Never embarrass Vladimir Putin

March 6, 2015
"I won"

“Leave no witnesses”

Because you won’t get a second chance:

Russian secret services may have executed the troops suspected of shooting down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, say sources involved in the investigation of the crash over eastern Ukraine.

The Dutch-led probe is leaning towards a conclusion that a BUK missile fired from rebel-held territory downed the Boeing 777, killing all 298 on board.

And it is highly likely the aircraft was shot out of the sky by Russian military personnel, according to a report by the Netherlands’ state broadcaster NOS, citing anonymous sources in the police and the group of investigators working on the probe into the plane’s loss.

‘My sources believe that these people might have changed their identities or even been executed by Russian secret service in order to hide everything,’ said Dutch journalist Robert Bas.

(…)

And they’re taking “active measures” to make sure they know what the investigators know:

Sources close to the investigation also complain they are under siege from persistent attempts by Russian secret services to hack their computer system and plant spyware software on their smartphones, reported NOS.

Phones and laptops used by investigators in Ukraine had to be ‘destroyed’ subsequently because they were infected with spyware, it was claimed.

Even home communications devices of police officers on the investigation were removed because they were ‘contaminated’, it was alleged.

Well, what else would you expect from a country run by an ex-KGB colonel who thinks the fall of the USSR is the great geopolitical catastrophe of the age?

This report shows again that, to use a baseball analogy, we’re dealing with a foe who plays hardball, while our leaders aren’t even playing softball. They’re playing Tee-ball.

Only this game has no “mercy rule.”

 


Snowden and Russian Intelligence: An Update

January 12, 2015

Phineas Fahrquar:

The latest on the “Snowden operation” from Mr. Schindler. Of most interest to me is the possibility/probability/certitude that Wikileaks cooperates with Russian intelligence, if it isn’t just a front.

Originally posted on The XX Committee:

Now that Ed Snowden has been in Russia for more than eighteen months, having settled into a cosy domestic arrangement with his stripper dancer girlfriend, his long-term presence in Putinistan has become a bit of an embarrassment to Ed’s admirers who possess any sense of honesty and/or decency. His sponsor and protector is a KGB thug who does smash-and-grabs against other countries, and for normals this is a tad incongruous with Snowden’s saintly status as a “human rights activist” without par.

However, rather than moderate their claims, the Snowden Operation has chosen to double-down. In a recent interview, the most famous of all NSA defectors stated, “They talk about Russia like it’s the worst place on earth. Russia’s great,” without clarifying who exactly “they” might be. Ed was at pains to make clear that he has not yet wound up the vodka-swilling basket-case that most Western defectors to Moscow…

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Is a Top American Diplomat a Russian Agent?

November 3, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

Helluva scandal, if true. And a dramatic story, regardless.

Originally posted on The XX Committee:

Today the Ukrainian news website GORDON ran an interview with the Russian businessman and sometime politician Konstantin Borovoy. A harsh critic of Vladimir Putin — he recently said Russia’s president is “mentally unstable” while a year ago he pronounced the collapse of Putin’s corrupt dictatorship to be “inevitable” — Borovoy is something of a gadfly. A parliamentarian of independent views in the Yeltsin era, he served as an intermediary between Moscow and the rebels in the First Chechen War, and was assessed as “a respected and influential Duma deputy” by one savvy Western expert, in part due to his staunch opposition to the takeover of Russia by the “special services,” especially the Federal Security Service (FSB), during the Putin years.

Hence Borovoy’s statements are not to be rejected out of hand as the ravings of a madman. In the GORDON interview, he lambasts Ukraine’s government for having faith…

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Iran, Russia, and some damn thing in the Balkans

October 24, 2014
Bosnia-map

Bosnia

There are a couple of must-read articles today at XX Committee (1), both dealing with Iran’s schemes against the West. This first details Iran’s growing activities in Bosnia and Central Europe, where they have been working to cultivate Muslim extremists since Yugoslavia broke up. Note especially that Shiite Iran is quite happy to cooperate with Sunni jihadists, when the target is the “main enemy” — us and Europe. Here’s an excerpt:

…Iran has a considerable espionage base in Bosnia, which they view as a safe haven for their secret operations in the rest of Europe. Of greatest concern are the detectable ties between Iranian intelligencers and Salafi jihadist groups in Bosnia, some of which operate more or less openly (Sunni-Shia disputes notwithstanding, Tehran is happy to arm, train and equip Salafi jihadists, and nowhere more than Bosnia, where they have been doing that for over two decades). This Tehran-Sarajevo spy-terror nexus cannot be divorced from radical activities in Vienna, since Austria’s capital in many ways is the de facto capital of Salafi jihadism in Southeastern Europe, as well as a major playground for Iranian spies. These form an extended web of malevolence that stretches across Eastern and Central Europe.

…and…

Of particular concern is the large number of Iranian intelligence fronts operating in Bosnia that provide cover for operations and funding of terrorists and radicals: NGOs, charities of various sorts, and schools. For the Pasdaran, its most important cut-outs in Bosnia are the “Ibn Sina” Research Institute and the Persian-Bosnian College, but there is a long list of Iranian-linked fronts in the country (my analysis of these and how they provide cover for VEVAK and Pasdaran is here) that play an important role in Tehran’s secret war in Europe.

Should the West ever come to blows with Iran over its nuclear program, don’t doubt for a moment that the mullahs would use these assets to strike back violently in Europe.

Then Mr. Schindler also broke news today of a major Iranian-Russian intelligence cooperation agreement, aimed, of course, at us and the Israelis:

An indication of how cozy things are getting between Moscow and Tehran came this week with a visit to Iran by Nikolai Patrushev, the head of Russia’s National Security Council, who met with Iranian counterparts to discuss mutual threats. As Patrushev explained, “Iran has been one of Russia’s key partners in the region and it will remain so in future … [we] have similar and close views on many key regional issues and we had a serious exchange of views on the situation in Syria, Iraq and Libya.”

But this was not just a diplomatic gab fest. In the first place, Patrushev is a career intelligence officer and one of President Vladimir Putin’s closest confidants. A career counterintelligence officer with the Leningrad KGB, just like Putin, Patrushev served as head of the powerful Federal Security Service (FSB) from 1999 to 2008, leaving that position to take over the National Security Council.

As you’ll discover in the article, Mr. Patrushev is not a friend of the United States. For him, the Cold War is still very warm. Continuing:

Now, however, a full intelligence alliance has been agreed to. As a Russian report on Patrushev’s visit explained:

“The events in Syria and Iraq, where contacts between the Russian and Iranian special services have not only been resumed but have also proven their mutually advantageous nature, particularly in assessing the threats and plans of local bandit formations, both “secular” and Islamist, with respect to Russian facilities in Tartus in Syria, have impelled Moscow and Tehran to the idea of the need to formalize these contacts in the shape of a permanently operating mechanism. Russian special services also valued the volume of information, voluntarily conveyed by Iran to our specialists, on the potential activity of the Israeli Air Force against the Russian humanitarian convoys to Syria in the period of the sharp aggravation of the situation in that country in the summer of last year.”

Let there be no doubt that this new espionage alliance is aimed directly at the United States and Israel. As the report added, “the Iranians are prepared to provide Russia on a permanent basis with information on American military activity in the Persian Gulf obtained from their own technical intelligence facilities” — in other words, the Russians and Iranians will be sharing SIGINT, the most sensitive of all forms of intelligence gathering.

As Mr. Schindler likes to say, there is a “secret war” going on against us and our allies, one which our enemies seem to be fighting better than we do. Now that Iran and Russia have buried the hatchet, their cooperation will likely pose us serious problems and threats, not just in the Middle East, but also in Europe, where Russia maintains significant intelligence operations.

Our enemies have stepped up our game; I wish I had faith our current leadership could do the same.

Footnote:
(1) Frankly, one can say that about all Mr. Schindler’s posts.


This is Why U.S. Intelligence Can’t Have Nice Things

August 4, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

The story itself is of a fiasco with farcical aspects (the US “spies” were paid less than minimum wage by the Obama administration!), but Schindler uses this to make a needed point about the poor state of US intelligence and counterintelligence. If things are as bad as he describes, then serious reform is needed — yesterday.

Originally posted on The XX Committee:

It’s happened again.

Another 101-level counterintelligence failure has put Washington, DC, in the headlines in an unflattering way. For the umpteenth time.

I’ve been a consistent defender of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) against scurrilous charges, particularly when these are emitted by uninformed commentators or people who are collaborating with foreign intelligence services. But I won’t defend the indefensible.

The Associated Press has a new story that details a truly hare-brained American scheme to foment anti-regime sentiments in Cuba. According to the report, the U.S. Government, with (unstated) IC support, in late 2009 began dispatching Venezuelan, Costa Rican, and Peruvian young people to Cuba to stir up trouble for Castro. Some posed as tourists, others as health care personnel, some of whom used an HIV prevention program as cover. But their mission, to “identify potential social-change actors,” never stood any chance of success.

Because Cuban counterintelligence is legendarily effective, especially…

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Putin’s Espionage Offensive Against France

August 2, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

Another aspect of Cold War II.

Originally posted on The XX Committee:

One of the major themes of my work is how Russia, drawing on decades of rich experience with espionage, aggressively employs intelligence in what I term Special War to defeat, dissuade, and deter its enemies without fighting. As I’ve reported many times, Russian espionage against the West has been rising since the mid-2000’s and has returned to Cold War levels of effort and intensity — and in some cases, more so. In recent years, the Kremlin has endorsed aggressive espionage against a wide range of Western countries, members of NATO and the European Union (often both), to learn secrets and gain political advantage. This is simply what the Russians do, as Vladimir Putin, the former KGB officer, understands perfectly. Such things are well known to counterintelligence hands the world over, but are seldom discussed in public.

What this looks like up close has recently been exposed by the Parisian newsmagazine

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The Snowden Operation: Assessing the Damage

July 19, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

Anyone who thinks Snowden did the cause of liberty a favor should read this. That guy belongs in jail for the rest of his life.

Originally posted on The XX Committee:

It’s now been over a year since Edward Snowden, the most famous IT contractor in intelligence history, defected to Moscow. This blog has followed the twists and turns of this remarkable case in detail, particularly in its counterintelligence aspects, but one of the most vexing and important issues remains undefined. Namely, how much damage to U.S. and Allied intelligence and security did Snowden’s unprecedented theft of classified materials actually do?

The National Security Agency and others have been involved in developing a damage assessment virtually from the moment the story broke; it’s what intelligence services do when they have a defector or compromise, since it’s vital to understand what programs have been damaged or lost. Snowden’s theft was so vast — perhaps “only” 1.5 million purloined documents rather than the 1.7 million previously suggested — that it will take years for the Intelligence Community (IC) to assess what…

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