News you may have missed #881 (Cold War history edition)

Vehicle tracking deviceBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►McCarthy-era prisoner tries to overturn espionage conviction. In 1950, Miriam Moskowitz was secretary to Abraham Brothman, an American chemical engineer who was convicted for providing secret industrial information to communist spy Elizabeth Bentley. Moskowitz, who was having an affair with Brothman at the time of his arrest, was convicted of obstructing justice and served two years in prison. Now at age 98, she claims she has discovered evidence that key witness testimony about her role in Soviet espionage was falsified, and wants her conviction thrown out. In 2010, Moskowitz authored the book Phantom Spies, Phantom Justice, about her case.
►►Files show USSR spied on Czechoslovak communist leaders after 1968. The Soviet KGB spied aggressively on senior members of the Czechoslovak Communist Party (KSČ) for two decades following the Prague Spring of 1968, because it mistrusted them. The information on Soviet intelligence activities against the KSČ comes from files in to the so-called Mitrokhin Archive. Vasili Mitrokhin was a KGB archivist, who painstakingly copied tens of thousands of pages of the spy agency’s files prior to defecting to Britain following the dissolution of the USSR.
►►Canada’s spy agency reveals Cold War-era spying equipment. As part of its celebrations for its 30-year anniversary, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service has released photographs of what it calls “tools of the trade” –gadgets designed to hide or transport secret communication, acquire surreptitious photographs, listen in on private conversations, etc., without detection. The gadgets include Soviet defector Igor Gouzenko‘s gun, a toy truck with a concealment compartment for hiding a microdot reader, a hollowed-out battery used to contain clandestine messages or microfilm, and many others.

Analysis: Is US diplomat arrested in Russia a CIA case officer?

Ryan Christopher FogleBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs lodged an official complaint yesterday with the United States Ambassador to Russia over the alleged espionage activities of Ryan Christopher Fogle. The Third Secretary in the Political Section of the US embassy was arrested with great media fanfare on Monday night, allegedly as he was trying to recruit a Russian intelligence officer. As can be expected, the Russian media had a field day with Fogle’s arrest; after all, it has been nearly a decade since the last time an American intelligence operative was publicly uncovered on Russian soil. Many Western observers, however, have questioned if Fogle could really be an officer of the Central Intelligence Agency, and whether the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) simply framed an unsuspecting junior American diplomat. Much of the skepticism expressed by Western commentators focuses on the articles that were allegedly found by the FSB in Fogle’s backpack. They included several pairs of sunglasses, recording devices, as well as two wigs. Would a CIA officer be foolish enough to be carrying with him surreptitious recording devices in downtown Moscow? And do modern case officers still employ wigs when walking the streets of foreign capitals recruiting spies? The answer is, of course, yes. Read more of this post

Al-Qaeda manual on how to deceive unmanned drones found in Mali

AQIM forces in MaliBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A detailed manual with instructions on how to defeat the surveillance capabilities of unmanned drones has been found in a former al-Qaeda hideout in northern Mali. International news agency The Associated Press said the photocopied document, which is written in Arabic, had been left behind in a building previously occupied by members of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The militants abandoned the document while fleeing into the Sahara desert, ahead of a French military advance on the town of Timbuktu. The document is believed to have been authored by Abdallah bin Muhammad, the operational name of a Yemeni militant serving as a senior commander in the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Its earliest known date of publication is June 2, 2011, on an online Islamist forum. Since that time, it has reappeared at least three times, all in Arabic, according to The Associated Press. The version of the manual found in Mali contains nearly two dozen detailed tips on how to deceive unmanned drones. One tip advises covering the tops of vehicles with floor mats made of hay or other natural-looking material, in an effort to confuse aerial surveillance systems. Another tip proposes camouflaging the roofs of buildings with the use of reflective glass, so as to render them invisible to aerial surveillance. A third suggestion is to mix sugar with water and dirt and apply the sticky mixture onto the body of vehicles, in order to confuse the imagery sensors of unmanned drones. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #428 (history edition)

  • US government study of Soviet-era spy services released. A historiographic blog has released a study by the US Federal Office of Criminal Investigations on Practices and Methods of East-Bloc Intelligence Services, which examines the spy craft and operations of Soviet-aligned secret services active in Germany.
  • Simon Wiesenthal worked for Mossad, claims book. A new book claims that famous Israeli Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal worked as an informant for Israel’s Mossad spy agency. Written by Tom Segev, the book, entitled Wiesenthal: The Life and Legends, claims that Wiesenthal gave the Mossad valuable information during Operation DAMOCLES.
  • UK spies did ‘very bad things’ in Cold War, says Le Carre. But even though they assassinated individuals and engaged in “a lot of direct action”, “decent humanitarian instincts came into play” in Western intelligence agencies’ operations, claims the former MI5 and MI6 spy and novelist. Raw Story‘s Daniel Tencer offers an interesting response.

News you may have missed #380 (Russian spy ring edition I)

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News you may have missed #323 (Cold War edition)

  • Story of the Soviet Trojan seal retold. Ken Stanley, who was chief technology officer at the US State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service from 2006 to 2008, retells the story of the large wooden replica of the US Great Seal, which the Soviets gave to the US ambassador to Moscow as a present in 1945. The seal, which was, of course, bugged, hanged in the US ambassador’s office until 1952, when it was discovered.
  • Soviet spy radio found in a Welsh field. It has been revealed that a Soviet encrypted radio transmitter was found near the Welsh coastal town of Ipcress in 1960. It is speculated that it belonged to the late Goronwy Rees, an academic from Aberystwyth, who was a friend of the Cambridge Five, although his daughter disputes it.
  • 1950s-60s spy gadgets on sale at eBay. Gadgets used by British spies who trained from the 1940s to the 1960s at top-secret camp Camp X near Ontario, Canada, are being sold off on eBay. They include a camera that shoots darts, a lipstick tube containing a dagger and fake monkey dung that explodes (!).

 

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News you may have missed #314

  • Canadian spy agency to display cold war spy tools. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service is lifting the lid on some of Canada’s secret Cold War history with a first-ever public exhibit of the era’s exotic gadgetry and shadowy tradecraft, from a James Bond attaché case to Igor Gouzenko’s revolver.
  • Why planespotting in Egypt is a bad idea. British tourist Corbie Weastell, who was planespotting from his hotel window in Egypt, was arrested for spying, thrown in a filthy cell without food or water and left handcuffed and chained to other inmates for two days

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News you may have missed #304

  • Interesting history of former German embassy building in DC. When the State Department took the building over in 1945, officials found $3 million in American currency that was reportedly designated for espionage payments.
  • Number of Dubai killing suspects at 27. Another person has been added to the list of suspects in the January killing of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, bringing the number of identified suspects to 27. Some say the number will exceed 30 before too long.
  • Robert Baer on Dubai assassination. Stepped-up surveillance technology may be tipping the scales in the cat-and-mouse game between spies and their targets. Former CIA operative Robert Baer on the Mossad’s recent Dubai hit and the current state of spycraft.

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Dubai CCTV footage reveals spy craft details

CCTV footage of two Kidon assassination squad members in Dubai

CCTV footage

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The closed-circuit television footage from the January 19 assassination of Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh reveals –among other things– interesting details of spy craft in action. Prominently featured is the use of fake wigs, beards and other facial hair, which the Mossad assassination team members employed in order to disguise themselves. Spies, therefore, really do use fake beards, moustaches, glasses, as well as other props in ground operations, known as ‘light disguise’ in espionage lingo. The obvious reason for such props is disguising the visual identity of the operative from potential witnesses. But there are other reasons too, such as evading facial recognition systems, which tend to rely on cheekbone and jaw-line coordinates. Read more of this post

Comment: CIA Deaths a Failure of Intelligence, Not Security

Khalil al-Balawi

Khalil al-Balawi

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Early on Thursday, rumors began spreading among intelligence observers that the December 30 suicide blast in Khost, Afghanistan, which killed seven and seriously injured six CIA personnel, went off in the open air, and not inside a gym on the base, as had previously been reported. Soon afterwards, an article written by CIA director Leon Panetta for the Sunday edition of The Washington Post, dated January 10, was published by the paper two days early. The op-ed is an apparent attempt by the CIA leadership to officially get the word out that suicide bomber Humam Khalil al-Balawi “was about to be searched by our security officers –a distance away from other intelligence personnel– when he set off his explosives”, according to Panetta. Read more of this post

Writings by CIA defector Edward Lee Howard published

Edward Lee Howard

E.L. Howard

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
An extensive article on spy tradecraft, written by CIA case officer Edward Lee Howard, after he defected to the Soviet Union in 1985, has been published for the first time. Howard, the only intelligence agent known to have been trained by both the CIA and the Soviet KGB, joined the CIA in 1980, but began collaborating with the KGB in 1983, after the CIA fired him for repeatedly failing to pass a polygraph test. After he was exposed by Vitaly Yurchenko, a KGB officer who allegedly defected to the US in Rome, Italy, Howard employed his CIA training to evade FBI counterintelligence agents and escape to Russia, where he lived until his death in 2002. In the early 1990s, the FBI tried to lure Howard to capture, using, among others, Bureau counterintelligence agent Robert Eringer. Eringer befriended Howard and, as part of the luring operation, commissioned the former CIA agent to write a book entitled Spy’s Guide to Central Europe. Read more of this post

CIA trickery and deception manual revealed in new book

CIA manual

CIA manual

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A CIA manual of surreptitious behavioral and signaling tricks, which was recently discovered by researchers, has been declassified and published in a new book. In The Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception, espionage historian H. Keith Melton and Robert Wallace, former director of the CIA’s Office of Technical Services, have reproduced the entire manual, which was supposed to have been destroyed by the Agency. Remarkably, the manual’s main author was John Mulholland, a professional magician and editor for 23 years of The Sphinx, America’s authoritative magazine for magicians. In 1953, Mulholland left the stage and The Sphinx to work full time for the CIA, which he did for several years. Read more of this post