More on British wartime honey-trap operative ‘FIFI’

Christine Marie ChilverBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
New material, including photographs, has emerged on ‘agent FIFI’, a World War II-era female British intelligence operative tasked with using her good looks to test the ability of male spy trainees to withhold sensitive information. As IntelNews reported last week, FIFI was the operational codename of Christine Marie Chilver, a British subject born in London of a British father and a Latvian mother, who was educated at a German-language school in Latvian capital Riga before attending Sorbonne University in Paris. In 1941, the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) hired Chilver as a counterintelligence operative and tasked her with 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”. One declassified SOE document said FIFI was selected for the task due to her “unusual gifts of courage and intelligence”. According to British National Archives historian Jonathan Cole, FIFI became “a legend of SOE” and “a symbol of seduction”, and was rumored to have slept with a number of trainees in order to “find out whether they talked in their sleep”. Another SOE report noted that Chilver’s looks were “too striking and foreign for English tastes”, but added that most of the SOE trainees targeted by Chilver were foreign-born, so her cover as a French journalist was both adequate and suitable for her continental image. This past weekend, London-based newspaper The Sunday Telegraph published several photographs of Chilver, which were given to the paper by one of the wartime operative’s few friends, Janice Cutmore. Initially employed by Chilver as a house cleaner, Cutmore eventually cared for the retired SOE agent until the end of her life. When Chilver died, she left part of her estate to Cutmore, along with a single album of photographs of herself, many of them from the 1940s and 1950s. Cutmore told The Telegraph that, after leaving the SOE, Chilver cohabitated with her fellow-SOE operative and lifelong companion Jean ‘Alex’ Felgate, whom she never married. Read more of this post

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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

News you may have missed #807

Noor Inayat KhanBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Britain to unveil statue of female SOE spy of Indian origin. Born in Moscow to an Indian father and an American mother, Noor Inayat Khan was in Paris when it fell to Nazi occupation. She immediately returned to London to volunteer for the war effort, joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and was recruited by the Special Operations Executive (SOE). She was sent into France on a secret mission in June 1943, but was betrayed and captured a few months later. She was shot by the Nazis in Dachau in September 1944, aged 30, and was posthumously awarded the George Cross as well as the Croix de Guerre by France. She was one of only three women in the SOE to be awarded the George Cross.
►►US intelligence spending falls or second year in a row. The US government’s total spending on intelligence activities fell in 2012, the second year in a row of declining numbers after years of soaring security spending since the September 11 attacks in 2001. The Office of Director of National Intelligence, the top US intelligence authority, announced on Tuesday that total funding appropriated for the National Intelligence Program, covering activities of the CIA and high-tech spy agencies such as the National Reconnaissance Office, was $53.9 billion in Fiscal Year 2012, which ended on September 30. That was down from the $54.6 billion appropriated during Fiscal Year 2011, according to government officials and figures published by the private Federation of American Scientists.
►►Russia wants to park spy planes on French base. France has been asked by Moscow to allow two Russian spy planes to be deployed at a French base in Djibouti to help track down pirates. Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said last week that the Ilyushin Il-38 naval reconnaissance planes would improve Russia’s ability to spot pirates plaguing waters off the coast of Somalia. Djibouti is at the juncture of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. The French base is home to several thousand French service members and a number of military aircraft.

News you may have missed #761

Robert de La RochefoucauldBy TIMOTHY W. COLEMAN | intelNews.org |
►►US aircraft company owner charged with supplying Venezuelan military. Kirk Drellich, owner and president of SkyHigh Accessories in Florida, has pleaded not guilty to charges that he illegally supplied Venezuelan military contacts with pressure switches and cooling turbines, as well as other airplane parts. Court documents indicate that the aircraft parts were to be used for Venezuelan F-16 jets, attack helicopters and other military crafts. Prosecutors in Florida have filed charges (.pdf), stemming from violations of the Arms Export Control Act, on three other individuals who are supposedly involved in the conspiracy to export arms to Venezuela. Other defendants in the case include Alberto Pichardo and Freddy Arguelles, both former members of Venezuela’s Air Force, as well as Victor Brown, a local businessman.
►►Trial delayed again in Delisle espionage case. As previously reported on this blog, the espionage case against Sub-Lt. Jeffrey Paul Delisle, the Canadian navy intelligence officer accused of spying for Russia, has again been delayed. The attorney for Delisle requested an adjournment based on the governments disclosure of new documents and evidence in the case. The adjournment is expected to last until July 17.
►►Legendary WWII spy de La Rochefoucauld dies. Robert de La Rochefoucauld, a French national who became a legendary British spy, helping direct and organize the Free French forces in England and underground movements in France during World War II, has died of natural causes at the age of 88. De La Rochefoucauld’s exploits as a spy have all the makings of a movie. As a little boy, he met Adolf Hitler, and as a spy he twice escaped execution by the Nazi’s. He was a knight in the French Legion of Honor, received the Medal of Resistance from France, was widely herald for his exceptional service by the British and he is believed to have been the last remaining French member of Winston Churchill’s Special Operations Executive.