Tom Diaz

Archive for the ‘Espionage’ Category

It’s Baaaack….The New Cold War Comes to Washington

In Chicken Hawks and Other War Birds, Cronatos Hybamper, Defense Spending, Espionage, Nuclear Weapons and War, Putin, Russia, Trump, War and Rumors of War on September 3, 2017 at 7:37 pm

 

Cloud earth in space

Just when you thought the elementary school-yard back and forth was over, a New Cold War has broken out.

Cold wars are good for the military-industrial complex, the national-security-consulting-complex, and the careers of professional politicians.

However, the inconvenient thing about cold wars is that they have every potential to go hot. I was of a generation that sweated through the last Cold War and the era of Dr. Strangelove.

That thought crossed my mind as I walked past the Russian Trade mission in Washington this morning and saw that it was occupied by … United States Secret Service uniformed police officers. Poo-tee-wheet, poo-tee-wheet, as Kurt Vonnegut wrote.

So, I made a little video to commemorate the occasion.

 

Enjoy.

 

 

From Miniskirts to Shoulder Boards—Women in the Russian Military

In Cronatos Hybamper, Espionage, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, Political Satire, Putin, Russia, Russian Army, Ukraine, War and Rumors of War on January 13, 2017 at 11:50 am

putins-miniskirt-army

The mysterious and intoxicating beauty rarely left Russia. But she was definitely confirmed by multi-sourced intelligence to be the most dynamic senior force in the Russian military research and development hierarchy. If there was a glass ceiling in the Russian armed services, she refused to accept it. Colonel Nadezhda Sergeevna Vodovatova was one of a handful of women who had not merely overcome, but blasted through, the sexism that still abounded in Russia’s hierarchy of power. Even President Gribov was said to treat her as a full equal, not merely some sexy dangle to be shown now and again, but a true equal.

From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident by Tom Diaz

Three strong women play pivotal roles in the novel Cronatos Hybamper. Others have lesser but key places in the narrative.

Things get very complicated when Russian Colonel Nadezhda Sergeevna Vodovatova and a CIA operations officer go toe-to-toe. (You’ll have to read the novel to get the full significance of that very deliberate double entendre. I won’t spoil the plot by leaking any more classified data on that series of events.)

One might fairly ask, so what is the status of women, and especially high-ranking women, in the real life of the Russian armed forces?

Well, it turns out that there actually is woman who is a Russian Deputy Minister of Defense. Her name is Tatiana Shevtsova. However, unlike Col. Vodovatova, Shevtsova’s career was made in the civil service and not in the military.

Another woman, Natalia Poklonskaya, was supposedly the youngest general in Russia when she resigned and was elected to the Duma, or parliament. But, her rank was also not military. She was formerly the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Crimea. She also has the distinction of being the only woman on the United States’ list of individual sanctions against Ukrainian separatists and Russians.

Poklonskaya enjoys international fame for her beauty, according to Wikipedia:

After a video of Poklonskaya at a press conference on 11 March 2014 was uploaded to YouTube, her attractiveness and youth went viral among Japanese and Chinese internet users and also became the focus of attention of Internet communities…Within a month, the press conference was viewed over 1.7 million times. Many fan-created anime-style images of her uploaded to the Internet also attracted international media attention. A music video by Enjoykin based on Poklonskaya’s press conferences and interviews has had 20 million views on YouTube.

The only “real” female Russian military general I could find in my background research was General Yelena Knyazeva, deputy chief of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Main Department for International Military Cooperation. According to the Russian outlet Sputnik News. “She became Russia’s first woman general in almost two decades and second after woman cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, who was bestowed the rank of the Major General Lieutenant of the Air Force in the middle of the 90s.”

I’m not sure that General Knyazeva’s views on gender would fly in the U.S. military, however. “Maybe it would be good [for women to do voluntary service], but I think it’s better for women to get married, have children and bring up their sons who will serve their Motherland,” Knyazeva, the only one-star female officer in Russia’s Armed Forces, told RIA Novosti.

On the lighter side, one should not miss the current (real) Russian President’s so-called “Army in Miniskirts.” An interview with one of the female soldiers can be found on a Pravda Report on You Tube.

You can buy the novel and read about Colonel Nadezhda Sergeevna Vodovatova and the other strong women characters in Cronatos by following the link below, which also opens a long read from the book’s beginning pages.

 

 

The Rain in Moscow Wasn’t Purple: Of Honey Traps and Con·cu·pis·cence

In bad manners, Cronatos Hybamper, Espionage, Ethics in Washington, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, Political Satire, politics, Putin, Russia, Russian Intelligence Operations, The Great Stupid, Trump on January 11, 2017 at 1:24 pm

sweet-apple

Two weeks after her arrival, [redacted] was delighted to have been invited to Monica’s Moscow flat for lunch. The flat was surprisingly roomy. It was just the two of them. Vasily could not break away from work. There was a good champagne, and lots of it. One thing led to another, skillfully guided by the charming Monica. Before mid-day, the two … were lying in bed, naked and deliciously exhausted. They had enjoyed every variety of passionate sexual embrace imaginable. This was all recorded on high-quality sound film by KGB technicians, working in an adjoining room from behind a strategically placed two-way mirror.

From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident by Tom Diaz

Forgive me for being repetitious, but once again the headlines are ripped from my novel, Cronatos Hybamper.

I have no idea whether the “unconfirmed” allegations about President-elect Trump described below are true or not. But use of the so-called “honey trap” has been a staple of the Russian intelligence services for at least a century. So, my only point here is that my little fictive device has a long, solid, eminently believable foundation in real life.

I don’t want to include a plot-spoiler in this excerpt, so you’ll have to read the novel to find out who was the victim of the honey trap in Cronatos.

Buzzfeed posted a version of the actual memo containing the alleged Russian “kompromat” activities in this story, “These Reports Allege Trump Has Deep Ties To Russia.”

A dossier, compiled by a person who has claimed to be a former British intelligence official, alleges Russia has compromising information on Trump. The allegations are unverified, and the report contains errors.…

The dossier, which is a collection of memos written over a period of months, includes specific, unverified, and potentially unverifiable allegations of contact between Trump aides and Russian operatives, and graphic claims of sexual acts documented by the Russians.

The New York Times alluded to the sexual antics that are described in some detail in the Buzzfeed post in its story, “Trump Received Unsubstantiated Report That Russia Had Damaging Information About Him,” by Scott Shane, Adam Goldman and Matthew Rosenberg, Jan. 10, 2017.

WASHINGTON — The chiefs of America’s intelligence agencies last week presented President Obama and President-elect Donald J. Trump with a summary of unsubstantiated reports that Russia had collected compromising and salacious personal information about Mr. Trump, two officials with knowledge of the briefing said.

The memos describe sex videos involving prostitutes with Mr. Trump in a 2013 visit to a Moscow hotel. The videos were supposedly prepared as “kompromat,” or compromising material, with the possible goal of blackmailing Mr. Trump in the future.

The Washington Post’s story skipped the salacious part and went with full pabulum suitable for reading by children and in church, “Intelligence chiefs briefed Trump and Obama on unconfirmed claims Russia has compromising information on president-elect,” by Greg Miller, Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger and Steven Mufson, January 10 at 10:04 PM

A classified report delivered to President Obama and President-elect Donald Trump last week included a section summarizing allegations that Russian intelligence services have compromising material and information on Trump’s personal life and finances, U.S. officials said.

To read more about the honey trap in Cronatos and its consequences, read the novel, which you can sample and order here:

 

 

A Spy May Be A Spy By Any Other Name, Or Gait—But You Won’t Recognize Them

In Cronatos Hybamper, Espionage, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, Movies, Political Satire on January 10, 2017 at 5:22 pm

real-argo-and-carter

Lisabeth Purnell was certainly clever enough to appreciate the grand irony of her opening at the White House as Ingrid Carlsbad, appearing in a one act play about the power of redemption, accompanied by ear-shattering thunder and dramatic sweeps of rain.

Who really knows the heart and soul of anyone among us? she asked herself.

Like many intelligence officers in the clandestine service, Purnell used more than one pseudonym. Ingrid Carlsbad just happened to be her favorite fake name. Bogus names threw off of her trail any curious civilians—including clandestine agents of hostile services—who might be inclined to follow up after events in the open like this briefing.

Lisabeth was also wearing light disguise. This was a subtle collection of invisible, almost magic alterations to her facial structure, her hair, and certain parts of her body. Lifts and slight orthopedic adjustments to her shoes changed her height, and the pace and cant of her walk. The CIA had used these techniques for decades to ensure that no one who happened to see an actual covert operations officer in such a public context would recognize the real person in a chance encounter elsewhere.

From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident by Tom Diaz

Lisabeth Purnell (aka Ingrid Carlsbad) is just about the coolest character in my novel, Cronatos Hybamper. A CIA operations officer, she “had the perfect cover for her work in Moscow Station. And she had a score to settle. This was a dangerous combination for the Russians.” You can read her story and how she got her revenge in the novel.

There are several good sources on the use of disguise by agents in the field. Three that I thoroughly enjoyed listening to are these podcasts from the Spycast series posted by the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC. They feature Antonio (Tony) Mendez and his wife Jonna Mendez, both of whom worked in the CIA’s Technical Services Division. At separate times, each was Chief of Disguise for the agency.

Tony Mendez was the real agent who got out the American diplomats trapped in Tehran, the story featured in the movie Argo. The pair have written several books about their craft and episodes from real life.

Here are links to the three podcasts:

A discussion of the intricacies of developing disguises for use in hostile environments, the advantages of selective aging, and the secret history of facial recognition technology. https://www.spymuseum.org/multimedia/spycast/episode/from-the-vault-the-tony-and-jonna-mendez-edition-part-1/

Jonna Mendez discusses some of the operations she was involved in as well as opportunities for women in the intelligence community. https://www.spymuseum.org/multimedia/spycast/episode/from-the-vault-the-tony-and-jonna-mendez-edition-part-2/

The story of how Tony Mendez mounted an elaborate deception and disguise operation to exfiltrate six Americans from Tehran before the Iranians were able to track them down.https://www.spymuseum.org/multimedia/spycast/episode/from-the-vault-the-tony-and-jonna-mendez-edition-part-3/

One of the rescued diplomats wrote an article praising the film and Mendez, but explaining how the cinematic version differed from real life. See, Mark Lijek, “I Was Rescued From Iran: It wasn’t like the movie.” Slate.

Both of the Mendez couple have written books. Here are links to just two, and there are more. The Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA, and Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History.

To read a sample of Cronatos Hybamper and order the book, click on the link below.

 

 

The Most Intelligent Men in the Washington Play Pen. Or Not.

In Cronatos Hybamper, Espionage, Ethics in Washington, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, Political Satire, politics, Turf Wars, War and Rumors of War, Washington Bureaucracy on January 6, 2017 at 11:51 am

clapper-hearingedited

“Our biggest challenge with implementing the Cronatos system,” Wes McRae, the Director of National Intelligence, quipped at a seemingly casual but well-planned off-the-record moment in a joint briefing that he and the Secretary of Defense gave on Capitol Hill, “Was separating out the workers’ farts from the chemical leaks at the Russian’s special warfare facilities.”

McRae was the iron-fisted paterfamilias of the intelligence community, a giant man with bushy eyebrows and an unflinching gaze. He was given to good wine, fine cigars, black cowboy boots, and the classics of literature and music. Although the DNI post had once been little more than royal eunuch and far less than godfather, Wes McRae had changed that. He had clawed his way to the top of the heap and had the requisite skills—the ability to ruthlessly kick or exquisitely kiss ass, as the strategic moment demanded—to enforce his will through fear, favor, and tactical brown-nosing. As long as half of the secret world loved him and half hated him, he was happy, because he then always had the deciding vote. Lesser aspirants came to learn the pleasures of life in such posts as outer Bolivia, deep Minnesota, and anywhere in Chad.

No one had ever proven that Wes McRae had leaked a single syllable about any elected or appointed member of the civilian government. Everyone, the President included, knew that he could. No one wanted to find out if he would.

The second was a portly, balding man in a dark gray pinstripe suit. He was Manfrey J. Ferbe, director of the CIA. Ferbe held an office that once commanded the heights of the intelligence world, and from those heights a great deal of America’s foreign policy. No one but the President of the United States told the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency what to do or when to do it.

That was true until Wes McRae was appointed to the theoretically higher post of Director of National Intelligence, charged with coordinating the work of all of the intelligence agencies. Generations of CIA directors had just ignored any nominal superior, including the DNI. But McRae succeeded where previous DNIs had failed. He wrestled the agency into limping submission to his superior authority as top dog of everything that even hinted at intelligence.

From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident by Tom Diaz

If you write a novel that touches on the geopolitics of the United States, it’s fun to feature the preening cuckoos at the top of the U.S. Intelligence Community. The two excerpts above reflect the struggle between the Director of National Intelligence and the subordinate agencies.

Well, daggone it! No sooner did I write Cronatos Hybamper than a wee-wee match broke out in the real world spook play pen. Guess I was ahead of the curve.

[Retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn] … has called President Obama a “liar,” declared the U.S. justice system “corrupt” and insisted that he was pushed out of his assignment as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency because of his views on radical Islam. The claim has left former superiors seething, including Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., according to current and former officials who said Flynn was removed because of management problems.

Dana Priest and Greg Miller, “He was one of the most respected intel officers of his generation. Now he’s leading ‘Lock her up’ chants,” The Washington Post, August 15,2016.

You can read the rest of the future here.

Radio Burst Nuisance Calls Not from Annoying Spam Call Centers: Space to Earth, Space to Earth, Space to Earth

In Cronatos Hybamper, Espionage, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence on January 5, 2017 at 4:14 pm

sentinel-1_radar_vision

In a layperson’s terms, Lt. Kinard had hit every reset and diagnosis button the system offered. He had wracked every available synapse in his brain. Yet he was still looking at the same bizarre, hardly believable result. Four separate satellites seemed to have independently and simultaneously observed a trio of three separate radio microbursts, one each from the Negev Desert, deep Alaska, and Russian Siberia. Each radio burst lasted 3 nanoseconds. Each was broadcast at precisely the same time. There was no discernible variation in the tones. Even when amplified and slowed down, there was nothing to decrypt, and no evidence of a lurking hidden carrier entwined within the identical tones. The geographical sources of the microbursts were identifiable by the usual techniques of target mensuration, refined to a point somewhere within one meter of a notional center. The satellite system had a extraordinary ground resolution distance—highly classified, of course. But none of the resulting images of the target locations showed evidence of any possible human source, or, for that matter, any recent human activity. The terrain for hundreds of kilometers around each point of origin was as undisturbed and unremarkable as virgin territory. No foot prints, no structures, no debris. Nothing.

From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident by Tom Diaz

This is fiction, of course. But radio bursts are real.

I stumbled into the inspiration to use radio microbursts in my novel while I was researching the use of exactly such very fast, encrypted communications by spies.

One search or another led me to a couple of sources on radio bursts from various points on Earth that were picked up by surveillance satellites. On the face of it, they appeared to be radio transmissions from those points. But further examination showed that they were actually echoes, that is, signals from deep outer space that were bouncing off of our planet.

Naturally, scientists have been curious about the original sources of radio bursts from space. According to news reports, they have finally figured out the origin of at least some of them. Here are examples:

From The Washington Post:

For the first time, scientists have nailed down a source of fast radio bursts, one of astronomy’s most enigmatic phenomena.

A dim dwarf galaxy 2.5 billion light years from Earth is sending out the mysterious millisecond-long blasts of radio waves, researchers report Wednesday in Nature and Astrophysical Journal Letters. The bursts traverse vast expanses of time and intergalactic space before reaching our planet.

“This really is the first ironclad association of a fast radio burst with another astronomical source, so it’s a pretty huge result,” said Duncan Lorimer, an astronomer at West Virginia University who reported the first detection of a fast radio burst (FRB) in 2007.

FRBs are extremely brief pulses of radio waves, flaring with the power of about 500 million suns. Scientists have recorded just 18 of these signals, but studies suggest there could be as many as 10,000 a day.

From The New York Times:

Astronomers have traced a series of brief, enigmatic bursts of radio waves to a galaxy far, far away and indeed a long time ago — some three billion years or so.

But as much as you might be hoping or dreading it to be true, this is probably not E.T.

“We’ve joked about spaceship battles and death stars blowing up, but we think we can explain it with ordinary physics,” said Shami Chatterjee, a Cornell astronomer.

Dr. Chatterjee is the lead author of a paper published in Nature on Wednesday that details the search for the source of the radio waves known as “fast radio bursts,” intense pulses of radiation from the sky lasting only a few milliseconds.

See? Truth really is more boring than fiction. the source in Cronatos Hybamper is tons more interesting and scary.

 

Bar-B-Q GRU Style—Who Was That Colonel Burned Alive for Treason?

In Cronatos Hybamper, Espionage, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, Nuclear Weapons and War, Obama, Putin, Russia, Russian Active Measures, Russian Army, Russian Intelligence Operations, War and Rumors of War on December 31, 2016 at 6:11 pm

look-into-a-crematory-furnace

Looming over the sergeant’s internal ruminations was the inescapable fact that Minister of Defense and General of the Army Vyacheslav Maximovich Biryukov—recently returned from a secret trip to America—had no patience for mistakes. None. And, like most senior Russian military and security service commanders, the Minister was also clinically paranoid. He often perceived innocent failure as deliberate sabotage, gossip around the samovar as whispering intrigue.

If a room fell silent the instant he entered, he was known to seal the door and call everyone who happened to be in the room into his office, one at a time. His unblinking gaze pinned each to a chair, like a butterfly in a museum of natural history, treated as a prime suspect in a vague crime, the specifics of which only Biryukov knew. He saw no need to explain the offense to his specimens. Each suffered a thorough interrogation, a talent for which had helped make the general’s fame as a junior officer of the GRU, the Russian military intelligence service. Most survived the ordeal. An unlucky few were referred for “further processing” and fell from favor. One or two disappeared and were never seen or heard from again.

From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident by Tom Diaz

Well, isn’t this timely?

No sooner do I write a novel in which an alumni of the GRU (Glavnoye razvedyvatel’noye upravleniye) is a prominent character than the “real” news accommodates me. President Obama expels a pot full of GRU officers from the USA!

Long regarded as the understudy of the infamous KGB and its successor services, Russian military intelligence is now front and center in the Moscow-Washington showdown…But on Thursday the GRU suddenly emerged from the shadows when the waning Obama administration imposed sanctions on the four top-ranking GRU officers for their roles hacking the private email correspondence of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chief John Podesta. The entire spy agency, along with the FSB, was also sanctioned institutionally.

Michael Weiss, “The GRU: Putin’s No-Longer-So-Secret Weapon,” The Daily Beast.

I am not sure that “understudy” is a word properly applied to the GRU, but Weiss mentions the story of Col. Oleg Penkovsky, who played a key role in preventing war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Penkovsky was “a GRU colonel and… a double agent being jointly run by Britain’s MI6 and the CIA…When Penkovsky’s betrayal was discovered it cost him his life.”

“Cost him his life” may be an understatement. Therein hangs a gruesome tale. Or not, depending on whose version of which story you believe.

A GRU defector who wrote under the pen name of Victor Suvorov described the horrible execution of an unnamed colonel in one of his books, Inside the Aquarium: The Making of a Top Soviet Spy (New York: Macmillan, 1986), pp. 2-3. Supposedly, his class of GRU recruits were shown a film of an anonymous colonel being cremated alive. The black and white silent film was a cautionary lesson in keeping one’s mouth shut.

The fire doors open smoothly to each side, the coffin is given a gentle push and it bears its unknown occupant into the roaring flames. Then the camera gives a close-up of a living person. A face swimming in perspiration. It is probably very hot near the furnace A face is displayed from all sides of what seems an eternity. At last the camera pulls back to show the person full length. He is not in a gown. He is dressed in an expensive black suit, terribly crumpled. His tie is tightly screwed round his neck. The man himself is bound fast with steel wire to a stretcher, and the stretcher has been propped up against the wall so that the man can see the furnace…At last it is the turn of the man bound to the stretcher…I study the man’s face in the hope of finding there signs of madness. It’s easier for madmen in this world. But there are no such signs on that handsome face. It is simply that he doesn’t want to go into the furnace and is trying somehow to make that clear. But what can he do except scream? So he screams…Then his patent leather shoes go into the fire, and that is that.

Some believe that the unfortunate colonel was Penkovsky. Some think it was not. Others think the whole story is fiction.Who am I to judge?

Here is how that every-ready open source Wikipedia sums up the matter.

GRU agent Vladimir Rezun, known for his controversial books under the pseudonym Viktor Suvorov following his defection from the Soviet Union to the United Kingdom, claimed in Aquarium to have been shown a black and white film in which a GRU colonel was bound to a stretcher and cremated alive in a crematorium as a warning to potential traitors and since Penkovsky is the only GRU colonel known to have been executed, Suvorov’s story was taken by many to be an account of Penkovsky’s execution. A similar description of the process was later included in Ernest Volkman’s popular book and Tom Clancy’s novel Red Rabbit. However, Suvorov in an interview in 2010 denied that the man in the film was Penkovsky, and claimed that he had been shot. Greville Wynne in his book ‘The Man from Odessa’ claimed that Penkovsky committed suicide.

There is more grist for the imagination.

One of the 24 episodes of the CNN-BBC documentary Cold War is about the spies on each side. It includes actual footage of Penkovsky’s interrogation and an interview with his interrogator, Alexander Zagvozdin. Here is the relevant excerpt from a brief cut posted on YouTube:

“I know for sure that Penkovsky was shot. I can’t tell you anything else. I know his body was cremated. I don’t know anything more. And I’m not interested.”

There’s a lot of wiggle-room in that answer. Was he shot to death? Or just enough to let him savor the smoke on the way in? And, just by the way, why wouldn’t you be interested?

For a brief and very sober account of Penkovsky’s story, you can find the CIA’s version at “The Capture and Execution of Colonel Penkovsky, 1963.”

[Oh, wait, I guess one should properly write “CIA’s version,” rather than “the CIA’s version,” as the article “the” is tres gauche when applied to either the name or the acronym of the organization. Get it? It’s CIA. Not, the CIA.]

The Moscow Station, CIA Spyware, and the Prosperity Gospel Mega-Church Connection

In Concealed Carry, Cronatos Hybamper, Espionage, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, Political Satire, Prosperity Gospel, Russia, Russian Intelligence Operations on December 27, 2016 at 8:52 pm

marti_peterson_kgb_arrest

Pastor Blanton heard the same concise signal though his own earpiece. The tiny radio receptors were commercial descendants of a line of clandestine technology originally developed by the Central Intelligence Agency for its secret operations officers working the streets of Moscow under the stringent surveillance of the KGB. CIA officers trying to shake off their KGB watchers could listen through their earphones to the radio chatter of their opponents as they played cat and mouse. It was an auditory advantage that enabled many American mice to mysteriously elude baffled Russian cats. If a Russian follower muttered “we’re turning right here,” the American turned left.

The earpieces were so cleverly designed that they were invisible even to a person standing right next to the wearer, if the observer did not know exactly where and what to look for. When the KGB caught one female American officer meeting with a Russian spy, its thugs arrested, carefully searched, and exhaustively interrogated the American. They found two parts of the three-piece counterspy communication kit hidden in her bra—an aerial and a tiny receiver that captured the circling Russians’ shop talk and transmitted it to the earpiece. But they never found the earpiece itself, even though the American officer continued to wear it throughout the long ordeal of her minute search and harsh interrogation. It was hidden in a small section of fake ear, a molding that was meticulously crafted to the agent’s ear and pasted into exactly the right spot before she went out on her mission.

“In ten…nine…eight…seven,” the countdown in the earpieces was whispered by Deshawn Caudill, First Apostle of Gospel Technology—also known as the production director for Fortress of the Holy Word Ministries—speaking from his special domain, a control room sealed off three floors deep within the basement of the Home Citadel structure. Six assistant producers were seated near Caudill, each intently watching his or her appointed panel of dials, buttons, HD television screens, and internet web displays.

From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident by Tom Diaz

 The story of the counter-surveillance spyware described in this passage from Cronatos Hybamper is based on a real incident. The bit about its use in your local mega-church is…well…fiction. On the other hand, if you happen to be wearing one of the new advanced and nearly invisible hearing aids, you can thank the CIA’s spytechs for leading the way.

The American officer was a woman named Martha (or “Marti”) Peterson. She was the first woman CIA case officer to serve in Moscow station. The incident summarized in the novel—or something very much like it—happened in Moscow in 1975. It is described with varying degrees of detail in several nonfiction books. Here is an excerpt from one of the more authoritative, because it has the CIA’s nihil obstat:

…the KGB found, Velcroed to her bra, an OTS-developed [Office of Technical Services] frequency scanner used to intercept surveillance radio transmissions. Peterson’s “necklace” was the scanner’s induction coil antenna…Throughout the ordeal, the small receiver Peterson wore remained undetected. (p. 103)

Although the earpiece was small, it was not small enough to be worn on the street without the possibility of attracting attention. “The earpiece had an obvious problem,” said one OTS staffer who was involved with the design. “You couldn’t be seen wearing a piece of plastic in your ear without drawing attention.” So OTS disguise specialists produced a “Hollywood solution.” After taking a casting of a case officer’s ear, they fashioned a false, silicone ear that fit over the Phonak receiver. Realistic down to the last detail, the covering was sculpted and tinted to duplicate the shadow of the ear canal. Each case officer received four earpieces, two for the right ear and two for the left ear. Officers could insert the receiver into the ear canal and place the ear mold in front to cover the device. (p. 108)

Robert Wallace and H. Keith Melton, Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIA’s Spytechs from Communism to Al Qaeda (New York: Plume, 2009).

You can read the CIA’s version of Trigon operation in which Peterson was involved here. And you can find Martha Peterson’s book, Widow Spy, on Amazon.

Of course, the technology is much more advanced forty years later. Now, you just get one surgical implant that can be updated to cover all the new technologies.

Ha-ha. Just kidding.

I think.

OPERATION LENTIL—A STEAMING BOWL OF RUSSIAN ETHNIC CLEANSING. SIDE DISHES? GROZNY AND ALEPPO

In Chechnya, Corruption, Cronatos Hybamper, Espionage, Expendable Youth, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, Mass Incarceration, Political Satire, Putin, Russia, Russian Army, Russian Intelligence Operations, Terrorism and counter-terrorism, War and Rumors of War on December 22, 2016 at 7:00 pm

chechen-deportation-1944

A grainy old sepia photograph appeared on the screen. Soviet soldiers stood guard in the background as a line of civilians shuffled diagonally across the frame from right foreground to center left middle ground, where waited a chain of Studebaker trucks. A tangled heap of dead bodies lay in the left foreground.

“This picture captures everything you need to know about Operation Lentil. Soviet troops were sent into Chechnya on phony missions and positioned in key locations. Any Chechnyan men who were organized and could potentially resist the Soviets were diverted to fake work sites, where they were disarmed. On Red Army Day, February 23, 1944, the hammer of Operation Lentil fell. Chechnya was to be liquidated. Over half a million Chechnyans were rounded up, loaded onto trucks supplied by America to Russia for the war effort, dumped into the cars of freight trains, and transported to Central Asia. Tens of thousands were murdered intentionally or died as collateral damage during the transport. Many starved to death in their new homeland. Thirteen years later, in 1957, the Chechnyans were allowed to return, albeit to a shrunken and more tightly defined homeland. Most came back. Many have not been inclined to forgive and forget their exile.”

 From Cronatos Hybamper—An Extraordinary Incident

By Tom Diaz

This brief fictional discussion by a fictional CIA operations officer of real history—Operation Lentil—serves as a fulcrum, a plot device in Cronatos Hybamper. If Bad Old Stalinist Russia could deport an entire nation, what would fictional President Gribov’s New Russia be capable of?

Readers of Cronatos Hybamper find out the answer in the next few pages of the novel.

One doubts that those who will be in charge of American foreign policy on February 23, 2017—the 73d anniversary of Operation Lentil—will give much thought to Operation Lentil or its implications, if, indeed, they have even heard of it at all. One suspects that if the history of this horrible episode is somehow brought to the attention of the plutocratic old boys who will be running the American side show, it will be sent straight down the memory hole. (cf: Orwell, George, 1984.)

Pity.

Operation Lentil was an axial point in history, when Russia turned from the level of harsh brutality in which all nations fighting real or perceived insurgencies inevitably engage to the impudence of ruthlessly obliterating innocent men, women, and children with the sledge-hammer of the unaccountable state.

The fever has subsided but not gone away.

The Chechen case fits snugly into Max Boot’s observation. “The transition from politically motivated to religiously motivated insurgency—from leftist to Islamist extremism—was the product of decades, even centuries of development.” Max Boot, Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present (New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2013), p. 481.

The violent line marking this transition in Chechnya began early in the 18th century, when Czarist Russia first confronted the fierce mountain people of the North Caucasus. Imperial Russia quieted but never really subdued these people, and the Soviet Empire had only marginally greater success.

The Chechens and other independent-minded “small peoples” of the Northern Caucasus really annoyed Stalin and his thugs. Stalin and his creepy secret police chief Lavrentiy Beria invented the myth of Chechen cooperation with Hitler’s Nazi army to “justify” the wholesale exile of Chechens and others. The stunning brutality of Stalin’s deportations, of which the Chechens were numerically the greatest, was meticulously documented by Robert Conquest in The Nation Killers: The Soviet Deportation of Nationalities (New York, Macmillan, 1970). It is the kind of story in which statistics overwhelm human tragedy.

From the Stalinist cleansing of Operation Lentil the Chechen transformation continued through Russia’s two modern wars (1994-96, 1999-2009), all the way to the Chechens who are fighting in Aleppo today. The Chechen wars followed the dissolution of the Soviet Union and began as a political fight over whether or not Chechnya (known by various tongue-twisting names) could withdraw from the New Improved Russia. The Russians thought not. Yeltsin was sick, drunk, and ineffective. Putin was ruthless, sober, and very effective.

There are a number of sources about this whole line of history, some listed below, but there is a fine summary of the two modern wars in Max Boot’s Invisible Armies:

The Russians invaded in 1994 and pulled out in 1996, stymied by Chechen guerrillas who, like their nineteenth-century predecessors, resisted to the death. But the Russian army returned in 1999 to subdue the breakaway province using scorched-earth tactics. An estimated 100,000 Chechens were killed out of a prewar population of just a million…Perhaps 20,000 Russian soldiers also perished.

 Russia’s success in Chechnya…showed that even in the twenty-first century a brutal approach could work as long as the counterinsurgents did not care about world opinion and were operating on their home soil, where they enjoyed a de facto level of legitimacy… (p. 514)

Two clear consequences.

One, Chechen fighters are today waging jihad. There is even a blog, the bona fides of which I do not know or care to endorse, but yet exists and “tracks North Caucasian militants in Syria and Iraq and the impact of their participation in the Syrian battlefield on the insurgency in the North Caucasus.”

Two, the brutal methods Putin’s various military forces learned and applied in Chechnya are being repeated today in Syria. See these articles, for example:

“Putin Is Playing by Grozny Rules in Aleppo,” by Mark Galeotti, Foreign Policy, September 29, 2016

A city blasted into rubble, its civilians fleeing, hiding, or simply dying in the ruins while a world looks on in horror. Bombs spilling from Russian warplanes and shells and rockets thundering from Russian guns and launchers. Today this is a portrait of Aleppo, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Not long ago, it was Grozny, the capital of Chechnya.

Anyone trying to understand Russia’s military strategy in Syria would be wise to examine the heavy-handed methods Vladimir Putin used during his first war as Russia’s commander in chief, the bloody Second Chechen War, which lasted from 1999 to 2000 (even if sporadic small-scale violence never really stopped). These are very different wars, fought in different ways by different forces, but they nonetheless highlight one central aspect of Putin’s approach to fighting insurgents: the value of brutality.

And.

“Putin in Syria: Chechnya All Over Again,” by Oliver Bullough, The New York Times, Oct. 11, 2016

 If moderate Syrians, the kind of people the West might seek to build a movement around, remain in the country, the Russian government can help Mr. Assad destroy them.

This is what Mr. Putin did in Chechnya, where his security services picked off anyone worth negotiating with. The rebel leaders who lived longest were the fanatics, driven by rage and perverted Islam. They sent traumatized women to blow themselves up on the streets of Moscow, or attacked soft targets — a school, a theater, a concert. Every atrocity blackened their cause, conferred greater legitimacy on Mr. Putin’s allies and ensured less sympathy for his victims.

In addition to the Robert Conquest and Max Boot books noted above, here are some other sources I referred to in whole or in part in researching this and related passages of Cronatos Hybamper (and the prequel which I am writing now):

Czarist Period

The classic history (in the public domain and thus available in a reprint version) is John Frederick Badderley, The Russian Conquest of the Caucasus (New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1908).

Leo Tolstoy fought in the Caucasus and, among other things, wrote the wonderful novel Hadji Murad. (I read Hadji Murad as the best kind of satire—just recounting the things that important people actually think and do.)

The Recent Wars

Mark Galeotti, Russia’s Wars in Chechnya 1994-2009 (New York: Osprey Publishing, 2014). An excellent package of the historical roots and military aspects of these two wars.

Olga Oliker, Russia’s Chechen Wars 1994-2000 (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2001). As the title indicates, this monograph ends before the second war did. Based to a large extent on Russian press clippings.

People Who Were There

Arkady Babchenko, One Soldier’s War (New York: Grove Press, 2007). Babchenko fought in both wars and this kaleidoscopic book makes sense best if one has an overall grasp of the period he writes about.

Andrew Meier, Chechnya—To the Heart of a Conflict (New York: Norton, 2005). Classic and admirable journalism, going in harm’s way to report the beast.

Anna Politkovskaya, A Small Corner of Hell—Dispatches from Chechnya (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003). One of the searing truth-tellings that ultimately cost this brave, brave woman her life. Grim to despair in its details of the impact on little people of the Putin way of war in Chechnya.

Context

Masha Gessen, The Man Without a Face—The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin (New York: Riverhead Books, 2012). Another brave woman, eventually driven out of Russia, recounts the rise of Putin, including his exploitation of war in Chechnya.

Masha Gessen, The Brothers—The Road to an American Tragedy (New York: Riverhead Bo0oks, 2015). The story of the Boston Marathon bombers. Useful background on the pinball world of refugees, but in my opinion, Gessen wades into over her head in her discussion of the prosecution’s case and appears apologetic in her naïve discussion about the supposed difficulties of constructing a pressure cooker bomb and the government’s damning evidence.

Paul J. Murphy, Allah’s Angels—Chechen Women in War (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2010). Snipers, bombers, and other fighters who were women.

DEEP SPACE SATELLITE SURVEILLANCE–PROJECT CRONATOS HYBAMPER IS WATCHING…YOU!

In Cronatos Hybamper, Espionage, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, Political Satire, Putin, Russia, Russian Army, Terrorism, Terrorism and counter-terrorism, War and Rumors of War on December 20, 2016 at 6:10 pm

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From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident

A Novel by Tom Diaz (2016)

Project Cronatos Hybamper is a system of deep space satellite observation, connected through real-time data download, lightning computer analysis, product sorting, and automatic routing to scores of intelligence centers.

Four satellites—tiny compared to the huge old clunkers that were hurled into space during the Cold War Era—coordinate with each other to watch every square inch of the earth’s surface, without blinking and without rest. Packed with purpose-built sensors tuned to every known observable spectrum, the satellites capture images in any weather, hear radio and microwave signals, sense changes in physical elements, detect underground phenomenon through certain observable surface signatures, and even smell chemical anomalies by means of spectral analysis.

The visual sensors can read a handwritten name and address on an ordinary post card. The signals sensors can trap and dissect even the most clever communications evasion. By using alternative sets of sensors, the satellite system slices through fog, cloud cover, and the shroud of midnight. It does all of this in the dark, shielded by random but choreographed movements among the satellites, the black arts of stealth technology, and the camouflage of esoteric spoofing. The workings of these satellites are maddeningly invisible to the prying eyes of even the most advanced of America’s friends, friends with benefits, frenemies, rivals, and outright blood enemies.

“Our biggest challenge with implementing the Cronatos system,” Wes McRae, the Director of National Intelligence, quipped at a seemingly casual but well-planned off-the-record moment in a joint briefing that he and the Secretary of Defense gave on Capitol Hill, “Was separating out the workers’ farts from the chemical leaks at the Russian’s special warfare facilities.”

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