Friday, May 31, 2013

Today in Skye's Spies: Convicted CIA Leak Speaks, FBI Spies on Whom?

Convicted CIA Leak Speaks


In today's Skye's Spies Daily Intelligence News...


Oh whoa is me! The Justice Department is Evil. The FBI is super evil. Obama is uber super duper evil...cried John Kiriakou in a letter from prison. He's the first CIA officer arrested and sentenced  for leaking classified information to the Press. He was a patriot performing an honorable service to the American people...you know, except for divulging the name of a covert officer to the press and putting that officer's life at risk. But then he did speak out against waterboarding...before capitalizing on his years of government training and operational activity and further breaching the American trust to write a tell-all book to exploit his experience. After all, why not milk the American people for $26 bucks a pop so we could read the information  he was supposed to be telling us because we so deserved to know.   

Yeah, he's a noble one all right.

I've seen more honorability at a Vegas strip club.

The true identities of covert officers are classified TOP SECRET. The disclosure of such names could cause grave danger to the U.S. and its operations if divulged to the wrong people. And CIA employees at ALL levels agree--in writing no less--not to disclose this information. Period. Again, no murky legal lines. If you want to whistleblow, there are channels to do so that will retain your anonymity and keep the information tightly held. These channels don't land you book deals and face time on ABC News, which is why I suspect he didn't use them. So instead of accepting responsibility for his mistake, he claims the CIA is seeking revenge because he made them look bad in his book.

First, the CIA hardly need to worry about HIS book sullying their reputation. I mean, reading a history book could do that. I'm just saying. There isn't a single U.S. agency, including the FBI, that hasn't spent some time in the muck. But he completely dismisses the fact that he broke the law...and pled guilty to disclosing classified information. And accepted a sentence of 30 months in prison.

Now, he's written a letter from prison, at (VERY coincidentally) the most opportune time, with the Associated Press leak stink still topping the headlines. In the letter, he lauds his crafty networking skills and ability to keep from getting his ass beat to a pulp. And although his orginal quest to inform the American people about CIA wrongdoings was certainly an honorable one in no way intended to bring him notoriety and said book deal, there's no harm in exploiting the press just a little bit more to renew interest in his book (which I'll not mention the name of here) and kick up his sales a few notches.

I mean, a guy's gotta eat...when he gets out of jail in 27 months.

No harm, no foul. Right?

Ugh.

He says in his letter that he has a "visceral dislike of the FBI."

If I were a convicted classified information-leaking criminal, I wouldn't like the FBI much either.



FBI Spies on U.S. Citizens...Linked to Terror Suspects 

Uh oh.

Big brother is back in full effect...at least according to the potential.

An  ABC report indicates that authorities (that's code for the FBI) are monitoring U.S. citizens as a provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, including emails, internet usage, phone calls, messages, etc. It's got some folks a little freaked out. From what I can tell, this isn't a new power, just an expanded one.

So this is what stoked the ire of one of America's finest.

A young man whom we'll call Jeb, an 18 year old, who frequently visits jihadist websites about terrorist attacks and said he wanted to blow up a nightclub, was arrested by the FBI while boarding a flight to Syria where he was supposed to train with al-Qa'ida fighters. Jeb's father has decried the FBI's activity claiming they've tromped all over American civil liberties.

O.o

You done laughing yet?

Post attack the typical parent statement to the Press is usually, "I don't understand what happened. He would never do such a thing. He was a good little boy."

Ugh.

I understand the fears but I also understand the law and why they exist. The FBI can't just willy nilly looking everybody's anything for any reason. Historically, for example, if the FBI was investigating an espionage case and, in the course of tracking and foreign intelligence officer, was led to an American involved in criminal activity or spying, then the FBI could include the American citizen as part of their investigation. It's not the fancy legal lingo but you get the point.

Well, it seems the FBI has expanded powers to monitor Americans potentially tied to terrorists and/or terrorism activity. Some people believe is a violation of Americans' constitutional rights. Here's my opinion, as an American citizen who could potentially be impacted by this law.

I'm not engaged in any illegal activity. I don't associate with extremist anybodies in any realm. The Muslims I know are peaceful and law-abiding. I report all my contacts with foreigners--unusual or otherwise--to the approriate authorities when required. As a law abiding citizen, I don't know what the FBI does, when they do it, and it's not keeping me up at nights. Let the FBI do what it must to keep this country safe. As long as they don't accidentally delete my daily horoscope with my lottery numbers, this warrants little more than a shrug in my world.

On the other hand...

If you're Jeb in the United States calling Abdul in Afghanistan or Yemen or discuss your "training" at "camp," then you might  have a problem.

If you regularly visit the al Qa'ida websites and view the training doctrine, or download the instructions to build a suicide vest--then you BETTER have a problem. Especially with all the taxes we pay. Somebody better be at your doorstep.

Truth is, they don't have the resources to find every instance or run down every lead...and that's what we should really be afraid of.

Where is the line between civil liberties versus national security and who draws it? I honestly don't know the correct answer to that question.

Who will we blame when sh!t goes BOOM!?

The FBI.

That's the truth.

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

What do you think?


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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Today in Skye's Spies: Chinese Hack Aussie Intel & Steal What?, Navy Spy Arrest Still Haunts Canadian Intel

Chinese Hack Aussie Intel and Steal...What? 

Okay, so I wasn't going to write an update today but these stories were just TOO good to pass up. In my daily news edition of Skye's Spies, looks like the Chinese are taking half a page out of the Russian handbook, ALLEGEDLY hacking into Austrailian Intelligence HQ computer networks and stealing the blueprints for their new HQ--instead of recruiting an insider like the Russians do. Reportedly, the Chinese got access documents containing details of Aussie intelligence's floor plan, cabling layouts, server locations, and security systems.

Ouch!

I hope it isn't true. But it probably is.

They aren't alone so they shouldn't feel bad. There are SO many cases involving Russian compromises of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, it's not even funny. The State Department was crazy enough to hire Russian workers to build the new embassy space in the 1980s and it had more bugs than an ant farm. I also remember the Lonetree case in which a compromised U.S. Marine spying for the KGB provided floor plans of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

Some might wonder, "What's the big deal? It's not like they got the keys and an access badge."

Well, it's pretty significant. I mean, that kind of information comes in handy if you want to identify the secure spaces so you can plant a bug, or recruit an employee with access to the area so he/she can plant a bug. Or if you want to know how to tap into the cabling so that you don't even need to recruit a human, you can just hack your way to Top Secret informaiton.

Why should it matter to Americans? Well, for starters, if Chinese intel, in a worst-case scenario, managed to compromise the security systems or cabling, they might obtain access to Five-Eye intelligence which includes classified reporting from the United States, the UK, Canada, and New Zealand. Yep. They could gain access to American sources and methods. In essence, Chinese intel is hitting a softer target which  could net them major intelligence gains from the much harder targets--such as the United States and the UK.

That could be a pretty big score if the Chinese could exploit the information to their advantage.

And what are the poor Aussies going to do now that the building's almost done? Change the architecture? Move the secure space? Or spend an inordinate amount of money attempting to protect the space from all imaginable compromises that could happen knowing Chinese intelligence has the plans--and perhaps try to use that against them.

Hmmmm. We'll see. But suffice it to say, Aussie intel has a lot of work on their hands.

If you read my previous post on Spook TV, the new show Intelligence pits a U.S. Cyber spy against a Chinese cyber spy. It's not hard to see why Hollywood picked Chinese intelligence as the villan in that story. If they're not the top cyber threat in the world, they should be...and every day they demonstrate why they've earned the top spot.


Navy Spy Arrest Still Haunts Canadian Intel

Our Canadian Intelligence brethren suffered a pretty major blow when former Canadian naval officer Jeffrey Delisle passed top secret information to Russian intelligence. In February 2013, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but he sure left a big mess in his wake.

First, according to a recent news article, there appreas to be a big rub about the fact that CSIS knew about Delisle's cooperation with Russian Intellignce  months before it was reported to RCMP. If you're in the business you understand why that may have happened even if you don't understand why it took so long. I suspect, CSIS had a source, whether human or a signals source, that initially provided the information about Delisle's cooperation. CSIS verified the veracity. Then to keep the identity of the source a secret--in order to protect the source of the information from exposure--they needed RCMP to build a new case based completely on investigative informaiton that was discoverable in court. The FBI deals with these issues all the time. I get it. And if you want to know how passionately I feel about source protection, well just check out my article on the AP Intelligence Leak situation. If you don't protect your sources, new sources will not cooperate you for fear that they will be compromised. And for many, the consequences of compromises means torture, death, imprisonment, or a combination of the three.

If dealing with the Delisle debacle isn't bad enough, now Canadian Intel has U.S. intelligence (including the FBI, I'm sure) breathing down it's neck to ensure that it implements tighter security protocols to prevent future compromises of that magnitude. Like I said before, threats to Five-Eye intelligence has much broader implications and threatens not only key intelligence sources in Canada, but those of other countries as well. It makes everyone hold on to key intelligence a little tighter, intelligence that could save a life or prevent major breaches. So, it's certainly nothing to be sneezed at and Canadian intel will have to take it on the chin or lose access.

With that said, insider threats are the most insidious and hardest to detect in my experience. Some guy, just like you, goes through a stringent security background investigation, just like you, gets an ID badge and access like you, except when he goes to work he's shopping for a foreign intelligence service and you're supporting your country's needs. It's very difficult to defend against stuff like that.

The Seven Year Itch centers around an Insider Threat in the wake of the arrest of former Special Agent Robert Hanssen. The story gives you a peek into the window of counterintelligence and glimpses into what can happen to sources when they are compromised.

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


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Self Doubt, Reaching Global Audiences & The Seven Year Itch

Nothing in The Seven Year Itch is planned or intentional. By that I mean, the first draft was really written by the seat of my pants. The characters presented themselves to me, one or two at a time. I didn't really "create" them. J.J. came to me as the FBI Agent I used to work with. Tony came to me as the cute Italian agent who bought me cannoli during a trip to the New York field office. Jack Sabinski, appeared to me as a mix between Ed Grant and Archie Bunker (if you don't know those references, I hate you). After everyone showed up, I realized that I had a pretty diversified cast of characters--which I thought was pretty cool. It's also somewhat representative of what it's actually like working in FBI Headquarters. Although I didn't PLAN them, I certainly hoped they would appeal to a wide audience and that people would just take the story for what it is--a cool novel about FBI counterintelligence agents and the spies they chase. I hoped the readers would see the people as people in side this crazy world.

But trust me, I had my doubts about whether this formula would work. At the end of the day, I knew I had written the story that was on my heart. So I  just let 'er rip and hoped for the best.

Well, recently I found this very cool site (Authl.it) that provides you with a link to your Kindle book in every region in which it's sold. My link is http://authl.it/bk. Every now and again, I check to see where in the world The Seven Year Itch is selling. We authors can't help ourselves. Every little boost to our ego counts. I was pretty surprised to see that it has sold in Canada, the UK, France, and Germany, in addition to the United States.

How cool is that?

But then TODAY, I check out the Amazon UK page and find this...

5.0 out of 5 stars The seven Year Itch 29 May 2013
By Mrs Ann Vellinga
Very good read, kept you thinking all the time. Looking forward to the next book. I hope S D Skye has written more and they are on Kindle.


There is an earlier review (4 stars) but that was part of my virtual book tour and based the unrevised version of the book.

This one is just a random reader leaving a review!

After doing my cartwheel (no easy feat, mind you), I couldn't help but feel grateful that I've been able to reach folks around the world. Twelve of them maybe, but folks nonetheless. (I haven't looked at the numbers.)  Sometimes when you're in the headspace where you wonder if you're spinning your wheels or if you should've done something differently, a little thing happens that helps you to know that you're going in the right direction.

Things will be okay if, in the words of Dory (Finding Nemo), you "Just keep swimming."

So, hunkered down more than ever with Book 2. It's coming in August--and better than Book 1 (if I do say so myself). The ending will leave you saying, "WHOA! Didn't see that coming!" Yet, you'll know it was supposed to happen.  And you'll be SO ready for Book 3!



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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

SNEAK PREVIEW #1 -- SON OF A ITCH (A J.J. McCall Novel - Book 2)

As I diligently plug away at Book #2 in the J.J. McCall FBI Espionage Series, I thought I would share a few clips every now and again until the book comes out this August.

As a brief set-up, in 1999, it was widely reported in the press that the FBI found a listening device in the walls of a State Department conference room. In Son of a Itch,  a new bug is found and J.J. McCall develops theory centered around the reason for the 1999 operation.What if the 1999 operation was a precursor to an even bigger operation? And if so, who is responsible?

While I can't speak on the specifics of that case not reported in the media, I thought it would be interesting to mix in a little reality with the fiction--especially with a case that shocked and baffled a lot of people in the intelligence community.

Does J.J. get it right?

You'll have to read the book to find out! 

Jiggy's character is a member of the FBI's Special Support Group--SSG or affectionately called "The G's." Among many duties, they serve as the FBI's eyes and ears--the surveillance team. Jiggy is on the phone with J.J. Everything else is self explanatory. Enjoy. 

Monday at FBI Headquarters... 



 Jiggy trampled over his words like a truck over road kill, rambling as he spewed out the chronology of the events leading up to his presence in the park. How he’d spotted Gusin during his surveillance of the new counterintelligence officer Filchenko who was already turning out to be a real piece of work. While Jiggy’s mind still churned on the reason for Filchenko’s strange surveillance activity, he was clear about Gusin.

 “The M.O. looks familiar. This whole situation takes me back a few years—1999 to be exact.”
Her forehead wrinkled in confusion. Took her a moment to catch his reference. The case. The thumb in the eye of the U.S. government delivered by a couple of quarter-sized electronic listening devices found in a State Department conference room, only doors down from the Secretary’s Office. And inside the walls of the very Agency whose existence allowed for the Russian diplomatic presence in the United States, no less.

“199— You mean the— get out! Where?”

“How in hell should I know? I drive cars for a living,” he said. “I, uhh, hesitated to call. I’m sure you’re on ice because of the stand-down.”

“You got the memo, huh? I wish I was on ice,” J.J. said. “The water’s boiling over here and Freeman’s got more eyes on me than a two-headed spider. I can’t step a toe out of line or the CIA will roast my head on a spit. Sucks when your success comes back to bite you in the ass.”

“What gets me is the Russians don’t give a shit about a memo. The Bureau is the only one playing by the freakin’ rules,” Jiggy said.

“True.”

“Listen, I hate to put you in a compromising position, but…”

The pits of her arms began to burn; his lie made her itch. She smirked and shook her head. “Give me a freaking break, Jig. You knew exactly who you were calling.”

He chuckled and continued, “All right, all right. You got me. But if I’m correct about the similarities, this discovery could be the beginning of something big.”

J.J. quieted and sunk into her thoughts.  

“Hello?” Jiggy said.

“I’m here, still thinking. I mean, there wouldn’t be anything wrong if we had little analytical exchange with the G’s…as long as we don’t go operational.”

“Exactly. An exchange of opinions. I like the way you think,” he said. “But you need to get down here now. Gusin's still in the area so don’t draw attention to yourselves.”

“This is me you're talking to, Jiggy. Low key is my middle name.”

J.J. hung up, swept back into the office, and interrupted the mumbles. “Uhhh, sorry to break this up everyone, but Tony—we’ve got some important business to tend to,” she said, cutting her eyes as a signal that he shouldn’t question her in that moment. His twisted expression revealed his confusion however he didn’t say a word.

“Since we’re still a task force, when are we going to prioritize and conduct our analyses?” Gia asked.

“I'll email you all tonight. By then I’ll have more direction on where we go from here.” J.J. expected that if events unfolded as she anticipated, the cases may prioritize themselves.

As everyone gathered their things to depart, Gia lingered awkwardly, waiting for Tony until she finally realized he wasn’t leaving. A few moments later, she drifted out of the door.

Tony eased beside J.J. and in a hushed tone asked. “What did Jiggy want?”

J.J.’s eyebrow raised. “He was following the new counterintelligence line chief, Filchenko. The guy gets lost and he runs into Gusin at the Ellipse. He wants us to go check it out.”

Six’s glance volleyed between Tony and J.J. He tilted his head to one side and pursed his lips, shrugged, and said, “Wait. Gusin’s a signals guy.”

Tony looked surprise at his interruption. “What? You put your hearing aid in? We were havin’ a private conversation,” Tony snapped. “As a matter of fact he’s the line chief for the entire signals group, the most senior guy in Washington.”

“You’re not going down there to conduct an operation,” Six ordered, drawing side glances from Tony and J.J.

Six’s expression grew serious, his voice stern. “Or do I need to define ‘stand-down’ for you? Too many lives are at risk for you to run out playing Dirty Harriet because some signals guy landed in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“Dirty Harriet?” Tony snapped, sneering at Six. “This…from Shaft?”

“Okay, you two. Watch it or I’ll take you both to the principal’s office,” J.J. said as she locked her glance on Six. “We’re not investigating anything. We aren’t making any arrests. We’re talking to the G’s. If I recall correctly, Title 18 gives me the authority to do so on behalf of the American people without regard to this political bullshit. So that’s what I’m going to do.”

“And you wonder why you can’t get a promotion.” Six barked.

His words stung, but she bit back. “And you wonder why I question your loyalty.”

Six’s eyes widened. He opened his mouth to speak, but remained silent.  

“Okay. Okay. Now who needs a trip the principal’s office? Let’s get outta here, J.J. Time’s a wastin’.”

“I’m going too,” Six said. “Somebody’s got to protect our interests.”

J.J. rolled her eyes. “You’re an American citizen. Our interests are your interests,” she growled before mumbling, “Asshole.”

“I heard that!” Six said.

“Uhhh, I don’t want to intrude,” Walter piped in. “But if it involves signals intelligence, as the only NSA rep in the group, I may be able to help.”  

“Good thinking! You’re in,” J.J. said, a slight smile emerging from her scowl. Walter might have more balls than she gave him credit for. “We’ll walk. It’s only a few blocks away.”

Tony exited first. He strode into the corridor and shot back a blank glance over his shoulder, “I need to check on something. I’ll be a couple minutes behind you.”

J.J. smirked and turned to Six as he studied her expression. “What is it, Six? You keep looking at me like I have spinach in my teeth,” she said running her tongue along the top row.

“No, no. Trying to figure out what’s up with you and the Italian Stallion. The air between you two was so cold I think my balls caught frostbite.”

J.J. chuckled and shook her head. “Is your brain in any way connected to your mouth?”

“Don’t try to deflect the question. Answer me.”

“If I wanted to talk about it, I would’ve.” She shrugged and paced ahead. “Let’s say, things between Tony and I will never be the same. Last Friday was a game changer.”

If you want to know what happened "Last Friday," pick up a copy of The Seven Year Itch, now on sale on Kindle and Nook! 


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Buy it Now! $1.99






 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Today in Skye's Spies: CIA takeover Counterintelligence in the U.S.?

CIA takeover Counterintelligence in the U.S.?

Yeah...good luck with that.

Occasionally, I'll read an article that is as ridiculous as it is funny. In my daily edition of Skye's Spies, Robert Morton from the Association of Former Intelligence Officers wrote an article on the Rift Between and I quote "FBI (law enforcement) and CIA (counterintelligence) and suggested--brace yourself--that because of perceived FBI intelligence failures surrounding the Tsarnev investigation, the CIA should assume responsibility for Counterintelligence inside the United States.

First, I'm SO glad he's a FORMER intelligence officer.

Second, there is an organic tension in the FBI--CIA relationship, always has been, always will be. In a world of tit-for-tat retaliatory diplomatic actions, the investigative activities that help the FBI quell intelligence activity in the United States, ultimately make it more difficult for the CIA to operate overseas, especially in hostile environments, like Russia and China. FBI is defense and CIA is offense--we're all a part of the same team even though we have to play different games to win.

But Mr. Morton's argument to shift CI responsibilities to the CIA has more holes than a Swiss cheese farm. How many, you ask? Let me count the ways.

1. The CIA's primary mission is INTELLIGENCE, not COUNTERINTELLIGENCE. And Counterintelligence is a law enforcement function. While the CIA can conduct internal inquiries, once they have enough evidence to identify illegal activity they MUST refer their cases to the FBI for investigation.
2. The Tsarnev investigation was counterterrorism , not counterintelligence.
3. CIA has ZERO ZILCH law enforcement or investigative authority inside the United States or ANYwhere. They are intelligence collectors not law enforcement...and with good reason. They can't enforce laws they are trained to break...in other countries. There's a reason why agencies were set up the way they are.

I could stop right there because that pretty much squashes the argument. But I'll go one more.

4. I just love all these armchair "BENEFIT OF HINDSIGHT"  analysts and press organizations who have the kahunas to suggest that the FBI could have deterred attacks like that in Boston based on the limited intelligence available at the time.

Excuse me while I wipe the tears of laughter.

Sadly, most Americans have NO understanding or concept of just how many tens of thousands of crackpot leads the FBI receives through multiple systems every single day. If they gave 100 new leads to every investigative resource every day, the FBI wouldn't get through them until maybe 2525. And there'd still be a backlog. Yes, it's overwhelming. They don't have the personnel resources or the technology infrastructure to handle, analyze, assign and investigate half of what they receive. Then Congress cuts the budget and says "Do a lot more with a lot less." While they won't sacrifice a sandwich to add a nickel to the budget. They won't even sacrifice their time to pass a budget.

Needless to say, this is ridiculous. You want to see more effective collaboration and operations, give the entire intelligence community the resources it needs. And while everybody's entitled to their own opinion, some folks should leave the analysis to the real analysts.




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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Today in Skye's Spies: Spy Gadgets on Display, What's Wrong with Spook TV?

Whiz-Bang Widgets Galore...

 Catfish and Blond wigs?

No, it's not a new episode of Honey Boo Boo.

There's a super neat new spy gadget display.

I'm not referring to the one in FSB headquarters donated by recently arrested U.S. Diplomat Ryan Fogle. No, this one's in Philadelphia at the Franklin Institute, donated by FBI, CIA, and NRO.



From what I can see, it's very similar to the CIA Museum exhibits on display at Langley...lots of cool gadgetry from covert operations that happened in the good ole days--much of it collected or used during the Cold War. Even though you won't get to see the new whiz-bang spy widgets, I have to admit...even back then, we did some pretty cool sh*t. But that's only for us folks who have been subjected to highly invasive background investigations. You, "the uncleared," won't get to see that.

Which is all the more reason to see this one. Now. Well, it's open until October. For $25 bucks, you may just want to get a clearance and see the one at Langley. I'm just saying.

If you're in D.C., of course, you can always check out the Spy Museum which is pretty cool. FBI counterintelligence personnel got a special tour when it first opened. Lot's of cool stuff there. And I'm sure the Russians just LOVE what's buried in the bowels there...a Hall of Shame featuring their "Patriots," Americans busted for helping them...and other services...but mostly them. And one of the Russian's own (or who used to be their own) helped create it which I'm sure just THRILLS them to pieces. (For what it's worth, I don't much like the guy either I'm just sayin'). It's a unique collaboration that surely brings in big tourist dollars...as it was intended.

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

What's Wrong with Spook TV?

Hollywood.

They either get the intelligence world really right...or really wrong. When it comes to prime-time television, it's mostly WRONG. And not just a little bit wrong, but so incredibly wrong that, to those of us in the business, it's pretty freakin' comical.

To me, the funniest part of these shows, is that these agencies that were created to spy OVERSEAS do all their spying right here in the good ole United States...and don't involve the FBI.

Um...no! Doesn't happen like that in the real world. Not even close. If you are engaged in any type of intelligence operation in the United States it HAS to go through the FBI, must be Mueller-Approved. If it doesn't, the operation just does not go down.

I'm always working or writing so I really don't get to watch a lot of television. But there are a few shows that I DVR out of pure desperation I think, some that are entertaining as heck...and some that made my eyes roll back so far they almost got stuck. 

Shows that get it kinda right... 

The Americans. 

I don't much like The Americans for some reason. I haven't figured out why--I think it is probably the violence. I'm not for a lot of gun play in spy stories because it's so RARE inside the United States.  It's about Russians who take on American identities but still spy for the Russians. Even though it's set in the 1980s, I think it was at least inspired by the FBI arrest of the illegals network in 2010. For the episodes that I did watch, most of the first season, it was pretty engaging...and they do include the FBI--amazingly accurate for Hollywood. If I were going to recommend a show as a way to learn about how Russian intelligence operates in the United States, I'd recommend this one, even though it didn't keep me hanging on.



 Covert Affairs

Another show that is entertaining and gets it kinda right is Covet Affairs. For me, this has just the right blend of spy ops, romance, and suspense. The problem? Well, the CIA runs foreign operations out of Embassies around the world, not Langley and not throughout the United States--in DC? Naaah. If something goes wrong, the CIA would be in a whole lotta trouble. Langley certainly has oversight over operations, but Station Chiefs pretty much run the show in country--overseas. So, in this way, they get it WRONG. You don't see them coordinate with the FBI. WRONG.

Aside from those two issues, this show gets two snaps up for entertainment value.

Another clip.



Shows that get it really wrong.



Scandal. 


Now, don't get me wrong, I LOVE this show. I am thoroughly addicted to it. I think it's great storytelling that keeps me on the edge of my seat and gets my blood racing. But I would be lying if it didn't give me my share of eye-rolling moments. Most of which have centered around two things: The Mole Hunt and All Things Huck.

First of all, that Mole Hunt. I don't even want to get into how many ways this was wrong. I mean it was just wrong wrong wrong. No FBI involvement, an officer in the Pentagon delivering classified intel to a "fixer," and running operations for the "President," the CIA conducting covert black ops in the United States...targeting American citizens...for ANY reason but ESPECIALLY without FBI coordination...I mean, somebody stop me! Please. Some of you might argue COINTELPRO and the anti-communist movement...but I'll guarantee you Hoover had his thumb in every pie...whatever pies were out there.

Then there's Huck and this B213...B345...B631...B757...whatever that number is. Well...I'll say no more. We'll just chalk it up to the brilliant imagination of Shonda Rhimes and the entertainment value is off the charts...even if the accuracy is a little (a LOT) off. Trust me, I'll be hanging on by a very thin thread until next season.


Intelligence

And last but not least a new show. For next season, CBS will be premiering a new show called Intelligence. It features a HUMAN COVERT OPERATIVE of the U.S. Cyber Command who has a computer chip installed in his brain...and he can pull information from any database. Yes, they've created a human computer. And in a not-so-subtle dig at Chinese intelligence--another chip--the only other chip--was implanted in the brain of a Chinese intelligence officer. So it's the Chinese MSS, PLA intelligence--or some Hollywood cyber version of them--versus U.S. Cyber Command.

For those of you who know what the Cyber Command does, you can stop laughing now.

I don't need to tell you how many ways this is wrong. First, it looks like a civilian agency when the word "Command" is a dead giveaway that it's military. Both the FBI and CIA have cyber elements, why not use them, I dunno. *shrugs* Okay...but then there's the operative...who is guarded by this cute chick from where???

I'll DVR this one for comedy night. I'm sure Chinese Intelligence will be laughing right along with me.

Cyber Command? They're mostly computer geeks in military uniforms.

Conducting covert operations? Yeah...not HUMAN ones.

Really?

*shakes head*

Here's a clip.



So that's it for my Spook TV wrap up. 

Suffice it to say, these shows have helped me realized one thing. If they can write that stuff...then writing a series about a lie-detecting FBI agent who recruits Russian spies to catch American traitors isn't odd or strange or off the wall.

Au Contraire Mon Frere!

It's Hollywood.

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Today in Skye's Spies: FSB Plays Hardball, America's Got an Intelligence Problem?

Poor Fogle. You  know the guy that got arrested in Moscow with wigs, spy gadgets, money and the like. The arrest the mean old FSB decided to splash across the media KGB-style? Well, I was looking through my Intelligence Newsletter--Skye's Spies-- and some journalists have remarked that this is somehow a referendum on the decline of U.S. Intelligence. From my standpoint, most of America's intelligence problems lie with the Tea Party--not the CIA. But there are those who believe we're in trouble because the Moscow Chief of Station authorized one bad op. Okay a really bad op. In Moscow. Targeting arguably one of the most hostile foreign intelligence services to ever operate on Earth.

*shakes head*

Yeah, that was a bad bad bad idea.

Bad.

The Station Chief should've been on his way home right behind Fogle in my opinion. Poor decision-making is at the core of this arrest. And now that he's been outted by the FSB--another HARDCORE move by the KGB...I mean FSB--he probably won't be there much longer which is as it should be.

But boy does it feel like the 1970s-1980s.

On the whole, I don't think that this arrest in ANY way clouds the thousands of operations  that go RIGHT every day. You won't hear about those. Nope. You won't hear about the successful recruitments we do make every day. You won't hear about how the FBI put the screws to the Russians operating in the United States either. You're not supposed to. When intelligence goes right, it's mostly quiet. But this general air of covert silence makes the THUD from a bad op resound that much louder.

And that's what we have here.

The resounding thud from one bad op--because the FSB had its panties in a wad. It's true. It's all tit-for-tat. We'll hit back. They'll hit back. We'll hit back. It's been going on for decades--mostly in back channels.

Under the hardline leadership of Vladimir Putin, who is "ex"-KGB and bleeds crimson and gold--stuff like this is bound to happen.

But things are about to get UG-O-LY!

To quote myself from another blog (which inspired this post), "This was just a bad op. 1.000 operations go right and we don't hear about them. One goes wrong and the FSB decides to make a statement and all of U.S. intelligence has a problem? Nah, not so much. ... I will say that I would not have trusted this op...in Moscow. Nope. Poor decision-making. But one bad apple, in this case, doesn't spoil the whole bunch. More ops go right than wrong."

So, take this arrest for what it is...an embarrassing arrest which is the result of poor decision making. Now, the shift in America's relationship with Russians is a different story altogether. That's a story worth some discussion.

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

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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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Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Associated Press & The Intelligence Leak Stink


Wah, wah, wah...





Did you hear that? It's the sound of the Associated Press crying the blues because the Department of Justice seized their phone records to find the source of an intelligence leak--one that reported on the successful CIA operation in Yemen that helped avert a terrorist attack. An intelligence leak that put both American operatives and foreign sources in danger. Now they're upset because the DOJ is doing its job and trying to find the source of the leak. And as a double-edged sword, they've blasted the investigation all over the press which in turn has caused the intelligence leaks to seal up...because the sources don't want to go to jail.

Does anyone else see the irony here?

For anyone who doesn't know, cleared government employees sign sheets of paper called Non-Disclosure Agreements. When they sign them, they AGREE to keep their mouths shut and they agree not to share classified intelligence with anyone who is NOT properly cleared AND who doesn't have a need-to-know. Both of those things, not one or the other. They also affirm their understanding of the fact that if they do disclose classified information, they are breaking the law and will be prosecuted if caught. While the press might dispute the "need-to-know," there is no disputing the "properly cleared" part.

Reporters don't have security clearances.

Disclosing intelligence to them is illegal.

There is no murky legal line.

The DOJ (via the FBI) has every right to investigate. They can go to the Attorney General and ask to obtain access to phone records, not necessarily to spy on editors, but to catch the intelligence "leakers" speaking to the press. It's legal. It's justified. And the more the AP cries about it, the more irritated I get.



When a government employee with a clearance leaks information to the press it's not only ILLEGAL, but it puts the lives of our covert intelligence and military personnel at risk----as well as the lives of critical sources who put their own lives as risk to tell us information that keeps our country safe. If the Government can't protect the identities and reporting of its sources, then those sources will stop telling us information...including the kind of information that saves American lives every day. They won't trust our Government because blabber mouths with clearances run to the press. 

What I find utterly ironic here is that the Justice Department and the AP are making the same exact argument--they both want to protect their sources. The government's sources break laws to save American lives and the AP's sources break laws to give the press ratings and headlines.

If I have to choose which I'm going to support, I'm going for door number 1.

When intelligence personnel leak information to the AP, they put our National Security at risk and endanger the lives of our intelligence and military personnel. That's not only illegal, it's shameful! I hope the Bureau catches the S.O.B. leak and punishes them to the fullest extent of the law--and I'm glad those intelligence leaks are sealing up.

My novel The Seven Year Itch, in addition to giving readers a great mole hunt, shows what can happen to our sources if we fail to protect them. Yeah, it's ugly...and why I'm so passionate about this topic.

I wish I had won the $600 million lottery. Maybe I'd have enough money to buy the Associated Press CEO a clue. 


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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

U.S. Diplomat Arrested in Moscow: Let the Spy Games Begin...Again

I woke up this morning to the news that a U.S. Diplomat had been arrested for attempting to recruit a Russian Intelligence officer, in what I suspect was part of an ongoing Russian-controlled double agent operation. I suspect. The CIA officer was probably led to believe the Russian officer had planned to cooperate with U.S. intelligence, all at the behest and watchful eye of his agency.
(From ABC News)
What rather surprised me, and perhaps shouldn't have, is that the arrest wasn't back-channeled as  most are, handled quietly between the State Department and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. After all, the FBI has made several low-key arrests that you wouldn't know about if you weren't looking for them--there was no public hoopla. But the Russians really went there. I mean, they didn't just arrest the guy, they splattered the officer's photos through the press along with pictures of a table full of spy gadgets, money, and disguises.
Ugh.

My heart sank when I saw it. A pretty big blow, one of which the CIA will deny deny deny. That's what they're supposed to do. U.S. intelligence does not operate in Moscow...and Russians intelligence doesn't operate in the United States. And if you believe that I have a used spaceship from the Planet Moron for sale in my backyard.

In my estimation, there are two reasons for the humiliating public demonstration--either this spells a shift in the mostly settled relationship the U.S. has shared with Moscow over the past few years and they want to let us know under no uncertain terms that we are not friends and never will be. OR--this is a right cross in response to the uppercut we served to them in 2010 when the FBI exposed the illegals network in an operation that received A LOT of press. I mean a lot. Hell, the FX network even created a show, The Americans, that I'm certain was at least inspired by the those arrests.

Either way, American intelligence doesn't usually take this kind of thing on the chin or turn the other cheek. No, we tend to get our "cowboy" on and come firing back, all barrels blazing. I'd be very surprised if we don't see a body blow delivered hard and fast to the gut of the Russian Embassy in Washington or one of the other U.S. residencies in San Francisco or New York. However long it takes, I don't think we've seen the last of the tit-for-tat machinations.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, this spooky game of espionage between Russian and U.S. intelligence will endure for years to come. That's why I love writing this new series! In my fictional world you'll get to read about a lot of stuff that you thought you'd only read in papers...and some stuff you'll never read about unless you read my series. :)


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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