Spy stuff

Seems to me that if you had to pick one source for all that scary CIA hacking technology dumped on Wikileaks today, it would be the FSB. They had it, made use of it, and are now dumping it on the world through their useful idiot Assange. That is my guess. How they got it, who knows, but I imagine the vast reams of intelligence they got from Edward Snowden could have easily contained the keys (or at least a key) to it all. Snowden had no idea what he had in there. Or maybe he did. But I don’t think he did, for the most part. He’s always struck me as kind of an idiot, spy-wise. A low level functionary with sticky fingers and few scruples about where he stuck them. His real or feigned ignorance alone gives him an air of innocence in some circles, of martyrdom. Abraham, Martin and Ed. Many of us keep treating him and others in this biz like martyrs, like saints for the greater good. But they’re spies. And spies turn. Snowden did. Putin didn’t take him in out of the goodness of his stone cold heart. Snowden was one of the great intelligence assets of our time, the moral equivalent of one of those doofus hedge fund guys who wears a wire in return for immunity when the SEC comes knocking. But he’s no martyr. Martyrs don’t live in nice Moscow apartments with everything paid for by a foreign intelligence service. But that doesn’t mean he necessarily gave the Russians the means to get into this technology. He might have helped, perhaps unintentionally. Then again, it might not have been Snowden at all, but someone within our own vast intelligence community, perhaps not even American. Perhaps an ally. Or a well placed FSB agent. A well placed double agent. Or triple agent. Or agents, a whole network of them skulking about when no one is looking in the classic FSB/KGB/NKVD/Smersh/Cheka and all the way back to the Czarist Okhrana style. Russian intelligence methods go deep into the 19th century if not earlier, back when our own incompetent spymaster Pinkerton was telling Lincoln that Robert E Lee had a million confederate soldiers just across the Potomac. Unlike gullible Americans, Russians seem to have an instinct for this sort of work. They reel in the vulnerable, the contractors with a taste for cocaine and Russian blondes, the addled ideologue, the embittered fuck ups, or any combination thereof. How we can seem so startled by this I do not know, as if none of us ever heard of how Stalin got the plans for the atomic bomb, and then the hydrogen bomb. Stalin put Beria in charge of the whole operation. Beria wove an elaborate web of Russian agents and  Americans and a seemingly unlimited number of upper class English communists who were utterly taken with the glory of Stalin. They used Canadians (there’s an interesting contemporaneous movie, the title of which escapes me, about that part of their operation). They used American scientists deep in debt. They thoroughly infiltrated our most confidential secrets and places and people and before you know it had themselves a nuclear arsenal. These are facts, Mr. Marlowe, historical facts. Not schoolboy history, not Mr. Stone’s history, but history nonetheless.

So I find it odd how in news analyses I heard today–one on the BBC, no less–the notion that maybe Russian intelligence sprung this was never even mentioned, as if it had never occurred to them that Russians have an incredibly effective intelligence service with a long history of doing just this sort of thing. I listened in disbelief as people rattled off all the possibilities without ever mentioning the fact that it was highly possible that this was another well played FSB operation, even as we are investigating the FSB’s well played  infiltration of our own presidential election. Like we cannot connect the FSB’s capability to do both. There’s a Russian concept, maskirovka, which badly translates as military deception, though it goes far beyond that. It is basically the ability to carry out vast plans without the one being planned against having an inkling what is going on. The Russians inflicted devastating defeats on the German army that way in 1941, 1942, and 1944, defeats that put together essentially lost Hitler the war. Their military academies taught the idea to the Chinese who caught MacArthur flat footed on the Yalu in 1951 and nearly destroyed him. Their academies taught it to the North Vietnamese who launched huge offensives in 1968, 1972 and 1975 that caught the Americans and our South Viet Namese allies by surprise and had us, in the end, fleeing from embassy rooftops in helicopters. They even taught it to the Egyptians who nearly beat the Israelis in the Yom Kippur War using it. People talk about the lightning war concept of the Blitzkrieg, but you’d be hard pressed to find another more succesful strategem than maskirovka. And the odds that anyone reading this has ever even heard the term before are close to nil. I only stumbled upon it myself in a footnote.

It seems to me that the same principle is applied to Russian intelligence operations with just as devastating results. I have no idea if they  call it maskirovka, but in practice the strategy is the same, and the results just as complete. They got the plans for our nuclear program, twice. More recently, they messed with our election and got Trump elected. They probably engineered the whole Snowden defection, perhaps the greatest intelligence coup of all time.  And I would be flabbergasted if they were not behind this latest CIA humiliation, all our creepy secret monitoring techniques–using TVs, iPhones, cars, whatever–dumped onto the internet in front of God and China and ISIS and everybody. There was massive deception involved, it was probably the Russians, yet we seem clueless as to actually who was behind it. Even the BBC never mentioned the possibility it was the Russian’s hand, even though never has there been another county with a history of well bred treason like the fraffly wicked spies of Great Britain. Everything about this operation could have been the work of Russian intelligence. We stare right at them and don’t see it. Maskirovka. The Russians massed two million soldiers, six thousand tanks, thirty thousand cannon and eight thousand aircraft right in front of the Germans in 1944 at the height of summer and the Germans never noticed. The Germans never saw anything, or heard anything, or suspected anything till the day the Russian army came blasting though, unstoppable. Getting hold of our surveillance technology must have been a breeze, like stealing candy from a baby.

Maybe you have to be old enough to remember the Cold War to be so suspicious of Russian spies. Maybe you have to remember just who the bad guys were in those early James Bonds. Or remember Kim Philby or Julius Rosenberg, or the unparalleled Richard Sorge, the greatest Russian spy of them all. Sorge, indeed, was probably the greatest spy of all time, the one who, all by himself, might have changed the course of World War Two. There has never been a spy from any other country’s intelligence services that came anywhere near that level of effectiveness. But if reporters and pundits don’t know that history, some of it fairly recent, they’ll never understand what is happening now. They won’t find the answers scrolling their Twitter feeds. To quote Chicolini, this is spy stuff.

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