Saturday, May 18, 2013

Spying’s Amateur Hour

America owes Russia a big apology for the embarrassing case of bumbling CIA spy Ryan Fogel caught red-handed in Moscow trying to recruit a Russian agent.
Shame on the US. What ever happened to professional respect? Russia has always been the grand master of espionage. In Russia, spying is a high art form, like ballet.
Having been given an exclusive visit to the KGB’s museum of espionage, I can heartily attest to Russia’s mastery of spying. Too bad most people don’t known how masterful and patient the Russian were – and continue to be.
Sending an amateur American spy on a ham-handed attempt to recruit a Russian agent was an insult to the profession. Russia deserves the top US agents, not bumblers from the backwoods.
Agent Fogel, under thin diplomatic cover as third secretary at the US Moscow Embassy, was certainly no James Bond. More like agent 000. According to the Ruskis, he even had a nifty little spy kit with a Swiss Army knife, map of Moscow, two wigs, and compass. And a letter offering a bribe of "up to" $1 million to work for CIA.
Why didn’t CIA just run a spy-wanted ad in Moscow’s Pravda newspaper?
A counter-story was immediately spread that the bumbling Fogel was somehow trying to glean information related to the recent Boston bombing.

Coming just before crucially important US-Soviet talks over Syria, the Fogel affair was either incredibly inept or a crude attempt to sabotage the peace talks.
Agent 000’s case underlines concerns of veteran US intelligence professionals that CIA has become too absorbed running its own paramilitary operations around the globe and hunting so-called terrorists to pay proper attention to its basic business of gathering information.

The Cold War is long over, but intelligence operations continue at a higher intensity than during the long US-Soviet confrontation. China’s spies are increasingly active across the globe, particularly so in the US and Canada, but also in Russia.
Even allies spy on one another, most often to acquire advanced technology. The venerable "honey trap" where an attractive female agent seduces a target remains a favorite of the Russians, French, Israel’s Mossad, and, yes, the prudish CIA.
I recall nights in my awful Moscow hotel waiting for lovely Soviet female agents called "swallows" to tempt my devotion to the Free World. Alas, none ever came.
This writer has closely followed Soviet, then Russian intelligence operations . In 1989, I was the first journalist ever allowed into KGB headquarters at Moscow’s dreaded Lubyanka Prison. I interviewed two senior KGB generals who told me the Soviet Union was about to collapse due to the ineptitude of the Communist Party.
"What we need," said one, "is a leader who will make Russians work at bayonet point, like Chile’s Pinochet or South Korea’s Park Chung-hee." A decade later, they got their wish in the form of a former tough KGB/FSB agent, Vladimir Putin.  MORE

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