July 24th 2010


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Articles from this issue:

Gillard's new tax will stymie mining, energy industries

Will Gillard be any better than Rudd?

'Inclusive' PC politics forgets the kids

The anti-family agenda of the Greens

Communist 'bombshell' rocks the Labor Party

Why Gillard's 'East Timor solution' cannot work

US, EU economics stuck in a 'long depression'

Russian secret intelligence still very much in business

Left abandons Barack Obama

Abortion-breast cancer link studiously ignored

Mathematics education at crisis point

Bid to promote Islam in Australian curriculum

Rediscovering our sense of Australian nationhood

Broadband access could be an election issue

What's in store for Australia?

Islam and usury

Descent into barbarism?

A dear girl called Julia

The Left's PC censorship of the arts.

The Australian Anti-Democratic Left and Czechoslovak Agents, by Peter Hruby

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Russian secret intelligence still very much in business


by John Miller

News Weekly, July 24, 2010
It came as something of a surprise, especially to the US media, to learn on June 29, that 11 American citizens had been arraigned on charges of espionage with 10 duly appearing in court, while the 11th, who was in Cyprus, was released on bail and vanished, in all probability back to Russia.

To those of us who worked in intelligence for many years, the nagging uncertainty about Russia's intentions has never disappeared. Russian espionage in the West has reportedly exceeded Cold War levels, at a time when Western security and intelligence organisations have been preoccupied with the threat from fundamentalist Islamic terrorism.

Reports through the 1990s and the first decade of this century pointed to an expansion of what are known as legal Russian espionage networks (rezidencies). That is to say, the Russian intelligence services post officers abroad under diplomatic consular and trade "cover", just as their communist predecessors did. In practical effect, this means they have diplomatic immunity and, if caught acting in a manner incompatible with their status, they can be, and have been, quietly removed.

The recent case in America is different because it concerns a suspected illegal network of Russian spies. An illegal network differs from a legal network in that those involved have elaborate cover stories and the necessary documents to pass themselves off as citizens of the host country (in intelligence jargon, this is known as a "legend").

All available evidence indicates that considerable time and effort and resources are put into the selection of suitable recruits, and their training is exceptionally detailed. The original idea behind the use of illegal networks was to continue espionage in the event that the legal rezidency was rolled up and its officers expelled. Thus, it was no surprise to find that the accused appeared to be well integrated into US society and accepted as the average next-door citizen.

The literally thousands of pages I have studied to date, including the FBI depositions, indicate that every facet of professional tradecraft was used by members of this group, including shortwave radio, "brush contacts" with support members from the legal rezidency, retrieving large sums of money previously secreted by Soviet agents and so on.

Those who wish to study the case further can read Fred Burton and Ben West's masterly account, "The dismantling of a suspected Russian intelligence operation", Stratfor, July 1, 2010, or my own contribution, "When it comes to spying, when will they ever learn?", in Family Security Matters (Center for Security Policy, Washington DC), July 6, 2010.

Suffice to say, the Russian and American governments have claimed that the affair will not impair relations between the two countries. Equally, some of the old Cold War protocols still apply, because the two governments have been prepared to undertake a spy swap.

US and British media coverage has focused on the more glamorous aspects of the case, which involves an extremely good-looking redheaded woman, Anna Chapman (born Anna Kushchenko), who just happens to be the daughter of a former senior KGB officer.

Twice since his election, President Barack Obama has talked of pressing the reset button with Moscow, the most recent occurring when he had cheeseburgers in downtown Washington DC with visiting Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. However, it is not known whether the American president revealed how much he knew about Russian spying in the US.

The Russian media have downplayed the significance of the case, using the somewhat specious argument that Russia's foreign secret intelligence service, the SVR, is a totally new organisation, clean and professional and an ideal career option. The reality is that it is a re-badged version of the First Chief Directorate of the Soviet KGB, responsible for foreign intelligence operations.

While so-called experts, and even the odd American intelligence officer, have suggested that this is a legacy of the old days, the big question is why it was allowed to continue if US-Russian relations really had changed.

The subsidiary question is why the FBI chose this particular time to wind up its counter-intelligence operation. Is it because the spy ring, or part thereof, had drawn dangerously close to senior American officials, and it was time to limit the damage and arrest the suspects?

Whatever the reason, the FBI, which has suffered more than its fair share of negative criticism for failing to join the dots before 9/11, ran this operation clandestinely for nearly 10 years. The Bureau deserves the greatest credit for a job well done.

The Russian secret intelligence service is still very much in business, and Moscow's autocratic government continues to rely heavily on old, established methods of espionage to gain information.

Ill-informed commentators over-estimate the importance of cyber-warfare today. The truth is that nothing surpasses agents with access to important people in foreign governments.

There have been reports that the UK government is conducting significant counter-intelligence operations in the hope of exposing illegal networks in that country. It is to be hoped that the Australian government follows suit.

John Miller is a former senior intelligence officer.

References:

Fred Burton and Ben West, "The dismantling of a suspected Russian intelligence operation", Stratfor (Strategic Forecasting, Inc., Texas), July 1, 2010.
URL: www.stratfor.com/weekly/20100630_dismantling_suspected_russian_intelligence_operation?utm_source=SWeekly&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=100701&utm_content=readmore&elq=967dab43bb814bcf85d7008ae097014c

John Miller, "When it comes to spying, when will they ever learn?", Family Security Matters (Center for Security Policy, Washington DC), July 6, 2010.
URL: www.familysecuritymatters.org/publications/id.6651/pub_detail.asp




























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