Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Today in Spy Land -- Iranians and Spies Oh My!

Iranians Hanged for Spying on behalf of the U.S.: What Happens When Intelligence Sources are Compromised...

 Espionage is an ugly game. It's all thrills and excitement until somebody gets executed. 

In Part Deux of my blathering about the Associated Press's belly-aching over DOJ seizing their phone records, I couldn't help but mention another story that caught my eye in news this week. According to a May 19th Huffington Post article, two Iranian men convicted of spying on behalf of U.S. and Israeli intelligence services (the CIA and Mossad), were hanged for committing treason. Yep. And they are usually hung in the streets to strike fear in those who might consider doing the same.

Now, I don't know if the Iranians' accusations were fully substantiated (they usually aren't). I don't know if the accused received a fair trial (probably not). And, in this instance, they may not have been compromised by a press report. But the Iranian government's actions should serve as a stark reminder to everyone, including the Associated Press, that some countries still execute our sources when they get caught. Sources die. And 9 times out of 10, they usually get caught because of careless and/or calculated compromises by cleared U.S. government employees.

People who betray their countries to divulge information to U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies, for whatever reason, take calculated risks. In doing so, they depend on our government's employees to keep their information secure. That's our responsibility, and if we don't follow through with it, people clam up--the same way the AP's sources have stopped telling them information for fear of losing their clearances, jobs, and/or going to jail (as they should fear).   

News organizations aren't concerned about the lives of U.S. government sources or the American operatives who handle them. Obviously. They're not concerned about National Security. Their priorities are ratings and readership. So, if a man in Timbuktu gets hanged because the information he entrusted to the government gets splashed on the front page in headlines that helped trace the information back to him, journalists report it with a shrug...because at least they kept secret the identity of the government employee who help them break the story.

That's cool, right?

Yeah...not so much. 

And that's all I have to say about that.

The Fogle Bungle 

In a side note, the American expelled from Moscow for attempting to recruit an FSB officer was declared persona non grata and summarily booted back to the United States. An intelligence officer who gets publicly outted in this brazen FSB manner and declared persona non grata is akin to an undercover FBI agent getting his face on the front page of the NY Times and having his gun and badge snatched away...but he's still allowed to be an Agent. Boy, that would suck. In that situation, Fogle can no longer do his job. This entire incident has pretty much has ended his intelligence career--at least the intelligence career he intended to have, operating in foreign lands and recruiting people to tell us secret stuff. Now, he will be forced into Desk Jockeydom or maybe he'll be sent to the Farm to teach a course on double agent operations and how not to get caught.

Le sigh. Le boo hoo.

Such is life.

Along with an entertaining romp through the world of counterintelligence, I hope my readers get a broader understanding of what our intelligence and law enforcement agencies do, not only to keep our country and citizens safe from foreign intelligence services and terrorist groups--but why it's important to keep our sources safe from insiders with no regard for national security.

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