minimizes the possibility of their long-term imprisonment or even execution in the hands of adversaries. The pressures of the post-9/11 security environment, however, pushed the Agency to deploy case officers that are not associated with American embassies and consulates abroad. The reason is that members of non-state groups like al-Qaeda cannot be recruited on the diplomatic circuit. To penetrate these groups, CIA case officers must hit the streets of cities like Sana’a, Peshawar, Basra or Mogadishu. These case officers, who operate without diplomatic immunity, are known at the CIA as non-official-cover, or NOCs. They typically pose as business executives, students, academics, journalists, or non-profit agency workers, among other covers. The idea is that working outside of American embassies and consulates, they can be more successful in recruiting members of non-state terrorist entities. In the past decade, the CIA has spent over $3 billion on its NOC program, and has increased the number of active NOCs from several dozen to several hundred. Agency NOCs have been deployed all over the world, using elaborate fake ‘legends’ (identities and supporting information) connected with CIA front companies. Their job is considered one of the most risky at the CIA, because they cannot invoke diplomatic immunity if arrested in a foreign country. However, an article published last weekend in The Los Angeles Times alleges that the CIA’s NOC program, known officially as the Global Deployment Initiative, is now being scaled down. Read more of this post

Closed-door trial of Soviet/Russian sleeper agents starts in Germany

The Anschlags' house in MeckenheimBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A married couple accused of spying on Germany on behalf of the Soviet Union and Russia for over two decades has gone on trial in Stuttgart. Andreas Anschlag, 54, and his wife, Heidrun, 48, were arrested in October 2011 by GSG-9, the elite counter-terrorism and special operations unit of the German Federal Police. They were later charged with having spied since at least 1990 for the Soviet KGB’s First Chief Directorate and its post-Soviet successor organization, the SVR. German federal prosecutors also accuse the couple of document forgery, since their Austrian passports, which they used to enter West Germany from Mexico in 1988 (Andreas) and 1990 (Heidrun) are believed to be counterfeit. There is also speculation that the couple’s surname may in fact be an alias given to them by their intelligence handlers. Upon entering West Germany in 1988 and 1990, the Anschlags initially settled in Aachen, on the German-Belgian border, before moving to Meckenheim, a small town with a population of less than 30,000 located a few miles southwest of Bonn. They concentrated on blending into German society, while raising their son daughter and leading what their neighbors describe as a “discreet life”. Over the years, they managed to recruit a number of informants, including a Dutch diplomat identified by authorities in Holland only as ‘Raymond P’. The diplomat, who was arrested last June, is believed to have given the Anschlags nearly 500 classified documents originating from the German armed forces, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union. Read more of this post

US-based Russian illegals ‘groomed children to be spies’

Yelena Vavilova and Andrey BezrukovBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A group of Russian non-official-cover operatives, who were arrested in the United States by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2010, were grooming some of their children to become spies, according to insider accounts. Nearly a dozen covert members of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), one of the successor agencies of the Cold-War-era KGB, were detained on June 26, 2010, in a series of coordinated raids by the FBI, which marked the culmination of a lengthy counterintelligence operation against the deep-cover operatives. None of those arrested were associated with the diplomatic representation of the Russian Federation in the US; eight were married couples and all were using fake identities. But media coverage of the case, which centered overwhelmingly on the glamorous looks of one of the arrestees, Anna Chapman, paid little attention to the seven children belonging to the captured Russian operatives, whose ages ranged from 1 to 20 years at the time of their parents’ arrests. In an article published late last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that some of the SVR operatives were actively grooming their children to follow in their footsteps as unregistered agents of the Russian government in the US. The paper based its claims on discussions “with current and former US officials”, who allegedly had access to surveillance data from the FBI’s investigation against the Russians. According to the unnamed officials, the SVR operatives had secured the cooperation of at least one of the children, Tim Foley, whose parents operated in the US for over a decade under the assumed names of Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley. The couple (real names: Andrey Bezrukov, Elena or Yelena Vavilova) had allegedly revealed their secret mission to their son “well before their arrest” in 2010, and had indicated that “they wanted him to follow in their footsteps”. According to the FBI surveillance records, says The Journal, Tim had agreed and offered to travel to Russia “to begin formal espionage training”. He eventually traveled to the land of his birth at least once following the alleged arrangement with his parents. Read more of this post

Comment: Britain denies murdered businessman was MI6 spy

Neil HeywoodBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Britain has officially denied allegations that a British businessman, who was found dead in China last November, was an intelligence operative. Neil Heywood, a financial consultant and fluent Chinese speaker, who had lived in China for over a decade, was found dead on November 14, 2011, in his room at the Nanshan Lijing Holiday Hotel in Chongqing. Widespread speculation that Heywood may have been a spy for MI6, Britain’s external intelligence service, eventually prompted the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee to ask Britain’s Foreign Secretary to clarify whether Haywood was a spy. The Committee wanted to know whether the late businessman had ever supplied intelligence “on a formal or informal basis” to Britain’s embassy in Beijing or its consulate in the city of Chongqing. Responding yesterday to the Committee’s query, British Foreign Secretary William Hague noted that “it is long established government policy neither to confirm nor deny speculation of this sort”. However, he added, the interest in this case made it “exceptionally appropriate” for him to “confirm that Mr Heywood was not an employee of the British government in any capacity”. In response to the second part of the Committee’s question, on whether the British expat shared information with British diplomatic officials, Mr Hague said that Heywood “was only an occasional contact of the embassy, attending some meetings in connection with his business”. He added that Heywood “was not known” to the British consulate-general in Chongqing. In its report on the story, British quality broadsheet The Guardian noted that Mr Hague’s response “did not fully answer the committee’s question”. Read more of this post

UK Foreign Secretary asked if murdered businessman was MI6 spy

Neil HeywoodBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Britain’s Foreign Secretary has been officially asked by a parliamentary committee whether Neil Heywood, the British businessman who was found murdered in China last November, was spying for British intelligence. There is no question that Heywood, a financial consultant and fluent Chinese speaker, who had lived in China for over a decade, maintained contacts with intelligence insiders. In the past, he had collaborated with Hakluyt, a business intelligence firm established and staffed by former officers of MI6, Britain’s external intelligence agency. British government sources have denied that the murdered businessman had ever been employed by the British state. But Heywood’s background —his schooling at Harrow, his background in international relations, his contacts with senior Chinese Communist Party apparatchiks, and his language skills— have given rise to intense speculation that he may have been an asset for British intelligence. Yesterday British newspaper The Daily Mail cited “a well-placed source” in claiming that Heywood “passed information to MI6 as an agent of influence”. Speculation about Heywood’s alleged contacts with British intelligence is bound to increase following news of an official request on the subject, issued to British Foreign Secretary William Hague, by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee. The request, submitted in the form of a letter (.pdf) authored by Committee Chairman Ricahrd Ottaway, urges Hague to address “speculation” about the murdered Englishman’s profession. In the letter, Ottaway asks the Foreign Secretary to clarify whether Haywood had ever supplied intelligence “on a formal or informal basis” to Britain’s embassy in Beijing or its consulate in the city of Chongqing, where Heywood was found dead last November. Read more of this post

Analysis: Biometric passports, iris scanners, worry undercover spooks

Biometric passportBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
False passports are to intelligence operatives what petrol is to automobiles. In the absence of forged travel documentation, intelligence officers working undercover are unable to operate internationally without revealing their identity. This is why, traditionally, intelligence operatives are known to “use and discard false passports like hand wipes”, in the words of one knowledgeable source. But according to a fascinating article by veteran intelligence correspondent Jeff Stein, authored for Wired magazine’s Danger Room blog, “the day of the trench-coated spy easily slipping in and out of countries on false papers multiple times [may be] coming to an end”. The reason is “the electronic curtain [that] is descending all over the world”, most notably the increasing deployment of iris recognition devices and biometric passports at airports and hotels around the world, says Stein. Over the coming decade, iris scanners, which employ mathematical pattern-recognition techniques to identify individuals by their irides, will become increasingly common at international airports. The same applies to biometric passports, namely travel documents with embedded microchips that store a massive amount of personal information. These technologies are ostensibly being introduced in international transport hubs in order to combat transnational terrorism and organized crime. But they are also expected to heavily interfere with the work of undercover intelligence operatives, says Stein, especially as they are being introduced in popular spy routes, in countries such as India, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, as well as in several European Union entry points. He quotes an unnamed “career spook” currently working for the Central Intelligence Agency as a consultant, who explains that an undercover officer’s biometric identity will be forever linked to the passport that he or she first uses to enter these countries. If the officer were to try to enter these countries again, using a different alias, alarm bells will ring: “you can’t show up again under a different name with the same data”, says the CIA consultant. Read more of this post