ESPIONAGE: by John MillerNews Weekly
The unreported history of intelligence wars
, August 7, 2010
Russian secret intelligence is still very much in business, as I warned in the last issue of News Weekly (July 24).
The recent exposure in American of an illegal spy ring run by the Russian SVR (direct lineal descendant of the First Chief Directorate of the Soviet KGB) is abundant proof of this.
Presumably, "Christopher Metsos", the so-called paymaster who was released on bail in Cyprus and promptly vanished, made a home run to Moscow and was joined there by nine of his accomplices who, after a spy-swap deal was struck between Washington and Moscow, were allowed to return home.
It was later learned that another male had been detained on entering the US and deported under the same arrangement. This brings the total number in the spy network to a quite remarkable 11. In my professional opinion, that was more than one ring.
The mainstream media usually rapidly lose interest in spy stories. This all contributes to the collective amnesia afflicting the West. I regret to say that a normally sound intelligence blog to which I occasionally contribute has regrettably fallen into the same trap, with far too many self-appointed experts suggesting that everything of importance can be readily obtained through the Internet and that gathering information by agents (human intelligence, known as HUMINT) is passé.
The Russians do not share that view. Western media interest, however, was preoccupied with the attractive redhead spy, Anna Chapman (née Kushchenko).
It was announced that the repatriated SVR officers were greeted on home soil last week by none other than Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who, it will be recalled, served as a KGB officer in East Germany during the Soviet era.
Putin then joined the spies for a social get-together. He later said that they sang "Soviet songs" together and he told them he "admired what they did". He assured them that they would continue to work and added he had "no doubts they will have interesting, bright lives". (Reuters
, July 24).
Putin's action on this occasion places Moscow's official imprimatur on the clandestine actions of the SVR.
After the Russian spy ring's activities in the West were blown, Moscow, as part of its spy-swap deal with Washington, handed over four Russian citizens who were serving jail time for allegedly spying for the West. Naturally enough, the exchange took place in Vienna - where else?
The consensus appears to be that it was a fair exchange and, given the evidence against the SVR officers, it is highly likely that they would have being charged with lesser offences than full-scale espionage. America's FBI gained some credit, grudgingly given, but attracted far less media coverage.
For the benefit of those who prefer to live in denial about the world in which we live, another indicator of hostile Moscow-directed intelligence against the US concluded last year with a court case against a married US couple, Walter and Gwendolyn Myers, who spied for Cuba during and after the Cold War - nearly 30 years - until the husband's criticism of the US-UK relationship became too much for his masters and he was retired in 2007.
Almost certainly, the Myers' information would have been passed from the Cuban DGS to the SVR: Russian intelligence services like to keep their links with old friends.
To my eyes, there was something especially repulsive about the spectacle of a tweedy 72-year-old retired State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research official, Walter Kendall Myers, and his 71-year-old wife Gwendolyn, affecting the same distrait mannerisms as accused spies, Kim Philby, Anthony Blunt and others, after having been caught red-handed.
The Myers' modus operandi was straight out of the textbooks. They used low-tech shortwave radio for communications, thereby eluding the most powerful US communications interception network.
Mrs Myers apparently got something of a buzz from her brush contacts with Cuban officials, exchanging supermarket trolleys. The couple were apprehended last year by one of the better FBI counter-intelligence sting operations in which an agent posed as a Cuban intelligence officer.
For those in the upper echelons of Western government there can be no denying that Western countries are being targeted by Moscow on a far larger scale than even during the Cold War.
It is not known what the Australian Government makes of Russian espionage. However, former journalist and federal Liberal MP, Peter Coleman, writing in the Australian edition of the UK magazine, The Spectator
(July 10, 2010), has asked what has become of one of the great mysteries of the Cold War, namely the as yet unpublished material on Soviet espionage in Australia brought clandestinely to the West in the early 1990s by the high-ranking Russian defector and former KGB archivist, Vasili Mitrokhin.
It is known that information was passed to the Australian government (National Observer
, issue 77, Winter 2008, pp.39-40); but, according to a writer on intelligence, Dr Paul Monk, it remains locked away safely from the public, who are presumed to have no right to know the details (The Australian
, June 9, 2009). More than that, it is also a betrayal of everyone who worked in intelligence against the Russians.John Miller is a former senior intelligence officer.