Did you Know?
There’s No Electronic To Hide.
British agent Platon Obukhov thought he had found the perfect way to minimize risk when passing on secret documents. While traveling on public transportation, he used his Palm Pilot, which had a wireless connection and access to electronic mail, to transmit information. However, his transmission was hardly secure. In fact, he was caught red-handed before he’d even finished.
The Birth of the World’s Foremost Spy Agency.
“In the beginning, the CIA was going to be a small, sharp news ervice delivering hot tips and cool analysis to the president’s desk, not the secret weapon of U.S. foreign policy. Richard Helms, the director of Central Intelligence from 1966 to 1973, said, ‘The agency was created to analyze intelligence, not for covert action.’ That the CIA became known for spying, he said, was ‘an accident of history.'” — The New York Times, 7-20-97
Spies in the Sky.
When the Keyhole satellite program was born some 30 years ago, for he first time the United States could digitally observe events on Earth in near real time. Technology has now advanced so much that we can observe the earth regardless of cloud cover, bad weather, or darkness. Infrared cameras and radar and advanced sensing lenses revolutionized this sort of mechanical spying so much that now we can see images of only an inch in diameter.
The Ultimate 21st Century Spy.
FBI mole Robert Hanssen not only used modern information technology but did so like a virtuoso. He cleverly refused to meet with his Russian handlers or to reveal his real name. Instead, he communicated by using snail-mail, index cards, computer diskettes, encryption keys, and a Palm Pilot organizer. During the sixteen years he was a double agent, he handed over 26 disks containing some 6,000 pages of documents to the Russians. To increase security, this high-tech spy recorded the data in formats incompatible with the Windows operating system by formatting his disks with a nonstandard program. After going so many years undetected, he had a low opinion of the abilities of his fellow FBI agents. He revealed to his Russian handlers that his deepest fear was of “somebody like myself.”
The Hi-Tech Future of Spying.
“Powerful Internet browsers and agents are even now traveling through cyberspace into the computers and networks of both the suspecting and unsuspecting to record their secrets.” And if that’s not scary enough, try this: “A clever computer programmer in the immediate future will unleash electron-based cyber-agents to recover more vital information in a day than a thousand fictional James Bonds could recover in a lifetime.” —”The Cold War Experience,” CNN
It’s private, U.S.-based, and called simply Kroll Associates, but it’s considered the world’s pre-eminent corporate investigating company. If you’re the target, you join a dubious although elite club: You’re being “krolled.” According to Jim Lewis in the October 1997 George magazine, “It isn’t a private spy agency, nor is it a security firm or a branch of law enforcement. Kroll’s clients—banks, investment firms, corporations, foreign governments — treat it like a rent-a-spook. Some of the 350 or so employees in 24 offices around the world come from the three-letter world — CIA, FBI, DEA. Others hail from U.S. district attorneys’ offices. For a fairly hefty price, they will work to find things out.”
Out on a Covert Limb.
During the Cold War, we sent many of our CIA spies overseas in the guise of U.S. diplomats—consular operations, or “con ops.” However, Langley believes our needs have changed, and so it’s deploying more agents as NOCs—nonofficial cover officers. This is not only an expensive program, it’s dangerous, since NOCs operate in deep disguise as international journalists, business executives, and even teachers. Without diplomatic immunity, the spies would be well advised to have read a few James Bond novels.
Let’s All Help Out the Poor NSA.
“What does it take to send an e-mail to all 38,000 employees at the government’s premier computing center, the super-secret National Security Agency? ‘An act of God,’ says the agency’s director since 1999, Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden. The NSA, he discovered to his chagrin last year, has 58 e-mail systems. He has three computers on his desk—none of which can communicate with the others. To deal with those frustrations, Gen. Hayden is now plunging into one of the U.S. governments’s biggest information-technology outsourcing deals ever. More than 15 companies have formed three teams to compete for a contract set to be valued at as much as $5 billion over 10 years.” Warning: If you’re interested, make sure you submit your proposal promptly. The winner’s going to be chosen by July. — The Wall Street Journal, 3-13-01
Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and the CIA. Oh, my.
In the past, Hollywood has been instrumental in helping the CIA and other of U.S. intelligence agencies develop methods of disguise so realistic that husbands and wives didn’t recognize each other. Now the Company has tapped Silicon Valley, too, by launching In-Q-Tel, a nonprofit corporation to support private-sector development of information technology that the CIA can use. As Gilman G. Louie, president of In-Q-Tel has explained, “We’re looking at real ‘Mission Impossible’ stuff.”
Why Would a Wanted Mercenary Come in from the Cold?
“For 30 years, Bob Denard lived a life out of a thriller novel, commanding mercenaries in far-flung wars, toppling presidents, virtually controlling an island country of his own,” the Associated Press has reported. But in the end, despite wealth, power, and arrest warrants hanging over his head, he returned to Paris and submitted to arrest. Why? For love. It was the only way he could be with his wife and two children, who live in France.
“On July 4, 1945, in recognition of Independence Day, a group of USSR schoolchildren presented the U.S. Ambassador a hand-carved U.S. seal. The gift was hung above the ambassador’s desk. ‘The Thing’ was concealed in a hollowed-out portion of the seal, and for seven years, it transmitted every word said in the ambassador’s office. When the device was eventually uncovered in 1952, the CIA couldn’t figure out how it worked, hence the ambiguous nickname, the Thing.
“England’s MI5 security service finally realized the Thing was the world’s first passive cavity resonator. A small hole in the Great Seal located in the beak of the eagle allowed sound to enter the device through several holes at its cylindrical top. The sound vibrations inside the cavity changed the charge on the long antenna at its bottom. When a high-frequency radio wave, administered by an operative in a nearby building, struck the antenna, its signal was reflected back. The modulations in the reflected radio beam were then converted back to sound.” — Popular Science magazine, February 2001
Embarrassment Is Our Middle — Not-so-Secret — Name.
The CIA’s biggest public relations problem is how infrequently its boss—the American people—knows about its successes, which are kept as closely held secrets. However, some very large mistakes have provided humiliating headlines. For instance, in 1962, the Company told President Kennedy there were no Soviet missiles in Cuba. Two weeks later, the missiles were discovered, and the Cuban Missile Crisis erupted. In 1973, the CIA failed to foresee the outbreak of the Middle East’s bloody Yom Kippur War. In 1979, they failed to anticipate that our ally, the shah of Iran, was in such serious trouble that he would be deposed shortly. More recently, in 1998, the CIA neglected to monitor the New Delhi government’s promise to develop nuclear weapons. When India tested a series of underground nuclear devices, not only was India shaken, so was the CIA.
The World’s Most Expensive, Most Exclusive Newspaper.
It looks like a simple booklet with a blue cover, but inside are the world’s top secrets. It’s called the President’s Daily Brief, and every day it’s delivered to the President of the United States and only a handful of his advisers. Compiled by CIA analysts during the previous 24 hours, the PDB’s goal is to reveal what’s really going on in the inner circles of power, from Vladivostock to Vienna to Johannesburg, and the repercussions for the United States. If you like, it can arrive with your morning coffee.
Help Wanted: Spies.
In the past few years, the CIA’s morale is up, funding has increased, and women and minorities have been heavily recruited. What’s this all about? Besides our usual allies, the CIA now spies on China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Russia, as strategic priorities. But also—as the Los Angeles Times reports— “Last year, the CIA provided maps for humanitarian operations in Turkey and Taiwan, reported on arms traders in Africa, traced money laundering in the Caribbean, and helped eliminate terrorist cells in Europe and the Middle East.” Who says the fires are banked? Stay tuned.
Making Secret Scents
The Stasi—East Germany’s infamous Ministry for State Security—was known for the millions of miles of files it kept on its citizens. These denizens of terror developed unheard-of means of tracking people. One particular standout was the use of female dog hormones. Amazing, and true. They secretly sprayed the hormones of a female German Shepherd on such places as a suspect’s doorway and doormat so that when his shoes touched the scent, it would adhere, and male German Shepherds could track that person for days. Eventually, the Stasi developed ten different permutations of the odor, so that multiple subjects could be tracked simultaneously.
Is the CIA Monitoring Your Health?
In one of its lesser-known activities, the CIA has a VIP Health Unit that keeps track of the physical conditions of leaders around the globe. For several years, the Company’s top priority was Boris Yeltsin, former president of Russia. He suffered from heart disease, back pain, and alcohol abuse. At one point, CIA techs were eavesdropping on a conversation between two of his aides, who were speculating whether he would “make it” through a forthcoming election campaign. Shortly after the conversation, Yeltsin’s health went into a tailspin.
And You Thought It Was Dog Droppings
Back in the seventies, seismic intruder devices were designed to blend in with the landscape so well that subjects would not suspect their movements were being tracked by a listening station miles away. Popular Science magazine reported in its February 2001 issue that “Resembling stones, dried mud, or dung, they could detect movement of pedestrians or vehicles within 300 meters and then relay the information through coded impulses via a built-in dipole antenna. Powered by a trio of mercury cells, they could be planted along strategic areas without suspicion.”